Our dearest friend and colleague, Accountability, departed this Earth likely in the last few months.
A precise date for his passing is hard to pin down, but all accounts suggest that he bid us adieu some time following the worst periods of the current COVID-19 pandemic making their way to our society and indeed our communities.
Outside of public office and the hallowed halls of those in the political space (for it would be remiss of this writer to dare speak on those fronts), our former friend oftentimes showed his face as part of great work in the marketing and communications space, a team member that was seen as a non-negotiable in terms of both presence and felt impact.
“He was incredible. Always with his best mates, Ethics and Responsibility, he would be that incredible voice of reason that reminded us all what it meant to do great work, with great impacts and great outcomes. We knew nothing mattered beyond the work – good work, great people and always doing the right thing,” one mourner at the small memorial service shared.
Another noted: “I think it all started to go downhill when the focus on ‘the work’ started to fade. It became about guts and glory. Accountability used to be one of the veritable guards against that kind of thinking or behaviour. The more people felt he wasn’t as crucial, the weaker he became. Then one day, we lost him for good, almost into the shadows.”
As the few in the industry who continue to mourn his passing lament, it is the loss of a basic principle and practice – the very embodiment of all that Accountability was and stood for – that weakens the community collective. Now, not only is it about doing the right things and in the right way for the right reasons and outcomes, but acting almost purely for the credit, the reward and the recognition, oftentimes undeserved.
Our fair friend would undoubtedly be heartbroken at the reality that today’s focus is on fame, prestige, street-cred or bragging rights. It is about the allure of awards and bonuses seldom earned and with no thanks or appreciation for the supporting team behind any great work.
Our dearly departed stood for so much in the communications industry. Accountability stood for and spoke to:
- The quality of brief in and work out.
- Adherence to promises and expectations, and indeed due management of the same.
- Delivering per agreed deadline or owning up to reasons one may have diverged from the plan.
- Alignment to best practice, basic principles and morals.
- Honesty, integrity and transparency.
They say no man is an island, and this was one of Accountability’s often-quoted phrases. No man is an island in making a dent in the world; for more often than not, it is the team, the community and the wider collective that makes anything worth doing a job done well. There is strength in numbers and in shared hearts and minds, afterall.
As we reflect on this life well lived and gone too soon, we must ask ourselves: How can the PR, or even the broader marketing and business fields, function without this veritable cornerstone of basic best practice? If individuals are not accountable for their work, are evasive at every turn or are ready to pass the proverbial buck, how do we maintain basic standards? If, as a collective and as an industry, comms folk are not accountable – or even responsible – in how and what we communicate, then how do we ensure the influence we bring is not only relevant but appropriate and even effective?
What we do matters. It shapes perceptions, protects reputations and informs understanding. Whether we are looking at financial services, public education projects, lobbying with stakeholders in a community or a brand campaign for beauty products, how people see, hear and feel about themselves, each other and the world stands to be influenced. There’s tremendous power in that, but only if we use it correctly.
Doing so means not simply remembering our departed friend and all that he stood for but emulating his very existence. When we are all held to account – as individuals and as a collective – we are more responsible, more realisable, and arguably more effective. Perhaps, dear reader and friend to the late Accountability, it is time now to move from mourning to resurrection.