Increasing diversity, equity and inclusion; accountability for PR people on the advice they give; understanding words and images matter, building trust and understanding the increased power of local TV news for both external and internal communications—those are some of the top tips shared by 21 agency and corporate leaders. The group includes 18 C-Suite or President level communicators representing a diverse perspectives on the steps that brands, agencies and individual practitioners need to take to meet the moment and find success in 2021.
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Here’s the insights they shared:
Doug Simon, CEO, D S SImon Media
Number One – watch local TV news. You don’t make a lot of money betting against Amazon, and they’re making a big investment there. So, local TV news is going to become a more important way to communicate with your key audiences. Also, public affairs is a key storyline that’s going to get on the air increasingly with the new Biden administration, and the chance for change with the first year of a new Congress. I see corporate social responsibility merging with public affairs from a communications perspective.
Jennifer Beugelmans, CCO, Groupon
My advice is to stay consistent, stay focused on having a two-way dialogue, whether you’re communicating with external constituents, or whether you’re talking to your teams internally and make sure that they understand that you are being transparent, that what you say is what you mean, and that you are committed to continuing to provide them with updates that they need to feel safe, to feel motivated and to thrive.
Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman
The most important task for PR professionals in 2021 is to continue the momentum behind diversity, equity and inclusion. The murder of George Floyd was perhaps the catalyst, but the necessity of having a more diverse population among PR professionals is clear.
Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO, Ruder Finn
We have to remember from a leadership point of view that we need to really be empathetic, to be relevant, to be very caring. At the same time that markets around us are shifting, and we have to continue to be immensely innovative.
Michelle Gross, President, Spectrum Science
Really be creative when thinking about how to engage with different reporters, different publications that you know will reach our target audience.
Mike Paul, President, Reputation Doctor
We are held at a greater accountability rate for the advice we give our clients, and we individually are held to a higher standard of accountability for who we are as leaders. If you’re not comfortable around women in the decision-making table, executives of color sitting as peers by the dozens around you, you’re in big, big trouble in 2021 because that train is coming.
Emily Poe, CIO, W2O
First and foremost, listen to and understand your audiences and do it as much as possible in real time. This is our time to step into our role as a business driver in ways that truly connect companies and brands to their audiences and constituents in ways that are authentic and credible.
Heather Kernahan, CEO, North America, Hotwire Global and Board Chair, PR Council
Find a way to be inspired. We’ve got so much to manage everyday as communications professionals, so many issues coming our way, decisions to make. We’re in a pretty high stress business, and you’ve got to find a way to get inspired so that you can bring your best ideas, your best thinking, your best leadership skills to every situation. So, do it, find what your inspiration is.
Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W PR
As communicators, as marketers, as public relations people, you know, we need to be cognizant that now more than ever, words matter. Careers are changed just because of one word, or one syllable, one tweet, one Instagram post. And brands of all sizes and shapes need to be cognizant that words matter, images matter, what we say and how we say it really matters.
Gigi García Russo, Partner, Hunter
So, my two tips are about empathy and about energy. First, empathy, knowing that we’ve all been through this crazy year together and just being there for each other and trying to uplift one another. And then energy, what we put out into the world is what we’re going to get back, and we have so many learnings that we can take into the New Year. I’m super optimistic about 2021.
Marty McDonald, EVP, Fahlgren Mortine
I believe that after a year like this, we’ve worked hard as communicators to earn our seat at the table. We’re being called upon for advice and counsel, communicating through the news. And I think that my most important recommendation is that now’s our time to hold on to that seat.
David Imre, CEO, Imre
PR people and communicators really need to look at themselves first and make sure they’re optimistic about the future because that’s what we need out of brands.
Marc Banks, National Press Secretary, NAACP
If we want to learn from this moment, we definitely need to continue the work that we’ve seen over this past year to change the culture and change the narrative around social justice and racial justice, and how it’s important for brands to incorporate it into the fabric of their organization.
Glen Jackson, Co-Founder, Jackson Spalding
Never forget the importance of trust. Nothing moves faster than the speed of trust, and when we establish trust with people, tt leads to wonderful things.
Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment Dietrich
Be resilient. This is going to be tough. We’re going to continue to have hard times, but we will come out on this better in the long and.
Matt Kucharski, President, Padilla
Ask yourself what your why is because it likely has changed this year. Especially with everything that’s happened with COVID and racial injustice, the why for your company, the why for your agency, and the why for yourself personally may have changed, and we need to take stock in that.
Kristin Cahill, Incoming CEO, GCI Health
Wake up every day and try to find a source of inspiration, whether that be an amazing patient story, or a story of a healthcare provider on the front line. But finding that inspiration to keep you going through the challenges is really important.
Neil Foote, President, National Black Public Relations Society
In 2021, agencies need to be more strategic about reaching multicultural audiences. This is the year where we have to be more empathetic, more strategic, more sincere in making sure we not only speak to diverse audiences, but also develop messaging that really speaks to these audiences.
Luke Lambert, President & CEO, G&S Business Communications
My most important recommendation is really around leadership in our profession, and I think it’s at the end of the year, resist the urge to turn the page on 2020 so fast. I know we all want to do that, but I think if we do that, we’re going to neglect this tremendous opportunity we have to take note of most important lessons we learned from this extremely challenging year and put them into best practices for 2021.
David Gwyn, President, French West Vaughan
Call your employees, call your clients, talk to a reporter. And while Zoom has allowed us to operate in 2020, it lacks the one-on-one connection of a good old fashioned phone call.
Maria Rodriguez, President & CEO, Vanguard Communications
I think it’s time for us to really get serious about diversifying our industry. And that may mean we have to follow the advice of John Lewis and stir up some good trouble. I think that it’s really important that we try to expose BIPAC communities to the industry, and there’s lots of great ways to do that. I guess my number one recommendation on that is that we establish paid internships for them.
Doug Simon, CEO, D S SImon Media
Finally, the new abnormal is going to become the new normal in terms of how we communicate as the vaccine rollout gets underway.