By: Sophia Iannelli
Since March 2020 we have been hearing about how we are living through unprecedented times full of uncertainty. Though, one thing we can be certain about is that this year has been one of chaos and crisis. In a breakout session called Navigating Through Crisis with Confidence at PRSA ICON 2020, James Wright, global CEO of Red Havas and global chairman of Havas PR Global Collective, walked us through the seven lessons of leadership that are vital in times like these.
Build trust with transparency.
“Trust is the glue of life.” This one is pretty simple. As PR practitioners one of the most crucial things we practice is transparency. Honestly is truly the best policy and recently we have seen that CEOs are actually becoming more comfortable accepting that they don’t have all of the answers.
Connect to purpose.
During crisis, people are always searching for some sort of meaning. Unilever CEO, Alan Jope, released a statement touching on this topic saying, “Purpose counts. This will be even more in a post COVID-19 world. Young consumers will really care about the behavior of companies. People entering the workforce believe this. We will not once waver in our purpose.”
Mind the six C’s.
It is important to remember all messaging should be calm, candid, confident, credible, compassionate and consistent. Wright highlighted a quote from the Harvard Business Review. “Like a virus, words are infectious. They can instill fear and panic, or facilitate understanding and calm. Above all, they can spark action. So choose them carefully.”
Execute with a bold vision.
As leaders, especially in crisis, it is important to lead from the front. One of the best examples of this described by Wright was when the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), Adam Silver, was one of the first to make a strong statement about the coronavirus outbreak. He took swift action and suspended the basketball league on the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic.
Simplify the complex.
Throughout this pandemic we have been confronted with a lot of scientific and economic terminology which, to be honest, can be hard to understand. Good leaders know how to decipher information in a way that helps people simply understand the facts. Dr. Anthony Fauci is a well known good example of using ordinary language to break down a high-level, complex topic like coronavirus.
Be human first.
Wright opened this segment stating, “storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques we have.” During a crisis statistics often make headlines. It is vital to remember that stories have the power to cut through numbers and really connect with people. Personal anecdotes can reveal vulnerability and authenticity while also allowing brands to really walk the walk instead of just talking the talk.
Meet people where they are.
A beautiful example of this that Wright shared with us was when the Prime Minister of Norway held a children’s only press conference. I know this may sound kind of odd, but the intent is quite endearing. The Prime Minister wanted to create a space where children could ask questions about what was happening with the coronavirus. She also wanted to use this time to reassure children that it is normal to be scared during a crisis.
Wright ended the session by reminding us that times of turbulence and trouble, like these, help leaders grow and become more innovative and well-rounded. He tells us to think about our grandchildren and how they will look back at our successes and be proud of the role we played and how we navigated the hardest times of our lives with confidence.
By: Katie Thompson
Burnout. Whether you’re a student, young professional or seasoned PR pro, we’ve all experienced it before. Emails are piling up, deadlines are quickly approaching and you find yourself throwing in the towel, feeling completely overwhelmed.
Michael Smart, CEO of Michael Smart PR, shared his methods behind avoiding burn out and taking the time to create more at his What burnout? Work Smarter and Carve Out Time and Space To Create session at the PRSA ICON conference. Smart started the session by pointing out the obvious, “the giant distractions you endure, every moment includes your email, phone and social media, even when you don't even realize it.”
If these elements are causing our distractions at work and school, we should eliminate them, right? Unfortunately, as students and professionals, it is almost impossible for us to eliminate these distractions, especially in public relations, where our work may consist of emailing stories to journalists, keeping in touch with clients and managing social media pages. Below are Smart’s critical points on avoiding burnout and creating the time to do the work that will get you to your goals.
This is a lot of information to take in, and Smart emphasizes that this cannot be changed all at once. Start with a few of Smart’s tips and slowly implement them into your life. Soon you won’t be worrying about “burnout” and creating the time to work on the things you are genuinely passionate about. Good luck!
By: Jada Miles
Many students and professionals can relate to feeling like an imposter or having to tone down their true self in professional environments. It is common for people to feel like they don’t deserve their accomplishments or they “just got lucky."
Brandi Boatner, Digital & Advocacy Communications at IBM spoke about imposter syndrome and covering in the workplace and ways to combat this.
Boatner covered three main points during her session:
- Altering their appearance
- Avoiding advocating for their group
- Avoiding behaviors associated with their identity
- Avoiding contact with other group members
At the end of the session Boatner left us with some key takeaways to help combat these issues. Organizations should increase psychological safety which is “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking,” which would then lead to benefits from diverse thinking. She also encouraged people to live their authentic lives, and adjust to a new normal.
By: Amelia Workman
Each of us has a story. It’s the experiences and passions that define who we are. Often when we are asked the simple question, “Tell me about yourself?,” we immediately list our job experiences and credentials. We often regurgitate our resumes and LinkedIn profiles instead of telling a story about our challenges and passions.
