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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: LUKE LAMBERT
DOUG: Luke, what’s your most important recommendation for PR people moving into 2021?
LUKE: Yeah, thanks, Doug. You know, I think, my recommendation is really more of a reflective suggestion on leadership and even organizational improvement as opposed to how to become a better PR practitioner, really. And it would be this. It’d be – resist the urge that I know we all have right now to turn the page on 2020 so fast that we neglect to really take note of the most important lessons that we learned and what has been an extremely challenging year. And then to take those lessons and turn them into new and best practices in 2021 and beyond. You know, for instance, if you look at the way we all had to change the way we collaborated, the way we shared, the way we communicated and the way we truly joined together, I think to solve real challenges this year for our businesses and our clients, that’s the recommendation. You know, for me and for G&S, anyway, and this is the irony, I think the result was the most collaborative cross agency leadership dynamic I’ve ever led or been part of, frankly. You know, it’s really during difficult times like we’ve had, where you see your team’s best leadership qualities really rise to the top. And so, I’d encourage that level of participation, that type of collaboration, that sense of urgency that we saw this year in a team dynamic always. And so, when you think about 2021, it’s make sure we take those collaborative successes that we had this year and in 2020 and grow them to even more powerful opportunities for real engagement next year. And I think if we take that seriously, it becomes a business imperative, it’s something we have to live up to, and I think it’s something really all of our employees are really hungry for.
DOUG: it’s interesting you say that because I think when we were all in an office sort of before COVID, there’s an assumption that there’s this casual exchange of ideas that just happens, the old water cooler discussion kind of idea. And now we actually had to force the collaboration and schedule it and make sure that it happened. We actually found improvements in our onboarding process because we had to be so on top of making sure the person was attended to because they’re just home alone. If we’re not attending to them, what are they doing when they’re just starting out? So how are you applying some of these ideas to what you’re doing at your own agency? And then we’ll get to how that’s going to benefit clients in the next question.
LUKE: OK, sure. I can share, I have to say, probably the most powerful example for me this year. And I’m sure you’ll talk about this with others, too, but it followed George Floyd’s killing and the racial crisis that ensued this year. We experienced, like a lot of companies, a lot of organizations, I know we’re not unique, real widespread activation, engagement of our employees on issues of racial justice in our country. And I realized after a lot of reflection, and I have to admit as a leader, after a lot of sleepless nights, that we needed to harness that passion, that frustration, that anger even and the engagement overall of our people to really greatly improve our own D&I efforts, and I took it so seriously and so personally because I was so proud of our efforts over the previous five years, but when I really reflect, 2020 became an education moment for me, really. It showed me that there’s so much bigger opportunity to not only change the culture of inclusion within our agency, but also now start making a positive impact and a real impact in changing our communities where we work and where we live as well.
DOUG: I think that would affect the guidance, not only you’re providing clients, but I think also helpful because we do like to leave our viewers with tips that can help them be better at their jobs. What are your ways to persuade clients to take actions in these areas, I would guess some are already there, some need to be pushed maybe, or they have to understand that this is for their own interest as a business?
LUKE: Yeah. You know, we were all, I think we all shared that moment of uncertainty this year, and I think some people and organizations were kind of lost in this paralysis in terms of what to do. So, for me, it was talking to our clients and sharing what we were doing and sharing how we were going to move forward, and in some cases, even partnering with our clients. For us, it was simply, we formed a task force, we formed a diversity of equity and inclusion task force, and we did it across office leadership capacity. We developed a cross office group to really shape diversity, equity, inclusion throughout the organization so that we could enhance representation of people of color and marginalized communities across the agency, but expand it to the industry in our profession as well. And we talked about that with our clients. We said, well, how do we do it? So, we built our task force, it’s made up of, I’ll be very candid, of people of color, black employees, white people, members of our LGBT community, multiple levels of cross agency teams. And they were assembled to ensure that we developed a program where all employees had a voice. And what I’m most proud of, and this is where clients really, really gravitated to, is we developed a really authentic, multifaceted campaign that includes seven pillars with goals, a set associated with it, actions that were quantitative, that could be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively, and we put measures in place for reporting on that progress. And when we shared that with our clients, they really latched on to that. And we saw many of our clients advance their advance their programs as well. It was pretty powerful.
DOUG: That’s excellent. So, you were able to field test what you were going to suggest to clients within your own organization. Are you optimistic about 2021? And as we wrap this up, what are some other changes in communications approaches, and what brands need to be doing to sort of meet this moment in a time of change with a new president and a new Congress that might be open to more change? What is the best advice to navigate it?
LUKE: Yeah, no, it’s a good question, Doug. I think I think we’re certainly seeing that corporations are engaging like never before on societal issues. And I know you’ve reported on this quite a bit. In just a few short years ago, you remember, engagement like we’re seeing today in society was an exception. It wasn’t a rule, right? And I think you reflect on why this happens. It happens because the key stakeholders, like your employees are activated, and it doesn’t matter the size of your organization, but also investors are activated in expecting change as well. But then to your point, Doug, you put that against the backdrop of a, put it bluntly, a divided condition that exists in our country today. And I think we should feel really fortunate as communicators, and I know we do, that we represent innovative companies and brands that are really taking meaningful positions today to make the world a better place. So, the last piece of advice to give is just as it relates to 2021, is I think clients, and I think will help them, we’ll try anyway, to take a take a closer look, take a different more proactive approach and even an analytical approach on issues, and that range run the gamut, whether it be from ESG or racial injustice. And I think if we can work together to put our clients in a position where they can advance the way they approach issues and we can provide strategic guidance and help to them and provide qualitative methods to them to help them better decide when, if and how to engage on societal issues and then provide proof. What are the risks if you do engage, and what are the risks if you don’t engage?
DOUG: Yeah, and I think getting the clients out there on the record in the media, saying what they’re doing so there’s a public record that they have to live up to, sends important messages to their different key audiences, especially to internal audiences when they’re going out there. Luke, thanks so much for spending time with us. Congratulations on your continued success.
LUKE: Doug, thanks very much. Really enjoyed the conversation.