Over the past few weeks, it’s becoming increasingly clear that three simple words have fallen out of favor.
“I don’t know.”
Whether it’s related to the pandemic, social unrest, or the markets, no one seems to be able to say that facts may suggest one thing and reality suggests another. They make educated guesses, theorize, and in some cases, make outlandish—even dangerous--predictions.
They can’t simply say: “That’s a great question, but I don’t have an answer for you today. I just don’t know.”
In media circles this makes sense. Heaven forbid a guest or the interviewer is caught off-guard and offers up a less-than-salient response to a question. And with a dearth of science reporters in the media, covering something like a global pandemic is bound to create problems.
But it’s different in public relations/communications. Being transparent about what you don’t know isn’t just an honorable trait, it’s mandatory.
It’s called being professional. Or, more importantly, being human.
We’ve been asked hundreds of times what we think about one program or another or what we think will resonate with a desired audience. When we weren’t certain, we asked for some time to conduct research, collect facts, and report back. Several quick phone calls to pros we trust, a soft audit of a dozen sources or so, or maybe a coffee with a trusted advisor… NOT ONCE was this scenario met with scorn or derision.
Why? Because while we may be respected in our field, we simply don’t know everything. Experience is helpful in creating plans and strategies, but something that worked 2-3 years ago, might not be quite as effective today. Things change; we have to be every bit as agile as the world we operate in.
Christopher Robichaud, senior lecturer in ethics and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School recently told the Harvard Gazette: “Most of us are, at best, experts in a tiny, tiny area. But we don’t navigate the world as if that were true. We navigate the world as if we’re experts about a whole bunch of things that we’re not… A little intellectual humility can go a long way.”
Public relations practitioners are infamous for creating smoke or fostering spin. We sometime have to magnify a small angle of a story to make it resonate. Smoke is another story. But coming off as a know-it-all is the kiss of death. If you can’t be honest, you shouldn’t be practicing PR.
This isn’t a call to arms or a treatise on ethics or moral dilemmas in the world in which we work. That’s not the point. It’s simply a great time to step back and examine our practices.
That much I know.
"There are only two options. Make progress or make excuses."
As we embark on our second month of our COVID-19 restrictions, this quote—from someone out there in the ether who didn’t want attribution—rings so true. This global crisis we’re facing has the potential to break some businesses, but it just might be an opportunity for others.
We’re going with the second option.
It's our belief that businesses need nimble public relations/communications partners who are agile and savvy enough to drive results in any environment.
With that in mind, please allow us to re-introduce ourselves. We're Here and Now Public Relations (formerly Migdal/Underwood Consulting).
Rebranding a successful, 20+-year business during a pandemic is probably not going to resonate with all the business gurus and myriad consultants. But we are on it.
After all, we’re being told to batten down the hatches, hoard that toilet paper, bathe in hand sanitizer, and if you’re headed to the supermarket, you’re running a risk. We’re all being safe rather than sorry and yes, we follow all the rules and regulations in place, but we’re not about to stand still and wait for things to happen.
Or move is designed to shake things up and look closely at how we do things. Are we going to still work in client offices? Sure, if they’re open, we’ll be there. Are we going to travel to meetings? Absolutely. We love face-to-face communications (even if masks make it tricky to read facial expressions) and we'll learn that shoulder-handshake thing at some point. Heck, we're still hoping to design and produce media events that drive coverage and clicks in some way, shape or form..
But we are studying how we spend our time, where we spend our time, and the best ways to engage and enlighten desired audiences, influencers and the media. For example, with seemingly everyone working remotely, press events, even in a posh setting, better be real compelling, with a clear ROI for clients and invitees. Or will everything simply transform into virtual experience? We hope not, but we'll navigate anything that comes our way. We've done it for the 20+ years, so we clearly have our sea legs in this regard.
In short, we're still open for business. We're thrilled that most of our clients are, too.
We look forward to talking with you soon remotely and one of these days, over a cup of coffee in a socially-distanced cafe. After all, this is new, new normal.