Rob Biesenbach, CEO of Rob Biesenbach LLC, shared his expertise on storytelling and how to share your unique journey in his session Unleashing the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds and Get Results at the 2020 PRSA ICON conference. The session explained storytelling tools and how to use your own personal story to further your career and personal goals.
“How many of us actually unleash our full story?” Biesenbach said. The key to telling powerful stories is to humanize yourself and tell your complete journey. We are hardwired for stories from an early age. Biesenbach even explained that when we hear a story, chemicals are released, stimulating the same part of the brain as when we experience an event. When we are composing our story, we must ensure it is emotionally, intellectually and physically stimulating. Biesenbach then went on to explain “match.com syndrome,” where on dating sites we explain who we are rather than show it. “If you say you are adventurous don't just say you are, include a picture on your profile of you doing something adventurous,” Biesenbach said.
So then how do we compose our own story? The key is to tell a structured story and include our accomplishments in a compelling way. Below are Bisenbach’s key story ingredients.
1. Top 5 career and life highlights
Check out performance reviews, LinkedIn recommendations, awards and input from colleagues.
2. Challenges you have overcome
These can be challenges you have faced in the workplace or in life in general.
3. Top skills and traits
Showcase traits that represent your greatest strengths and skills, what you bring to a position or an organization.
4. Pattern or theme
Find a pattern or general theme in your journey that you resonate with the most. This could be a passion of yours or a field you are drawn to.
Next, Biesenbach lists the ways to structure your story. These steps will help you craft your compelling story below.
Biesenbach explains how you must begin your story with your “normal state.” This is how you began your journey and how you were before something changed in your life.
2. Inciting Incident
This is the incident that “insights the normal” and what drives the story to change.
3. Decision/Turning Point
The decision or turning point is what causes the story to take a “sharp turn.” This change begins a new step in your journey, whether it’s a new career choice or moving to a new area.
The conflict is what you learn from. This can be a challenge or struggle you fight or overcome.
The end/resolution is finding your “new normal.” This is your “ending” and what your life’s purpose is.
In the public relations and communications profession, telling compelling stories is one of the most important parts of our careers. Sometimes you get so caught up in telling others’ stories that you don’t tell your own. Biesenbach ended the session with the powerful statement, “No one has your story, so stand up and stand out.” Your story is the hardest story to tell, so be yourself and embrace your journey.
By: Katie Thompson
I scream, you scream, we all scream for social justice (and ice cream!).
On September 23rd PRSSA Kent sat down with Sean Greenwood, Director of Communications and Public Relations at Ben & Jerry’s. Greenwood discussed the company’s strategies for partnering its love of ice cream with the need to change the world with his presentation titled “When Silence is Not An Option.”
The first Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop opened in 1978 in a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont. Since its opening, Ben & Jerry’s has operated on a three-part mission; economic, social and product.
“The thought is that they are equally weighted,” Greenwood said, “we want to equally provide support and interest for each of these.”
Ben & Jerry’s takes an active role in fighting for the issues they believe in. “We get out on the streets,” Greenwood explained as he showed photos of Ben & Jerry’s employees marching in climate change marches and pride parades.
But why do it? Why does a company known for its delicious ice cream flavors with wacky names care so much about changing the world? In the words of Ben, “Businesses have the responsibility to give back.”
It’s typical for organizations to focus on cause-related marketing when it comes to selling a product. This means that a company focuses on consumer interest and how it can align its brand with what the consumer cares about to build a brand. Greenwood explained that Ben & Jerry’s focuses on the issues they care about rather than what the consumer wants to reach the goal of progressive social change through values-led activism.
“We look at the change we want to see,” Greenwood said, “how do we take that stance, share what is it that we believe, and take our fans and the public at large with us on that journey.”
Greenwood also discussed how the company speaks out on controversial political issues without being partisan. Rather than promoting a specific candidate, Ben & Jerry’s gets involved with the issues they believe in, but they can’t do it alone.
Ben & Jerry’s expertise is in ice cream making. When it comes to educating and taking a stance on issues such as climate change and racial justice, they make a point to partner with reputable organizations that can coach them through making a real impact.
When talking about these highly opinionated topics, it’s expected to receive backlash. When dealing with backlash, Greenwood explained that he does receive backlash from the press releases he puts out on social justice issues, but those messages are emails from individuals thanking him for his support. Those messages remind him of the importance of the work Ben & Jerry’s is doing.
“When you take values and match them with your own, that’s where you don’t go wrong.”
After hearing from Sean Greenwood, it is clear that Ben & Jerry’s is more than just an ice cream company. Ice cream has become their vessel for sharing their stance on social justice issues and educating the public on these issues. To hear Sean’s full presentation, please view the video below.