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Scratching my bald head: Kindness can be PR’s secret weapon

Scratching my bald head: Kindness can be PR’s secret weapon

Written by Emily Luscombe, Chief Client Officer. This is the second part in a series – read the first part here. This article was also published in PR Week here.

Following my cancer diagnosis, everyone said: “Be kind to yourself.” It’s a strange concept – as if you need a chronic condition before having permission to look after yourself.

But the sentiment is right – so I bought a jumper. It says “KINDNESS” on the front in rainbow letters. It is most definitely not something I would have bought before March 2022; but I’d never worn a headscarf either. For the new me, both are a comfortable fit.

Talking to others, it would appear kindness, like everything else associated with this horrible disease, is both subjective and entirely individual. There are those who swear by a daily foot massage, or a new wardrobe (“chemo wear” is actually “a thing”). Most of us have finally found the time to invest in a decent daily skincare routine – chemotherapy wreaks havoc. And some translate personal kindness into taking four months off work.

Reflecting on being kind has again presented an unexpected awakening; because while my sedative-infused brain is most definitely slower, the kindest thing I can do between relentless cycles of treatment is take off the rainbow jumper and step back into the workplace.

At a recent workshop, participants were invited to select three words that best described what they are as a firm. Answers included: progressive, but also traditional; creative, yet also corporate. My three words have had a fundamental reappraisal – and top of the list would be “kind”. Kindness has become for me one of the most critical of business differentiators.

Which got me thinking: when was the last time you walked into a client pitch and announced, in that critical opening elevator pitch: “We are kind”? When did you last interview a candidate who, amid the eye-watering A*s and extra-curricular activities, advocated their qualities of empathy and respect?

Of course, people are “excellent line managers” and “inspiring leaders” – but I am not sure any of them have ever said they are kind. I certainly haven’t, which is strange, given we are in the business of relationship management; where we all know the longest-held client relationships are not, honestly, based on exceeding KPIs or delivering amazing creative (both of which are, of course, a given).

They’re based on genuine, human connections and a mutual fondness.

But I am optimistic. I think this is changing. I am a living demonstration of the benefits of a post-COVID-19 world that accepts ever-closer blurring of home and work lives. We’ve been inside each other’s living rooms for two years. We’ve met our colleagues’ children/parents/pets (albeit accidentally, during that crucial Teams pitch). It’s OK to leave a meeting for school pick-up, or take a personal day with your elderly mum. Familiarity is breeding kindness.

Whether they use the “k” word, the new generation we interview demand it: in our social contribution, pro bono work, DE&I efforts, and personal development plans. In a world where, more than ever, we bring our whole selves to work, the quality of kindness is becoming a valued necessity.

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