Don’t just navigate uncertainty in the post-pandemic PR industry; embrace it

As the industry accelerates into a post-pandemic, double-jabbed, with-COVID-19 future, I see a potent combination of two contradictory emotions.

Uncertainty might have been seen as a weakness before – but it makes you strong, argues Chris McCafferty
Uncertainty might have been seen as a weakness before – but it makes you strong, argues Chris McCafferty

In the blue corner, optimism: optimism of a new business market hotting up, of clients’ budgets increasing and of new briefs arriving.

Optimism driven by the ever-growing influence of earned reputation as the world demands ‘values’ from businesses just as much as it demands value.

Even the optimism of an in-real-life PRWeek Awards ceremony just a few weeks away. Heady days indeed.

In the red corner, uncertainty: these days, even for an industry of optimists, uncertainty is never far away.

Uncertainty about going back to regular commutes, uncertainty about future lockdowns or restrictions and uncertainty about whether your boss really was joking when they suggested a 5:2 working pattern.

I don’t think there’s a single person in the industry today who is not uncertain about something.

And this got me wondering: is uncertainty all bad? Should I focus solely on the optimism, or are there cognitive and emotional benefits of uncertainty that can be harnessed for growth too?

The good news is, there are. Loads.

Upsides of uncertainty

First and foremost, uncertainty fuels creativity. Uncertainty drives us to want to explore, to question, to change – all processes synonymous with creativity.

Uncertainty has been proven to unlock learning ability in our brains. Faced with uncertainty we’re hardwired to seek out new information to help fill in the gaps and start to rebuild.

Uncertainty increases our ability to collaborate as we seek out help and partners and new coalitions.

Uncertainty increases our ability to think with empathy as we’re forced to consider the other perspectives that are contributing to the situations we find ourselves in. And all of this adds up to increasing open-mindedness.

The opposite of uncertainty

While researching my uncertain journey of discovery, I discovered it has been said that the opposite of uncertainty is not certainty, but presence – in essence, the ability to recognise uncertainty, accept and embrace it, and seek out its benefits.

In previous times, even acknowledging uncertainty might have been perceived as a weakness. Thank goodness we’re now in a more enlightened era.

So, let’s go back and review.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve all become world experts in uncertainty in our personal and professional lives. But as we enter another new chapter, I’d encourage you to embrace the optimism of uncertainty.

Uncertainty helps us be creative, hungry to learn, collaborative, empathetic and open-minded. Sounds good, right?

I’d sign up for more of it – of that, I am certain.

Chris McCafferty is chief executive, Influence Practice, at Publicis UK

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