Out with Old...In with the New
Updated: Jan 3
A look back at 2020 and then ahead to 2021
If you are like us, this time of year used to be something you look forward to with great excitement. Family, friends, food...laughter, conversation...you know, all the stuff we thought we could replicate over Zoom, but quickly realized wasn’t possible.
There is nothing better than recounting the ups and downs of the past year -- who inspired you, surprised you or let you down. Equally enjoyable is making predictions and resolutions for the upcoming months over a bourbon or eggnog with friends.
We can’t pour you a drink or buy you a beer or kibitz with you during the college football playoff, but we will share our individual looks back and forward as a way of salvaging some small part of this great tradition.
Here we go...
Most under-reported story of the year. Nashville bombing. A huge bomb exploded. In a major American city. On Christmas. And it only made minor news? Why? Well, “if it bleeds it leads.” No one died...except the weird loner bomber...which is a good thing, but this is a lesson for people in PR. The bar for “making news” is being raised higher. In this day and age, only the most kinetic of tweets and destructive of events make the front page. And that’s a shame...unless you want your story to go away.
Person/People of the Year. Wendi Winters. The Capital journalist was awarded by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission the highest honor for civilian heroism in the U.S. and Canada. Wendi won this award posthumously after she was killed by a deranged madman in the Capital Gazette newsroom. I spoke to her on the phone 4 hours before her death. She was all spit and vinegar. And then she showed that spit and vinegar to Jarrod Ramos as he charged her with a shotgun. She charged back with a garbage can. He killed her. Note to President-elect Joe Biden - the next award Wendi deserves posthumously is the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Most significant communication event/phenomenon. The advent of Zoom and other more mature video call technologies. The capability was there, but I can’t recall a time in history when an invention like Zoom took hold and became commonplace so quickly. People might say the iPhone is a good comparison, but I know a lot of older people who are jumping on Zooms with their kids and grandkids while still owning flip phones.
Person/Group who dropped the ball. Dan Snyder and the WFT. Good on them for finally dropping an incredibly racist nickname from the football team’s branding. But yeesh...the “Washington Football Team?” There are times in PR to sit back, wait and make moves slowly. There are also times to seize the initiative and lead from the front. Dan and the team had a chance to earn a PR victory by expunging the name and setting the example with a new name - like the Red Tails - that would have earned them “some” respect from a disenfranchised fan base. But they chose to punt (something they did a lot this year). Note to the Cleveland Baseball Team in 2021 - Don’t be like Dan.
Most under reported story of the year FBI announcing domestic terrorism/racist violence as greatest violent threat to Americans. It cannot be overstated enough how much the lives of minorities are affected by violence at the hands of homegrown domestic terrorists in this country and yet fails to be captured or reported as such. Person/People of The Year Hospital Nurses/Doctors/First Responders and Teachers: You cannot look back on 2020 without realizing the inherent health risks involved with the coronavirus across the land. What our medical care institutions are having to endure is mind-boggling given the numbers of patients arriving at their front door. Equally, what our teachers are having to adjust to in a virtual classroom setting is just as critical, given the mental health aspect our children and educators are having to confront during this pandemic. Their abilities to show up each day is beyond commendable.
Most significant communication event/phenomenon While I am amazed at the culture, race, and police discussion stemming from the George Floyd video, I remain equally angered and disappointed at the countless other events throughout 2020 which resulted in police violence erasing the lives of Black men and women across America. This specific event undoubtedly sparked a shift in our national conversation, but it was not enough to effect the much-needed change we continue to protest and fight for. What continues to draw my attention is our new reliance on communicating within a virtual environment and what long-standing change it will bring to our methods and principles of communication across cultures, business, and elsewhere as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains front and center in our lives. Person/group that dropped the ball in 2020 It’s too easy to say the sitting president. We all have seen and continue to witness his ineptitude at being an effective individual who should be able to lead a country. For me, the prominent government individuals who were unwilling to standup and announce with conviction our country and our citizens were under attack from a rabid GOP hellbent on its motives to subvert our democratic principles and equal voting measures is beyond abysmal and history should long reflect this atrocity for what it is.
Most under-reported story of the year. COVID 19 lessons learned-- what the reaction, response, and lack of preparedness means for our ability to handle future conflict and crises. Great power competition and the idea of a “Cyber Pearl Harbor” seems much more scary and impossible to prevent/win after watching how we bumbled through the last year. Why didn’t we do better!?
Person/People of the Year. Food delivery people, Amazon workers, Grocery employees...etc. While the rest of us quarantined in our homes and waited out the crisis they helped us find the new normal. For years I’ve been thanked for my service...we ought to be thanking these folks for keeping America alive during the last year.
Most significant communication event/phenomenon. Relearning what it means to lead, inspire and manage a team...in a remote working environment. Kudos to those folks who quickly figured out how to stay connected without micromanaging...to those who used Zoom and Teams to maintain a connection without wasting their teammates time.
Person/Group who dropped the ball. The American people. 2020 wasn’t our best showing as the “greatest country in the world.” 2021 has to be better...it's time to either up our game or accept falling into mediocrity. We’re not mediocre.
One thing I’m watching for in 2021. High Schools and Colleges returning to normal. How will they do it? How will sports be played? How will colleges weigh applications for students who couldn’t take the SATs? Will students (and parents) shell out huge amounts of money for their children to attend universities anymore knowing that online educations are available and now commonplace?
Person/People I’d like to have dinner with in 2021 & my Resolution. Lindsey Graham and Matt Gaetz. Hear me out here. My progressive and very Democrat views are well-known, but in 2021 I really want to understand the right and why they believe what they believe...why they followed and defended Trump so blindly and blithely. I really think this country heals from the last four years by looking for ways to meet each other in the middle.
Piece of Comms advice. Start looking for ways to be more authentic and vulnerable. We used to call this transparency. But I’m starting to hate the buzzword bingo nature of the word. Videos from Sir Anthony Hopkins and football player JJ Watt were incredibly authentic and vulnerable with their messages and delivery. You want your audience to follow you and listen to you? Make sure they KNOW you...and know that you’re not full of shit. Happy 2021.
One thing I am watching for in 2021. When will we venture out again? Will we find ourselves back in parks, arenas, and movie theaters. Or will our selfish and risk-taking tendencies keep us from our realities of the past?
Person/People I’d like to have a drink/dinner with in 2021. Byron Allen
Piece of Comms advice. Continue to push for truth and the promotion of impactful and relevant information for the good of the people who need and deserve it. Do so with accuracy and depth.
Resolution. Accept good energy and leave the rest alone.
One thing I’m watching for in 2021. Looming recession/depression. Can national and business leaders finesse a softer fall and quicker recovery...or will it get much worse before it gets better?
Person/People I’d like to have dinner with in 2021. My family. If there was a silver lining to 2020, it was the ability to share more time with wife and kiddos. I like the slower family-first pace and it’s something I want to continue in ‘21.
Piece of Comms advice. Listen and Read more...Speak and Tweet less. Video rants and social media hot takes are so last year.
Resolution - Go to a baseball game