As a public relations student at the University of Tennessee in the late 90s, I certainly didn't have the opportunity to take classes in 21st-century marketing tactics like social media, search engine optimization, or virtual reality. I'm grateful for that, in a way, because the most significant opportunities in my career have come from being committed to continuing to learn new techniques and trends.
That said, I've found that 2020 has caused me to refocus back to people rather than tactics. From running a business to helping out at my church to being there for my people, I found myself relying on a few lessons most of us learned in preschool to help me communicate. Here are a few:
1. Be Kind
It is more apparent to me than ever before that we have no idea what other people are facing. From health issues to job loss to massive anxiety to social injustice, our hearts are heavy. Our opinions and our circumstances vary significantly from person to person, and kindness and empathy must be the foundation of our communications. A genuine "how are you" can make someone's day.
A genuine "how are you" can make someone's day.
2. Ask Questions
Another thing that has come into focus this year is that we clearly don't have all the answers. To understand each other better and gain wisdom, we must be willing to ask questions, listen before we speak, and keep learning about each other. Asking "what do you mean" can improve a relationship.
Asking "what do you mean" can improve a relationship.
3. Say I'm Sorry
In a world where everything seems to offend someone, it's important to keep trying. We will make mistakes, but we can learn from them, apologize, and try again. We need more communication and more connection, so we can't bury ourselves or keep quiet when we say or do something wrong. Saying "I'm sorry" has never been more powerful.
Saying "I'm sorry" has never been more powerful.
4. Show and Tell
We've been hearing about the power of storytelling in marketing for years now. I think all those lessons have prepped us uniquely for this year. To understand what a homeschool mom feels like, we must tell stories. To know what a healthcare professional is facing, we must tell stories. To bridge the gaps between races, we must share and reshare stories. Listening to "this is what I experienced" can alter our perspectives.
Listening to "this is what I experienced" can alter our perspectives.
5. Remember It's a Small World After All
From watching people sing off balconies in Europe to seeing various countries continue to deal with inequality to listening to story after story of love and kindness, I've realized again that we are so alike. We are all people in search of health and happiness, and we can help each other. Acting out "love your neighbor" can change the world.
Acting out "love your neighbor" can change the world.
Sometimes we have to go back to go forward. We have to look at the puzzle pieces of the past to make us whole. I think 2020 might be doing just that – in the world of communications and beyond.