Until last week, this posting was going to focus on how difficult and uncertain last year was – and how much I was looking forward to starting fresh. But now, just a few short days into 2021, we’ve already witnessed some of the worst we could have imagined. There is little I can add about the awful events at the Capitol that hasn’t already been said or written.  But since I am truly an optimist at heart, I still hold fast to the belief that in the coming year, things will only get better.

So, let me take a step back and offer a few IPR-related reflections. First, it’s hard to fully express my gratitude for the role IPR continues to play in the industry and the opportunity to serve as chair.  Just over six years ago, Pat Ford wisely advised me that IPR is an organization that he truly believed makes a difference for the profession – and although we all have limited time, it was an important place to spend it.

Both professionally and personally, I’m looking forward to continuing work with Tina (McCorkindale), Steve (Cody), and an incredible Board of Trustees to advance IPR’s mission… and, I know that many will join me with endless thanks to outgoing immediate past chair Linda (Rutherford) for her unwavering service and unflappable leadership.

Perhaps it’s also obvious, but certainly truer this year than ever:  IPR’s role has never been more critical to bringing the power of research-based knowledge to public relations and delivering the necessary evidence that helps professionals formulate both effective strategies and scientifically sound methods to measure results.

In hopes of pleasing my IPR research colleagues, I’ve organized my additional thoughts and wishes into a trio, both for ease of reading and memory.  Also, I will confess these are remnants of recent conversations that I had with Tina, Steve, and newly appointed vice-chair Yanique Woodall.  As I look ahead to 2021, instead of focusing on the headlines of “volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity,” I’m choosing to be optimistic by looking at community, continuous learning, and change.

Community:  Over and over again, we have been reminded that the crises of the past year – health, social, and financial – redefined almost everything we thought we knew about human connections and community. But when it comes to IPR, our unique community – which unites the scientific rigor of academic leaders with the business-driven practicality of communications professionals — is the foundation of our high-quality thinking and research.  The wonderful friendships I have made and the projects we have collaborated on since I joined the Board have helped evolve my thinking on a number of current issues. Although we were forced to be physically distant in 2020, we continued coming together both formally and informally through the weeks that stretched into months of video calls and uncertainty.  We ran for research, took action to improve the diversity of our industry, turned out for the IPR Bridge Conference’s opening night social, and shared our many learnings and lessons of COVID-19.

Keep it going:  Each of us makes a difference in keeping our ties strong, so consider volunteering in the public relations community, including getting more involved with IPR.

Continuous Learning:  Everyone talks about continuous learning, and, at IPR, it is truly at the heart of our mission, which combines the scientific rigor of academic leaders with the business-driven practicality of communications professionals.  By actively sharing our industry research, we bring actionable, market-driven insights, and intelligence that can be put to immediate use.  Additionally, we convene programs where thoughtful practitioners can absorb and contribute to research-based knowledge, including the IPR Bridge Conference, Public Relations Leadership Forum (with Page and PR Council), IPR-Cision Strategic Communication and Research Conference, and “In A Car with IPR” video series.

Keep it going:  As you set your learning agenda and goals for the year ahead, check out IPR’s research agenda, which will kick-off with Corporate Benchmarking Study and the Future of Work in Asia.  We also continue a robust agenda of learning events, headlined by a new IPR Master Class that offers a certification and our 4th annual IPR Bridge Conference in September 2021.  In the meantime, continue to engage on social – and share what you know with colleagues and peers.

Change:  According to Google, people searched ‘how to change the world’ twice as often this year as ‘how to go back to normal.’  I absolutely understand, given my focus on Accenture’s launch of the largest brand campaign in a decade, along with our new company purpose-designed to inspire organizations to embrace change to create more value that benefits all.  And, when I think about the power and importance of embracing change, IPR led from the front, from founding the IPR Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to publishing “A Communicator’s Guide to COVID-19 Vaccines” (within the IPR Vaccine Communication Resource Center) to launching a fellowship with The LAGRANT Foundation to attract more racially and ethnically diverse candidates to industry-critical research.

Keep it going:  Support the Diversity Action Alliance, which currently has 200+ signatories and has collected industry data from more than 70 companies.  IPR will be leading the measurement component, working with Executive Director Carmella Glover, to land an important benchmark that will lead to meaningful action.

After 65 years of dedication to the science beneath the art of public relations, IPR’s glass is definitely half full, with much to celebrate and anticipate. Our industry has made tremendous strides, thanks in part to IPR, and I am certain we will continue to make even more progress in the future.

In the meantime, I look forward to working with all of you—and I send you my wishes for a very healthy, happy, and peaceful 2021.

Stacey Jones is Chair of the IPR Board of Trustees and Head of Global Corporate Communications and Senior Managing Director at Accenture. 

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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