Success in public relations often requires advocacy for a client’s message or mission. Yet to be a top PR strategist it helps to see all sides of an issue or equation and to anticipate questions and reactions from multiple audiences.
Diversity is also essential to creativity, but do you ever feel like you hear and read about the same old themes or ideas? It might be tunnel vision, or its cultural equivalent, “groupthink.” It’s any excessive desire for conformity that can result in suppression of different viewpoints, but it’s not just peer pressure that’s at work. The content we consume is increasingly fed, curated, reposted and aggregated according to our preferences and within our own social circles. That can lead to, at best, a monotonous media diet, and worse, a narrow perspective. How to stay connected while remaining open to different points of view?
Be critical of what you like. And “like.” As Robert Pagliarini points out, we’re naturally more open among those we trust, but we should hold the familiar to a high standard when it comes to speculative information or extreme opinions. There’s no safer place to offer a different point of view than among friends and peers.
Get off the beaten path. Try to read an intelligent blog post or column each day from a site or group you don’t agree with. For the same reasons, it’s helpful to add fresh friends/followers every day. List functions, hashtagging and other tools make it easy to wander beyond your professional turf without losing that focus.
Look for the up-and-comers. Some social media rockstars are truly original, or at least, they started out that way. But newer or less rcognized bloggers and columnists are nearly always more interesting, and they try harder.
Look for original content. Recycled news is fine for keeping up with news events, but it’s the lowest common denominator. Resources with original content, where the author’s professional or personal interests and resulting biases are obvious, are more useful in my view.
Play devil’s advocate. With your own assumptions, that is. It’s a useful exercise in which you nearly always learn something.
Solicit other opinions. Especially from those who are silent, whether on social media or in a physical meeting. The quiet ones usually have something to say, and it often goes against the grain.
Seek out diversity within a sector. I find it useful to read bylines from those who head up mega-agencies as well as solo practitioners. Everyone has something distinct to add to the conversation.
Listen. I have strong opinions about gun regulation, to say the least. In the wake of yet another senseless shooting, I engaged on Twitter with someone who has a different view. But because we took the time to engage respectfully, we found we had each experienced the shortcomings of our mental health system when trying to provide for a family member. Yes, even with a few 140-character tweets, common ground is possible. No minds were changed, but I think we both learned something. I know I did.