It’s officially spring- whether it looks like it or not in your neighbourhood. The snow is gone in these parts (it’s not quite April, so there is plenty of time for a good blizzard, however) my spring and summer conference and engagement calendar is filling up ( please come and see me at the CPRS Impact + Engagement conference in Montreal May 31 to June 2: more about that later) and my son, you may remember- the one with the oft severely cropped hair- has grown a stallion. It’s the man-version of a ponytail, but you didn’t hear that from me. I love it; but it’s strangely close to the “long-hair” man looks that were so in style when I was young, and that’s a little unsettling.
The formerly cropped hair was the catalyst for an incident I wrote about a number of years ago about my teenaged son going out looking a little like a hood…okay, a lot like a hood. It started out with the hair, and then the tough looking clothes (a fashion statement- we’ve all been there at one time) and ended with the mother’s real concern: I was afraid to see him looking tough. I was afraid that something bad might happen to him. But that’s not what I talked about- at least not at the start. I started talking about the very cropped hair and the very tough looking sleeveless shirt…and well, before I realized what I was really concerned about, I’d pretty much fallen into the “you’re not going out looking like that” mother speak. Happily we worked through the tough: your point of view v my point of view part to the reconciliation of we are looking at this from different POVs, and we are okay. Perhaps you’ll adjust your thoughts and actions a little and I will as well.
How often that happens in other communication and engagement! I’ve seen many companies (in the news or up close) batton down and lay low when there is any controversy. When a company withdraws from the discussion – whatever it is- the public- from concerned neighbours to agitated stakeholders to uninvolved bystanders does what human beings always do in the absence of information: they make up their own stories. And made -up stories do nothing to foster good relations- of any sort.
I’ve learned that the tough exchanges often bring us to a better relationship: personal or professional. This authenticity is important in the public relations and communications world, and it’s often avoided. That doesn’t serve anyone.
When PR and Community Engagement really works is when it’s entered into with a real desire to connectd. When that happens…great relationships can happen. If you’ve worked through the tough parts of communication- of any sort- I’d love to hear from you. In the meanwhile… Happy Spring!