Giving Thanks: Lessons from a Tumultuous Year


Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM 

For those of us who will be fortunate enough to sit down this Thanksgiving over turkey (or “tofurkey”) under our, our friends’ or families’ roofs, it goes without saying that we have a lot to be thankful for.

Despite hardships we may have faced during the course of the year, personal challenges, squabbles with colleagues, or battles with spouses or partners, we will have made it to another sumptuous feast.

As we all know, so many others did not. Too many mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, grandparents, family members and friends had lives cut short or were forever changed in the mass shootings, fires, wars, battles with addiction, and tragedies both here and in other parts of the world.

In this context, America’s uncivil political war, our personal issues, and the daily challenge as communicators to achieve our business or clients’ goals, to generate more traffic to websites, drive clients through sales funnels, or generate the next big media hit, pale into insignificance.

This is not to diminish their importance to us – to our ability to pay rent or mortgages and find meaning that drives us forward in our lives, businesses and careers. On our journeys, it’s always good to stop once in a while to evaluate where we are, count our blessings, and learn from events of the last year.

This year offers many potential takeaways for communicators. Here are a few:

Live Well

It’s important to ask what you are working for. Are you “living to work” or “working to live”? Life is short, we need to live it well. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s untimely passing, and that of so many others, reminds us that life is a gift. No matter how much money we have or how touched by genius we are, we’re not in control of it.

Integrity Matters

We have been reminded again and again this year of the importance of integrity. The reputational cost of the failures of Facebook’s leadership and lack of accountability during the year, the embarrassment of those thrust into the limelight by The New York Times’ investigation into the purchase of social media followers, and the collapse of UK-based PR agency Bell Pottinger, are just a few of the many examples of what happens when we lose sight of integrity as a North Star.

Don’t Rubberneck. Look in the Mirror

As communicators and consultants, we all have opinions on what others should do. Starbucks’ decision earlier in the year to close its stores and provide diversity training following the removal of two black customers was both applauded and derided by commentators. But as I wrote at the time, “This should not be a rubbernecking moment, but a look in the mirror moment.” The lesson should be to stop and ask yourself and your company: What are your practices, what lessons can you apply? When it comes to diversity, we have to look deep inside, in places where we may not want to go, to find and address implicit biases that are beneath the surface.

What We Say Matters

In real time, we have seen in this year the consequences of disparaging others. While the President’s attacks and deriding of political friends and foes, and of women and people of color, have been condemned by many across the political spectrum, they have been embraced by others. When vitriol and putdowns become normal, should we be surprised that racially-motivated violence and anti-Semitic attacks follow? What we say matters.

We Can Change the World

The #MeToo movement and success of women in the mid-term elections are a reminder that, as individuals, we can change the world. The tribulations of Tesla’s Elon Musk and trials of Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos underscore what can be achieved, but also the pitfalls of hubris and deception. While we are on different paths, we all face choices that will make or break us.

The Importance of Giving Thanks

When we focus on ourselves, we can fail to recognize or acknowledge the important contributions of others to our success and life journeys. Death, divorce, separation, losing a job, or natural disasters are reminders of how much we depend on others every day and in our hours of need – be they family members, clients, employees, or strangers. Taking the time to thank all those who have helped us on our journeys, and especially those who serve here and abroad, is something we need to do every day.

This Thanksgiving I’ll be thinking about the takeaways from the year’s news and events in ways that will hopefully allow me to learn and grow from them as a person and communicator. I’ll make sure to take the time to thank my wife, friends, business partners, and clients for their support during the year.

I’ll be counting my blessings for no matter how hard the path, I’m here and have a roof over my head. Happy Thanksgiving.

About the Author: CommunicationsMatch is a search tool that helps companies find, shortlist and hire communications agencies and consultants by industry and communications expertise, location and size. The site has 5,000 agencies and consultant profiles in areas including: crisis communications, public relations, internal communications, government affairs, investor relations, content marketing, social media, SEO, website development, photography and video. Listing and Search are Free. See more videos and articles on our Insights Blog. Prior to founding CommunicationsMatch, Locke held senior corporate communications roles at Prudential Financial, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank and founded communications consultancies.