PR’s Top Pros Talk…Tips for 2021 – Marty McDonald
Marty McDonald, EVP, Fahlgren Mortine
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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: MARTY MCDONALD
DOUG: Marty, thanks so much for being with us. And what is your top tip for PR pros in 2021?
MARTY: I think my top tip, I actually have two, but I’ll try to keep them tight, my top tip is really about, I think as public relations practitioners, we’ve gotten our shot this year. I think there’s been a lot of social unrest, there’s been a global pandemic, there’s been a lot coming our way, and a lot coming the way of companies. And as practitioners, we’ve gotten our seat at the table. So, I think my top tip is to really operate boldly and keep that seat. We’ve got to continue on the path to council and being a voice of good in the world. But I think we’ve got to hang on to that seat and operate boldly from here on out.
DOUG: That’s great, and one of the interesting things about your agency is you’re strong in both the B2B and B2C space, maybe you can talk a little bit about are there differences, and what type of advice are you sharing with clients?
MARTY: Yeah, there are many differences. And I think pre pandemic in particular, what we have felt is that after a year like this, we were reduced to what’s the same across sectors, B2B and B2C. What we’ve really felt is that we’re still dealing with human beings, and human beings in a year like this are still going through things. So, the way we sell, the way we communicate, the way we craft messages all had to shift and we’re kind of reduced to what we share.
DOUG: What do you feel going forward makes you optimistic about how things might improve in 2021? Obviously, it’s been a hugely challenging and intense year.
MARTY: It has been an intense year. Where I’m looking, I think we’re all having to find that source of optimism. We’re having to work extra hard at that these days. For me, it’s about this kind of feeling of a new awakening. I think we’ve all been tested, we’ve all been pressured. We’ve had to look inside a little bit about, are we living our lives the right way, are we doing the things that we’re passionate about, are we looking hard enough at who we’re buying products from and who we’re doing business with and what they stand for? So, I’m drawing optimism from that, that I think we’re kind of thinking deeper in this world, and I think that’ll make us stronger on the other side.
DOUG: And that might align with what you’re advising clients that they need to be thinking about possibly doing differently in 2021.
MARTY: Right, absolutely. One thing that we’ve seen a lot of activity around this year with our clients is every year there seems to be a trend or a swell or a pattern that we see. And this year it’s been undeniable how many of our clients are looking to us for help with internal communications, or engaging their own teams for a lot of different reasons. I think the workforce is being recruited away, people are also questioning, again, that passion. Am I really doing the thing that I want to be doing with my life? So, a lot of these big questions and just this activity in the world is causing corporations and organizations to really value their people more deeply than they have. So, we’ve seen a swell surge absolutely in internal communications, and that all has to do with human beings, human qualities. So, that’s been a really noticeable theme, I think, for us this year.
DOUG: That actually matches some of the things we’re seeing where clients are increasingly trying to get their leadership out on TV news, but not just to communicate externally, but because their employees are seeing that content, and because they’re seeing that the company leadership going public with that information, it almost has more credibility than an internal message would. Any tips for brands, organizations to increase the trust among their key publics, because that’s so important at this time?
MARTY: Yeah, we are anticipating a lot more conversation about this in 2021 as we look forward on the heels of a global pandemic, on the heels of a polarizing election, social unrest, all of these things has caused us, I think, to really look harder at where our news and information is coming from. It’s hard to know what is real and what is news and what is bias. I think that as practitioners, our arena is information and truth. We’ve got to fight hard to help consumers and help the listener know where the lines are and what’s worth protecting and how to be clear, I think even the way we work with influencers has gotten a little blurred, that we should expect more scrutiny, more conversations about what is censorship, what can we say on certain platforms, what is news and what is editorial. We’re expecting this to really dominate the conversation in 2021, and we’re going to have to advise our clients in accordance with that conversation.
DOUG: And it sounds like you’ll be leading the way. Thanks so much for your thoughtful input and ideas. People should definitely listen to what you’ve got to say.
MARTY: Thank you.