For organizations looking to turn the page after the extraordinary events of 2020, it’s important to set the table. The world is not going to “return to normal” or revert to an old way of doing business.
Things have changed.
That’s the message from Jon Meakin, the new president for North America with Clarity. We caught up with him recently for our Day in the Life series as he starts his new role an he shared some of the lessons he is taking from the past year and what fills him with hope for the future of communications:
1. What’s the first thing you do every day when you wake up?
Meakin: If I am not already awake, my Amazon Echo wakes me up at 6 a.m. with NPR, so I immediately get to hear the news headlines. Then, like most people, I look at my phone.
With so many colleagues in Europe and on the East Coast, my inbox is always full, so I do a quick scan to see if there’s anything that needs a quick response. As someone who used to live and work in London, I know how frustrating it can be to have to wait until the very end of the day before anyone on the West Coast responds; I don’t want to be that guy.
2. Who is the most important person you talk to every day?
Meakin: My wife, Frankie. Frankie always offers a different perspective on whatever it is that I’m grappling with, and doesn’t hold back. She also works in communications, and is ex-agency herself, so I never have to explain what the hell it is I’m talking about.
3. When do you plan to go back into the office? Do you want to go back?
Meakin: I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, as I am leading the search for a new office in San Francisco. And as I’ve been viewing spaces, I’ve realized how much I’ve missed being in an office with colleagues. So I’m surprised to find myself thinking that once everyone has been fully vaccinated and it’s safe to do so, I expect to be going into the office most days.
At Clarity we’re not expecting everyone to be in every day. We want to be intentional about when and why we come together, not just to sit at a desk and do what you could more effectively or comfortably do at home or somewhere else.
4. What’s a new tool you have discovered that you just can’t live without?
Meakin: Clockwise. It’s a Chrome extension that helps organize your calendar in a way that creates more “focus time,” longer blocks of time instead of 30 minutes here and there. It’s a gamechanger.
5. What was your favorite work memory from the past year?
Meakin: Probably the day Sami McCabe told me he’d like me to do this job. It was both very affirming that Sami was willing to put his faith in me, and also incredibly exciting just to think about the opportunities that lay ahead—many of which we’ve been able to capitalize on in a relatively short space of time.
6. What has been the biggest “lesson learned” from 2020?
Meakin: For me personally, 2020 was a reminder that we should never take anything for granted.
At a more macro level, I think we can take heart from the fact that if resources are mobilized in the right way, human ingenuity can achieve incredible things, like develop multiple working vaccines at an unheard-of pace.
7. What’s your No.1 message to clients, co-workers or employees for 2021?
Meakin: We’re not “going back.” We’re going forward. The term “new normal” is hackneyed and overused, but things are undeniably different now, not just in terms of how and where we work, but also what is expected from brands.
I firmly believe that any brands that lack social conscience, or a purpose beyond making money for their founders or shareholders, will struggle to build and sustain meaningful reputations in the years ahead.
8. What makes you hopeful about the future of PR?
Meakin: Gen Z. The people we are employing now from that cohort are without exception incredibly smart, ambitious and principled. They are not afraid to say what they think, and what they have to say is extremely valid most of the time. If they are the future of PR, our profession is in good hands.