By Senior Consultant Georgi Wicks
Ah, but to assume.
It has taken me many years to get to the place I am now, however I suspect I still have a long way to go and many more lessons to learn – albeit unknown.
I am excited for the future, and honestly feel while there are still unknowns for me, I will have the opportunity and ability to evolve and discover – my favourite things to do.
However, let me take a moment to reflect on and share one of my life mantras with you, one which, once instilled within me, has followed me everywhere, and at times acts like a petulant sibling taunting ‘I told you so’ over and over.
This important life lesson (and pardon my colloquialism) is ‘to assume makes an ass out of you and me’. In my humble opinion, this is bang on, in both professional and personal scenarios.
Now, don’t get me wrong, some of my favourite times are spent throwing around wild speculations over wine with girlfriends as to why ‘that guy’ hasn’t called – of course we unanimously settle on his grandmother being struck down with a critical illness on a remote island and he had to rush to her bedside, and on top of all this bad luck, there’s no phone reception – go figure! I feel this is a realistic option… no delusional thinking here.
While, this is light hearted fun, it becomes a little more dangerous to make assumptions in everyday life, especially in professional situations.
Now, as usual I have got ahead of myself, so let’s take a step back. What is it to assume?
To assume, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary is: [verb] to accept something to be true without question or proof.
Now, when you break this down, it is logically speaking, an insane thing to do! Yet we all do it (assumption), sorry.
What do we do now we are older and wiser? We assume to know everything, yet we forget we actually know nothing, and what is desperately needed is for the hard questions to be asked.
Too often we get caught up in the direct tasks at hand, the items to tick off our lists, ones with tangible outcomes, and for me this could be; preparing a media release, identifying a venue for a launch, approving key messages and FAQs, as well as preparing and distributing timelines for the launch, all very doable. However, if you get too swept up in the logistics of the task, which I’m the first to admit is easy, attitudes of the public, your audience, can easily get swept under the rug and assumed.
This needs to go further than just stakeholder engagement and at times farther than consultation, you need to open up two-way communication channels and ask not only the right questions, but the hard questions. These questions, while confronting to develop, are even more challenging to ask, and at times can be close to unbearable to hear the answer to.
However, once you have these candid responses, attitudes can truly be gauged, and you can develop your communications strategy accordingly, with the comfort of knowing to the best possible extent, the risks have been mitigated.
We need to take the time to explore and gain insight into all aspects of the situation at hand, and while we may think we don’t have time to do this, the clean-up post-assumption gone wrong will be even longer and much messier.
Now, I don’t dare assume you’ll take the above on board, I have learnt the best life lessons from enduring hard times and making mistakes, in fact, don’t take my advice. Go, assume away, and once you get to the point where I am given the opportunity to say ‘I told you so’, come and see me – I wholeheartedly promise I will never say this – we offer more than just sage advice here at Font PR, we also offer crisis communications, which, one could assume is needed in such situations.
So, I’ll finish with a word to the wise – ask the hard questions and listen to the answers.