Guest post by Martin Waxman
I remember a time not too long ago when I knew how to do my job really well. I’d get up in the morning, scour the media and go to work, confident that when a client would call, I could help them out.
I knew what worked by doing; that is, based on success. Soon I had a proven blueprint I could apply to virtually any situation that came my way, knowing that if I stayed with it, the results would be positive. And (mostly) they were.
Like many people who follow this model, my mantra became, “Because that’s the way we do things.”
Well, life goes on. We perform the same tasks over and over and over again until, at a certain point, they become rote (remember the multiplication tables we were forced to learn as kids – quick: what’s 8 x 7?).
We’re given problems – er, projects – and our sense memory blindly leads us through the steps. Sure, we may add a spark of creativity but “at the end of the day” (an expression I loathe, but one which illustrates the point) there is only one roadmap and we own it.
And before we know it, we get really good at sleepwalking.
Of course, one of the casualties of being a somnambulist is that we lose the ability to listen. Not the greatest state to be in if you’re in client service.
I hate to admit it but it happened to me a few years back with PR. One canned key message too many, you might say.
Then one day I woke up because of two words. Social media.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to disintegrate into an evangelical diatribe. For me, it happened to be social media, but it could have been something else.
So what changed? And how did social media help?
There are many reasons actually: it was new and cool, I could imagine the potential, it took me back to some PR basics, I’ve always loved connecting, talking and sharing ideas…
But really, it’s because I had to open my mind again… and learn.
I needed to pay attention, read new things, spend time understanding how something works and what its application might be. I no longer had all the answers – I had questions. Curiosity. I was hungry for knowledge.
It wasn’t easy to give up my preconceived notions. And it took a good deal of time. (Still does.) On my quest, my brain started to hurt, in the same way your body hurts when you go back to the gym after a sedentary hiatus. That’s because I was discovering, challenging myself, looking at the world from a different point of view.
I’ve tried to adopt a beginner’s mind and think of myself as an eternal student who continues to learn, teach and learn again. I now spend part of each day discovering something new and attempting to figure it out.
My head hasn’t stopped swimming, which takes a bit of getting used to. But boy, am I awake.
Image courtesy Martin Waxman
Martin Waxman is a social media and communications strategist, principal of Martin Waxman Commmunications, Senior Counselor at Thornley Fallis Communications and co-founder of three PR agencies. He has worked in communications and PR for 25 years, and specializes in social media, consumer marketing, product launches, corporate and internal communications, b2b and entertainment. Martin blogs at myPALETTE and is one of the hosts of the Inside PR podcast.