Why people watching is a useful activity for PR practitioners
Over the past few decades, as Walkmans then iPods then smartphones have become commonplace, people have tended to become more self-absorbed when out in public. When Covid came around, we became even more isolated from seeing the world around us. This self-absorption is something that I would suggest we, as PR practitioners, should consciously avoid at least some of the time.
Try deliberately spending some time watching the world go by with a cup of coffee in a town square. Or wait for a bus with headphones put away. Visit a community pub and talk to random people with very different careers or none at all. Chat to retired people in a Post Office queue. Maybe take up street photography. These activities are rarely dull – and understanding people who are different from you can be good fun.
A game I sometimes play is to imagine who random passers-by are – what they fill their days doing, what motivates them in lives. I possibly get all the wrong answers, but it’s a useful reminder that diversity is a much broader topic that the box-ticking of the HR world.
The make-up of the PR world is skewed – a well-educated, highly literate, upper-middle class workplace, with a large part of the workplace in great global cities such as London and New York. I don’t think we should apologise for having a highly literate workforce, and organisations such as the PRCA and Taylor Bennett Foundation are doing good work encouraging greater ethnic diversity into the profession, but we need to avoid being a bubble.
Indeed, the overwhelming hostility to Brexit back in 2016 from PR practitioners compared with the general public does suggest something awry in how diverse our sector is. When CIPR Fellow Andy Green posted a photo of a trip to Wetherspoons on social media, he got some stick for visiting “Neverspoons” from a PR practitioner. His response?
Although you may disagree with some of the founder’s political views, I support them because [they] provide amazing value drinks and food; are an exemplar of heritage and restoration; do an excellent job of promoting CAMRA; invest in print with an outstanding customer magazine; [and] are doing a critical job in preserving the British pub.
You also get a wider social mix – a critical need in modern day society. Do try and be pleasantly surprised.
It’s easy in a profession that tends to offer above-average salaries to get isolated in the social mix we meet, and that’s something we need to resist.