Brian Lowe, founder of BML Public Relations, isn’t running from anything.

During a recent PRSA NJ Senior Pros “Shoot The Breeze” virtual discussion, Lowe briskly walked through his Millburn neighborhood with an extended arm—cellphone in hand—for more than an hour so he could be present during the entire event.

Like other PR professionals throughout the nation, Lowe has had to endure shrinking revenue, office closure and ongoing uncertainty.

He changed up his routine in April: “I now start off my mornings with a five-mile run/walk just to put my personal health first.”

Another personal commitment during the pandemic? Networking with others, virtually of course.

As it turned out, Lowe wasn’t the only one who needed to talk about challenges at the chapter’s online event. Coping in the era of COVID-19 was the overwhelming theme. Many senior PR professionals wanted to share their feelings and thoughts about isolation, loss and perseverance.

Jeff Graubard of The Other Agency remembered spending March in the fetal position. “This is our Vietnam; this is our Depression,” he said. “It’s time to take appreciation for the small things in life. Empathy is the thing we need to exhibit.”

Linda Coles of NJM Insurance Group has endured, as well.

“It’s been an overwhelming time in my life,” she said. “Our offices closed in March, and we transitioned to working remotely. Gradually, on a volunteer basis, some of the staff is returning back to the office. It’s nice to be back in the office because it provides a sense of normalcy. But it’s difficult to plan future projects now. Uncertainty outweighs clarity.”

Coles said she now has to qualify her sentences because of the pandemic. “Depending on where we are with COVID-19…is how we begin sentences now,” she added.


Help Yourself, Help Others

Moderator Jon Goldberg of Reputation Architects said “Be Helpful” should be everyone’s mantra, including PR pros.

“We should refuse to accept that this is the new normal,” Goldberg said. “If we see it as the new abnormal, we can still influence the world around us.”

On March 30, Goldberg wrote a blog post, “Why We’re Not Inviting You To Another Webinar”, that extended a unique offer to companies, nonprofits and public institutions, offering a strategic sounding board, communications advice, a devil’s advocate, or whatever they needed. He said his firm received a “bunch of takers”—and some offered to pay him after the session. In turn, he asked them to pay it forward and donate an hour of their own time to some other person or organization who needed the help.

“Reach out to people and help them,” said Goldberg, “so they feel connected and know that others are there for them.”

During the “Shoot the Breeze” discussion, John Lonsdorf of R&J Communications mentioned the Mental Health helpline, 866-202-HELP (4357), which is a free service staffed by mental health professionals at Rutgers University. It operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

PRSA NJ Senior Pros Chair Ken Jacobs PCC, CPC of Jacobs Consulting & Executive Coaching advocated for self-care during these troubling times. He said there is a reason why flight attendants ask you to put on the oxygen mask first. “Your cup has to be full to serve other people,” he said.


Make Your Own Memorable Story

Barbara Brown of Vector Strategy Group won’t surrender to the somber mood swirling around us. She has offered plenty of pro bono work in the past six months, started cold calling, hosted some virtual “coffees” and she is now relying on steady outreach to existing clients to jumpstart business.

She says people can’t escape a good story, and she is making her own with hustle.

“Just keep going,” Brown said. “Keep paddling. We have to press on. You don’t need a lot of money to be creative. A good idea is a good idea.”

To manage the negative effects of the current climate, Coles has developed her own program to keep healthy—mentally and physically. At least three times a week, she runs and walks three to four-and-half miles a day, weather permitting, and she meditates even more mindfully since the outbreak. “I start each day with a sense of gratitude,” she said. “It helps keep me balanced. I’m in a good place. I want to keep that perspective.”

Since March, Graubard said he has become more empathetic—even towards himself. He walks two miles a day and reads more. He also arranges biweekly video calls with former work colleagues, high school buddies and friends from his college days.

Graubard said some people are getting stuck in all the negative that surrounds us, while others are finding ways to capitalize. He recalled a story from a cyclist who once spoke about overcoming a pile up in the middle of a race. His friend told him not to look down, but ahead because there will always be an opening.

“Don’t look at the wreckage,” said Graubard, as the country faces a resurgence of COVID in the fall, “but at the opportunity ahead.”


WHAT’S NEXT: PRSA NJ will host its next “Shoot The Breeze” roundtable discussion on November 11. The theme will revolve around “What Senior PR Pros Can Do To Hire and Retain Diverse Teams?”

This upcoming discussion will serve as a follow-up to an important Diversity & Inclusion event, “Building and Retaining Diverse Teams: The Juice Is Worth the Squeeze” on October 15. For more information about upcoming events, please visit PRSA NJ.

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