One of the most important lessons we learned in 2020 is just how much we don’t know. As individuals, we can be unaware of biases, prone to cognitive errors and generally errant in our decision processes without diverse representation in the room.
People with different backgrounds bring that added perspective—but beyond that, representation can change the way others see us and they way we see ourselves. That’s why it’s the top message to clients from Eva Wasko, vice president of public relations at Allen & Gerritsen.
We caught up with her recently for the latest in our “Day in the Life” series. Here’s what she had to say about the challenges—bother personal and industrywide—that she is tackling this year:
1. What’s the first thing you do every day when you wake up?
Wasko: I’d love to say that I spend the first hour of my day practicing yoga or enjoying coffee on the balcony, but the reality is that I reach for my phone, check my email, scroll through social media and read news digests—but it’s a helpful habit. Knowing what’s happening in the world and on my feeds is helpful to know going into the day and inspires my creative thinking, especially working with such a wide variety of clients and industries.
2. Who is the most important person you talk to every day?
Wasko: My family. I talk to them every single day. They’re my biggest support and my greatest role models. I would not be who or where I am without them.
3. When do you plan to go back into the office? Do you want to go back?
Wasko: It’s an unpopular opinion in this world of remote working, but I cannot wait to get back into the office (when it’s safe).
I’m an extrovert and feed on the energy of being around people at work. I’m so proud of my team and agency and how we’ve adapted and thrived throughout the pandemic, but the truth is, I really miss seeing them in person. I’m lucky to have colleagues that I genuinely really love working with.
The video meetings have been tremendously helpful, but to me, nothing beats being able to hop over to each others’ desks and work through a project—and laugh through a tough day—together. That being said, our agency has been planning diligently to find a hybrid in-person/remote model that allows for increased flexibility and continued collaboration when it is safe to collectively return to a physical space.
4. What’s a new tool you have discovered that you just can’t live without?
Wasko: Pocket is an app that I use daily. Our job is dependent on understanding the news cycle, current trends, reporter transitions, etc. and Pocket is an awesome app for bookmarking and labeling articles I find interesting and want to get back to later.
5. What was your favorite work memory from the past year?
Wasko: This isn’t one specific moment, but in general, I love how much more literal face time we got with clients this past year. Even though virtual meetings can be exhausting, remote working resulted in transitioning what used to be phone calls into video sessions—providing us the opportunity to get to know our clients, and each other, in ways we never have before.
This past year, we got to see our clients’ pets, children, plants, color-coordinated bookshelves—and all of the things that make them people, not just clients. And I think our relationships are so much stronger for it.
6. What has been the biggest “lesson learned” from 2020?
Wasko: The conversations surrounding racial injustice this year were among the most challenging I’ve ever experienced in the workplace. Having very honest conversations about race, equity and the role brands play in progressing these issues can be supremely uncomfortable when not everyone is aligned—but they’ve never been more important.
When I think about how I want to lead for my clients and the example I want to set for my team, I will always look back on the lessons and experiences I’ve gained this past year.
7. What’s your No.1 message to clients, co-workers or employees for 2021?
Wasko: Representation matters. Whether it’s on a Zoom screen, in a new business pitch, for a social media post or an ad campaign, our industry is long past overdue for ensuring diversity is represented at all levels and on every screen. I think the conversations raised in 2020 have forced companies, brands and agencies to make progress when it comes to matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, but it’ll continue to be an essential priority to ensure this progress continues.
8. What makes you hopeful about the future of PR?
Wasko: The talent! I’m completely biased but it’s also true: I work with an incredibly gifted and creative team, and it’s been so rewarding in particular to watch younger team members learn and grow.
From mastering the latest trends on TikTok to having the courage and confidence to advocate for issues that matter in and outside of our agency walls, I’m continually impressed by the diversity of skills and experience that younger colleagues are bringing to the table. I feel like I was not half as prepared as they are to take on this industry when I was their age, and I’m even more in awe at how much they’ve overcome in the midst of a global pandemic.