>> More episodes here
About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: GRACE LEONG
DOUG: So, I’m a huge Grace fan, I don’t apologize for admitting that. And Grace, what’s your top tip for communicators going forward in 2021?
GRACE: Well, Doug, if we’ve learned anything from 2020, is that the importance of living into your values and practicing based on your values. At Hunter, our values are our North Star and we’ve established them years ago. And any time we need to know what to do, how to do it, we go back to those values. Our values guide everything we do, whether we’re counseling a client, giving them advice on what work they should do or how we should operate when a pandemic hits, or a crisis hits. Your values are your best tool in your toolbox as the public relations or a communicator in 2021.
DOUG: Now for brands, and as you’re giving them advice, what if some of their values may not exactly align with this important moment and how things are changing? How do you navigate that with them?
GRACE: Well, your values have to be true. And if they don’t navigate well, or sink well with the current climate, that’s your choice. You can’t come up with values just to fit the current climate. Values have to be authentic. So, if you have values that don’t match what’s happening in the climate, that’s OK, because those are your values. It doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful, or it doesn’t mean you’re going to connect with consumers, but because you made the choice to have those values. But in most cases, we see the brands we work on and smart companies that do have values that represent the people who work there and also the people that they serve. So, I think when you think about creating values, it’s about creating broad enough values that they can fit in any circumstance. But for the most part, they must be authentic to who you are and how you operate in the business, or the cultural environment.
DOUG: One of the big changes for many organizations, which you exemplify right there, you’re in your office, but instead of one hundred fifty people being there, there’s a far fewer number. How about navigating the communications within an agency? What are some of your advice for best practices there?
GRACE: Well, you know, we’re fortunate because we are communicators. So, we know how to communicate in any situation. We’ve been counseling clients for 31 years here at Hunter. So, we have to go back and remind ourselves of the core tenets of communication. Frequent, clear, transparent, often, you know the principles, Doug. I’m probably rattling them off, but you know what I mean. You have to go back to the basics, go back to the fundamentals of communication. And just because you’re staring at a screen, or you don’t have a telephone, or you don’t have a face–to–face meeting, you have to figure out how to manifest those principles of good communication with whatever you got. It could be a messenger, it could be a letter, Gee, we’re writing letters again. Yes, and it could be Zoom, or it could be Teams, or whatever you end up using.
It’s actually it’s stimulating because you’re taking off the shackles of all these things we relied on before. Let’s go back to the basics of communication. Letter writing, phone calls, those go a long way in a time when we’re so exhausted by technology. It’s so great, but it also can be very draining. So, we have a lot of other tools at our disposal. Let’s bring them back and use them, because sometimes, just this disruption of getting a letter, or a phone call is actually refreshing in this time of technology taking over the world.
DOUG: It’s also been interesting because one of the things I felt early on was when remote work, was that people felt so pressurized to support the organization because people were questioning survival at lots of organizations with so much uncertainty out there. But I think it’s very interesting that smart agencies and going into next year, what are some of the best ways to sort of keep that investment of the people in the organization, as a leader especially?
GRACE: You know what? Before we become leaders, or become workforce or members of a great staff, we’re humans, right? We are human beings. And as we’re navigating these crises is for our clients and our business, we’re also navigating themselves for us as humans. I’m a mother. I have children. I worry about them, I worry about myself, my own health. We have to remember that the best way, what people need right now, people, not work force with people, is safety and security. That’s what we’re craving. So as a business leader, I recognize that. And my first step is always making people feel safe and secure. Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, right? You can’t have any sort of satisfaction unless you feel safe and secure. So, I think through the pandemic and through the global crises that we’ve seen, we’ve always operated, let’s make sure people know they’re safe and secure in their jobs. You don’t have to come to work, you don’t have to get on the subway. And then from there, once they have that sense of safety and security, then we can start talking about higher order performance requirements. Safety and security is the key.
DOUG: And I’m sure that carries forward into the advice you’re giving to your clients to be communicating those messages as well.
GRACE: Yeah, of course. I mean, we’re talking about human beings here, whether we’re talking about people who work for a plant, work for a food company, work in a marketing department, or the CEO, everybody needs to feel that. And as a leader and as a communicator, if you can translate that first, I think you kind of create an environment where people can listen and say, OK, all right, I’m safe, everything’s secure, now let’s go next. And that’s I think, again, communicators have an ability to translate that type of feeling, and nothing can happen unless people feel safe and secure. So, that’s really where we’ve been focusing.
DOUG: That’s an awesome focus. Grace, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and ideas with the communicators in this industry. It’s real important stuff.
GRACE: Thank you, Doug. Learned from you, you’re one of the best. So, thank you for your time and good luck to you in 2021.