After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be hard to quantify the ways in which we have changed. Our pandemic coverage helps us understand the industry impact, and it seems unlikely that any of our content has been untouched by the unique circumstances that have taken root since the start of 2020.

But so much of that change has occurred at a human level, where many of the lessons emerge from the various conversations and anecdotes that underpin our stories and events. To better showcase these learnings, and provide a measure of insight into how the global PR industry is responding to such a transformative era, this series asks people what they have learned, according to three specific areas.

In the latest instalment in our series, we hear from Barbara Phillips, founder of 20-year-old strategic communications firm Brownstone Communications and the chair of the PRCA's Race and Ethnicity Equity Board (REEB). 

Three things I've learned... 

In 2020 I went on record saying I had given up on a real PR and comms career, because that pesky racism kept on getting in the way. As one public sector comms C-suite member told me, “you operate with too much freedom, and I can’t see that working here”. But in the last two years some of the more positive aspects of PR and comms – the humanity – have fought their way back to the fore and I'm totally energised by it. The first time I spoke at the PRCA National Conference I made it about race. I can’t overstate what a breakthrough that was for me, and the amazing panel, because the word was an industry taboo. I’ve learned to speak my truth. You never know where it will lead.

I’ve learned we can remake our industry in a more positive image if we choose. That making offensive (insert community/Black) campaign decisions then apologising is now a strategy. That the line is still blurred around the scope of our advice; if you can advise and inform about the Russian invasion of Ukraine you can advise about the racism it has highlighted. I’ve also learned that the basics never fade: sponsorship and mentoring, especially with a diverse lens, is critical for industry growth. And lastly, that senior professionals engaging with industry newbies is a not-to-be-missed privilege.

Two years ago, I tried to work myself through a major health scare, one of about five in the previous five years. Epic fail. I did more harm than good. I’ve learned that you really are dispensable to employers and clients. That your body tells you loud and clear when it is in trouble, and it also holds a grudge. You pay for ignoring all the physiological and psychological red flags. If anybody wonders why I’m generally chilled and easy-going, it’s because I’ve learned that being anything else is a battle I cannot win.

If you'd like to share your three lessons, please let us know.