By: Ashley Blood
The “What To Say When You Can't Say Anything: Cultivating a Culture of Responsible Transparency” ICON 2021 session led by Amanda Kane was incredibly insightful for me. As someone who finds themselves tripping over their words or jumbling sentences when caught off guard with a question, this session gave me some key pointers on what to say in the situation that you are not allowed to say anything, which as PR professionals we will all endure a situation like this at some point in our careers.
To start off the session, Kane discussed the “new media landscape” with the pandemic, and how there has been so much misinformation surrounding the vaccines, the virus, and other things related to the pandemic, and how this has made it hard for communication professionals. This means that journalists have become more aggressive, people are often feeling fatigued and overwhelmed, and overall just lots of confusion. I have definitely felt these things as well these past almost two years and I haven’t even entered the professional world of PR yet, which is why I was so excited for this session. One of my biggest takeaways from this session is that transparency and trust work in tandem with each other, and that you can’t have trust without transparency and vice versa. So, in order to determine how much to share, Kane says that we need to ask many questions, such as who is impacted by the situation, is there a possibility of harm, what are the risks to sharing more/less information, what are the benefits, and any other internal/external dynamics. These key questions will help us as PR and communication professionals determine what to say and how much to say in any type of situation. It is also extremely important to have boundaries set and to have clear, strong messaging that is concise for your audience to understand.
During this session, I liked that Kane gave real-life examples and case studies to back up each of her points. It helped me to visualize how I will be able to use these best practices in my own professional career. Transparency is something that is becoming increasingly important in our world year after year, and I am glad I was able to attend this session and gain valuable insight on how to handle these types of situations in my future career.
Taking a Stand: Evolving PR Roles as Activists, Allies, and Cause Champions
The “Taking a Stand: Evolving PR Roles as Activists, Allies, and Cause Champions” ICON 2021 session led by Staci Reidinger really inspired me to continue to speak out and use my voice to be an ally for others whose voices are silenced. When I started my college career, I was originally a political science major, and even though I am now a PR major, I am still extremely passionate about politics, social movements, and activism, and it has made me consider a career in politics as a PR professional. This made me extremely interested in this session.
In this session, Reidinger and the guest speakers talk about how important it is for PR professionals to be activists and allies in their communities and in their careers, and how the idea of activism has evolved over the years, which they have called “new activism.” New activism is the idea of fighting for more long-term, seismic societal change through things such as participating in voting and elections, and other more traditional means. Additionally, these new activists are full of hope, but they’ve learned from previous generations that hope isn’t enough. Overall, they are willing to put in the hard work to make some real change in the world, and I’ve definitely seen that in myself and in my peers in PR. With Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion becoming a common practice in the workplace nowadays, especially in the PR profession, movements are no longer about just “liberal versus conservative,” but more about their united values, which is a good thing. Finally, they end the session by talking about how corporations should take a public stance on societal issues both related AND unrelated to their business. They stress that it is important for businesses to still take a stand even when the issue isn’t related to their business because their publics are always watching, and if the societal issue at hand involves a part of their demographics, even when it doesn’t relate to the company or organization, then those people could potentially turn away from their business if they see that they are not being supportive.
Overall, this session was incredibly informative and inspiring for me, and only gave me the extra encouragement I needed to continue to use my voice to stand up for what I believe in. I will strive to always be an activist and an ally both in my regular life and my professional life. In PR we are storytellers, and I am excited to continue to help those who are silenced or misrepresented tell their stories.