• Kate Wilhelm

Grace, Change, Growth: The Lessons We’ve Learned from 2020



Heading in, 2020 was a year we all looked forward to with aspirations. Then it tested us all. Over the last 12 months – or really nine since March – we’ve learned valuable lessons that will remain with us for a lifetime.


The Need for Grace


Before the end of the first quarter, our business, Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy, went entirely remote, as did many of our clients. Parents and caregivers across the country dealt with working from home while children learned how to go to school only on the computer. Many were impacted by illness over the year and many, including me, by heart-wrenching tragedy. Every person in our firm and everyone we work with has been touched by one if not more of these things.

The need to find grace could not be stronger right now. It has never been more important for us to demonstrate that courteous goodwill to each other and to ourselves. But grace is earned by finding your voice to know and be an advocate for yourself when you need time. Grace is knowing that it is okay to feel and find comfort in the teams around you that can pick up the ball when a moment of pause is needed.


So many of our clients have shown that grace to our firm and our colleagues, knowing some of us have had to step away for family matters that supersede anything on any agenda. We see that compassion when the eyes looking across the screen seem extra tired and someone says, “Let me handle this for you,” or, “That deadline can slide back a day.”


Yet grace does not mean making excuses; it means finding the strength in the support around you and knowing you take every step with people surrounding you. The strength in our purpose, that passion we bring to every cause and campaign, is better served because everyone, everywhere, right now needs grace.


The Need for Change


A global pandemic, followed by social unrest not seen since the 1960s, followed by an unprecedented election and presidential transition, as well as upheaval to economic systems underneath our feet while we are still walking. Nearly every aspect of our lives has changed, no matter our age, our position, or individual circumstances. This year has shown us that if we remain stagnant or paralyzed by what swirls around us, we put ourselves and our businesses at perilous risk.


We all need to rise to meet this moment in ways we had not gamed out in any scenario. At Ceisler Media, we are continuing to adapt to how we operate internally, dedicate resources to projects, and sharpen our expertise. We are developing new efficiencies that allow us to maximize the incredible talents of so many people who make up our firm.


This year required all on our team to be introspective as individuals and in their role in our firm. We are proud of all those who have been and are part of the Ceisler Media family because of their desire to do good and their drive for purposeful work. These changes in our firm are a result of a necessary reflective look at who we are and the new ways our clients are depending on us to deliver excellence.


The Need to Grow


It seems counterintuitive to suggest growth in a time of such challenge. But as a firm with experts in reputation management, we know well the impact of a crisis and what it requires to build back.


Managing in a crisis requires not being myopic in thinking and planning. We are seeing dramatic swings in our civic infrastructure - political changes, shifts in civic leadership, generational change, along with an increasingly digitized economy and workforce.


This is the time to step up to demonstrate to our clients and community why we are an elite firm of communications professionals with relationship networks across the continuum. We can show how what we do and how we deliver it separates us from others who say they do the same. We have work to do – we all do and always will.


One of the most important things any of us can do is take all the steps to anticipate our clients’ needs, expand our networks at a time when there are no cocktail parties, and the way we connect or continue professional development has shifted dramatically. So, too, has the media landscape, which shows no signs of slowing. These reasons and more require us to think differently about how we approach solutions.


But a fundamental part of our business will not change – relationships are everything.


Even as we find new ways to connect, it is our relationships that distinguish who we are. Internally, the way we mentor our staff and provide them opportunities not only benefits us and our clients, but it also helps each of them define their own pathway for success.


Grace. Change. Growth. In the nine months since a pandemic changed the world for all of us and in the month since my own life was turned completely upside down, those three words have been a steadying mantra. Because they are not things any of us are going through alone and in fact, they are things we must all do every day. That, along with a lot of strength, patience, and always... empathy, will take us into 2021 the ways we need.

Kate Wilhelm is the Chief Operating Officer in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia Office.

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