2019 resolutions: The year of activism

Being an activist doesn't require spending 70 hours a week marching in protests or writing emails, says Shannon Bowen, professor of PR ethics at the University of South Carolina.

As I write these words, people are making New Year’s resolutions to hit the gym regularly. And though you can scarcely find an empty treadmill in January, by February three quarters of those resolutions will be broken.

Instead, why not make a resolution that will not only better yourself but also have a positive impact on the communities and people around you?

Consider making a resolution to become an activist. Consider becoming engaged in your profession, with the issues you care about, and in the community where you live. Activism is a great resolution because it not only boosts self-esteem, it can also improve your professional circumstances.

Anyone can become an activist. It doesn’t require spending 70 hours a week marching in protests or writing emails. It simply means being active and mindful.

Activism means being respectful and ethical while engaging and acting upon your moral reason. And you don’t need a special calling to be an activist. You simply have to engage with the world around you while bringing your best thoughts to the fore.

For my latest book, I recently interviewed activist, filmmaker, and author Ginger Kathrens, the executive director of the Cloud Foundation, a group dedicated to preserving wild horses. I asked her why she become involved with the foundation and I got a simple, yet instructive answer. "Somebody had to do it," she said.

Kathrens’ response reminded me that it doesn’t take special influence or circumstances to make a difference. Sometimes it just takes showing up and doing a job with dedication and passion.

As an activist you’re guaranteed to always have some kind of success. Every time you make a request of a organization it’s disruptive because it is forced to use its time and resources to deal with your inquiries. What other resolution has a 100% success rate?

In short, get active! The world we live in is more dynamic, more challenging, more fast-paced and contentious than ever. We need thinking people to keep our organizations and clients on the right path. We need activists.

Shannon A. Bowen, Ph.D., Professor, researches and teaches PR ethics at the University of South Carolina. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society and the Board of Directors at the International Public Relations Research Conference. Her column focuses on PR education, ethics, and the C-suite. She can be reached at sbowen@sc.edu.

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