Despite the many hardships of 2020—or perhaps because of them—there is so much to be thankful for this year.
We asked readers to share with us some of the things they are reflecting on and giving thanks for this holiday season. A few common themes emerged. Communicators were grateful for their jobs and companies, their colleagues and clients, their families. They were thankful for important work and an elevated role during the pandemic, a chance for open and transparent dialogue—and the occasional moment of joy, too.
Here’s how they put it, in their own words:
Team members and organizations
Sophia Salis, corporate communications manager for Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc., says she is most thankful for “the positive energy of my colleagues who’ve helped keep the silver linings in focus.”
She also appreciates that “the role of effective communication supporting a healthy and resilient workforce has never been more valued.”
Good people also help elevate workplace, something that Aileen Izquierdo, chair for the communication department at Florida International University highlighted as worthy of gratitude. She says she has been lucky to enjoy “a professional environment that was more engaged in transparent and nimble communication that addressed the needs of the internal audiences as much as our external constituents.”
Others praised the work of their colleagues to keep everyone connected. Lori Wildman, senior marketing manager for DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc. says she is thankful for “the increased communication across our organization, as a result of the pandemic.”
“I feel more connected to my colleagues because we’ve had to rally and work more as a team than ever before,” she says.
Others give thanks for flexibility and the ability to pivot. Vanessa Charles, manager of internal and functional Communications for Boston Scientific, says she is grateful that she is “part of an agile and flexible team that was able to quickly respond to emerging COVID-19 messaging, which helped employees navigate and manage evolving change.”
Some PR pros are thankful for their clients as well as their colleagues, particularly in a year when budgets were shrinking all around.
“I’m thankful for my clients, team members and partners who all supported the relaunch of Engage PR,” says Jeannette Bitz, CEO and chief strategist for Engage PR. “Without their patience, guidance and encouragement, I would have never had the courage to start over, especially during such uncertain times.”
Health care and frontline workers
Many are giving thanks for the workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially health care workers who have been put through the ringer this year and are continuing to respond as cases keep climbing. Communicators who work for health care organizations are particularly alert to the work of these frontline heroes.
Shae Brennan, promotions specialist for Box Butte General Hospital, says she is grateful for “the people who are taking care of our friends and family members. Nurses especially are a non-renewable resource, and human at the same time.”
She stresses that health care workers require years of preparation to do their very important jobs and their value to society cannot be overstated. “We truly cannot thank them enough,” she says. “I just hope there isn’t a mass exodus of nurses, because they need to know how much we appreciate and even love them.”
Others are focused a little closer to home this year, facing the illness of a loved one. Alison Mallard, owner of AM Communications, says she is particularly grateful for the “extraordinary talent and skill of my son’s orthopedic surgeon, along with his ability to share metaphors to describe injuries and how he was repairing them.” In her view as a former healthcare communicator, such careful explanation and communication is a rare gift.
Openness and dialogue
Along with the pandemic, 2020 brought new national conversations around work and the workplace and racial relations and systemic inequality in the U.S. Many communicators gave thanks this year for the ability to have these important conversations.
“I am thankful that through dark and tumultuous times, we have initiated open dialogues about issues impacting our country and world,” says Kaylin R. Staten, CEO of Hourglass Media. “I am thankful for having the skill sets and passion to make a true difference in people’s narratives and lives.”
Others said the COVID-19 was teaching organizations an important lesson in empathy.
“COVID taught us the work environment is unpredictable with so many now working at home,” says Lisa Noury, director of U.S. corporate internal communications for Bayer U.S. “As a result, good things are happening. Relationships are at a new level. We see others as people with kids, pets and more—not simply workmates. And it’s okay to be imperfect (aka human).”
And some are giving thanks for their leadership teams, which have offered transparency and compassion. Susan Baranczyk, corporate communications strategist for J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., says she is thankful for “a CEO and executive leadership team that believe in open and frequent communication.”
A place of importance
The pandemic and other challenges of 2020 saw the communications role raised to new heights within organizations, something that many pros were thankful for this year. Sunni Goodman, senior program manager, specialty retail store communications for Amazon, gives thanks for “the opportunity to highlight the importance of thoughtful, strategic, and timely communications. In times of uncertainty, communications professionals provide much-needed counsel and action.”
Kate Schraml, senior manager for global PR & comms for Medela, says she is thankful for “the opportunity to highlight how critical effective communication is in a year of reduced (in-person) connections.”
Having a job
In a year of heavy layoffs, company closings and rampant disruption, it makes sense to give thanks for the basics. Some PR pros are giving thanks this year simply to be employed and for their various publics having understanding and compassion for the organizations they represent.
For Kelly Swindell, media and communications director for Eastern Music Festival, something to give thanks for in 2020 is “audiences being compassionate and understanding about the changes and challenges everyone is facing this year—and that I am still employed.”
Chris Benware, public relations director for CMD Agency, put his thoughts succinctly, giving thanks for “having a job and time sheet to fill out.”
Beyond the realities of the job, there is also the work—a trade that many in communications find deeply rewarding, particularly this year.
“I am thankful for the chance to help launch a public health video campaign that elevated how wearing masks in our city helps us save each other’s lives (#KnoxvilleSmiles),” writes Mary Leidig, marketing strategist for Southern Rocket Productions.
Others are giving thanks for their ability to have an impact during the global pandemic. “The opportunity to help promote health care programs across New York State that mirror Mother Cabrini’s selfless service to society’s most vulnerable” is something that Bob Varettoni, director of communications for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, offers as his Thanksgiving benediction.
“I’m in awe of the work I see; it rekindles my faith in humanity every single day.”
Those in corporate communications are also grateful for their influence. Kevin Petschow, senior director of global public relations for Syniverse, says he is thankful “to have the forum to influence corporate leaders and decision makers in how they lead and communicate to employees, customers, partners, investors and competitors during a pandemic.”
And for those who have the opportunity to work on passion projects that align with core values, this year has been particularly meaningful.
Ann Seamonds, president of Seamonds & Company Public Relations and Marketing Communications, gives thanks for “the opportunity to work in a field that I love and look forward to, every day, despite the challenges that the COVID pandemic has thrown at all of us.”
Moments of joy
Even in what has been a tough and dark year for so many, there have been moments of hope and elation.
Kathi Groenendyk, professor and department chair at Calvin University, give thanks for “messages that capture the fun that still can exist (the viral video of the farmer hugging baby goats is just the latest example.)” Linda Dunn, advancement marcom assistant director for Michigan State University, is thankful for “being able to share stories that make people feel good.”
Others celebrated personal milestones and achievements this year, too, as life continued in spite of all the turmoil.
“I am thankful for passing my APR panel and exam!” says Linda Goelzer, director of public relations for Carter BloodCare. “Obtaining the accreditation in public relations amidst the unusual year that 2020 has been, was a rich blessing.”
And some celebrated their awards wins, too, albeit from a distance. Suzanne Seifert Groves, executive director for communications, PR and marketing for Tarrant County College District, gave thanks for her win as one of Ragan’s “Top Women in Communications”—the inaugural class for the new award.
“I’m equally thankful to lead a division of 41 professionals whose ways of living, learning and earning were significantly challenged by a sudden move to a remote working environment,” Groves says. “My team rose to the occasion and together, though apart, we didn’t miss a beat because we know we that together, everyone achieves more.”
May we all remember how much we mean to each other in the months to come.