Like many of you, if I never have to say or write the words “Covid,” “pandemic,” “social distancing,” “herd immunity,” “zoom happy hour,” “unprecedented,” and more, I’d be thrilled. Masks may have fun and funny designs, but we’re all sick of those too. And I speak for many when I say we can’t wait to get out and about, the further the better.

Initially, this post was to focus on the massive importance of media literacy in the PR industry and in society as a whole. The topic is experiencing a renewed urgency due to the past few years. Fast-spreading conspiracy theories, the wild west of social media, niche media dishing out misinformation/propaganda and mainstream media often slipping further into their left and right-wing camps are a few reasons why. Breakaway PR has put together a social media mini-series on the topic with guidance from the Young African Leaders Initiative Network. Future educational posts on this topic will continue throughout the year, so keep an eye on our Instagram stories and Facebook.

Ever-Growing Mountain of Misinformation

Media literacy is directly connected to the pandemic since Covid-19 has been the subject of dangerous misinformation and politicization, primarily on social media and above-mentioned niche media outlets.

Between the pandemic and presidential election, 2020 piled on a mountain of misinformation, most of which lingers today. This frustrates and angers me far more than the social inconveniences of living in a pandemic. It has led to a deep divide in the most important aspect of life–interpersonal relationships.

As a journalism major from the more “innocent” pre-internet days, I have always understood and applauded the media’s responsibility to question authority. I’ve also known most media have some level of bias since the inception of a free press. Media consumers should in turn be critical thinkers on the who, what and why behind the media they absorb. The internet makes it easy to do the research (granted one must be careful with those Google search terms and results). Take time to dig deep. Review a wide range of sources to pick up the patterns. Take a look at Pew Research Center‘s news page and analysis for a nonpartisan view of today’s news.

Wakeup Calls of 2020

Back to the title of this post and my wake-up calls. How ironic that I can thank a horrible virus and former president for these re-awakenings. And, to clarify the prior sentence for you grammar fans: yes, I think both the virus and former president are horrible. Regardless of a few good policies, this was my opinion well before the events of Jan. 6 and remains solidly intact.

Like many, political opinions have put a tremendous strain on certain friend and family relationships. Until or unless new facts are unveiled that disprove current facts at hand, the strain will likely continue. If more people would embrace media literacy, alignment – or at least a healthy debate – across a range of news topics could take place.

My wake-up calls throughout these traumatic times? Listen, dig deep for facts, then trust my gut and moral compass alongside a very pragmatic nature. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what I understand to be right and always keep a sense of humor. I like to think that I’ve always dug deep for the facts, yet it was usually only when a red flag was set off. 2020 was a banner year of red flags. I’ve read and listened to a wider range of media and in greater volumes than ever before. I’ve had friendly debates – primarily via email and on social media – with those who have 180 degree beliefs. And, I’ve watched someone near me fall deeper into the web of disinformation, conspiracy and flat-out lies.

Working Out a Brighter Future

The second major wake-up call: do what you love with (or for) the people you love – or as close as you can get. Even though I’ve never said that I “love” public relations, I thoroughly enjoy the work and respect what smart PR can achieve.

On that note, with more time to dedicate to fitness due to working from home and fewer work or social outings, I found a new passion. A regular workout has been a part of my routine for at least 25 years, but only this past year did I find a workout that clicked on every level. Welcome to my world, barre, and specifically, Pure Barre.

Pure Barre is a place and space where I can escape for 50 minutes, concentrate on an intense workout (with barre, the mind-body connection is paramount) and meet like-minded women. Men are always welcome, but rarely seen. (Don’t know what they’re missing!) And, what a bonus that my daughter also became a convert and workout buddy.

I enjoyed it so much that I sought out–and was recently awarded–a Pure Barre franchise! The new studio will open in Southwest Austin this summer based on real estate options. I’m incredibly blessed to take my PR/marketing and small business management skills to a new frontier in boutique fitness. I will still oversee my “first born,” Breakaway PR. This firm is not going anywhere, with plans to continue expanding our footprint in the Central Texas area. Note to readers: we’re very interested in representing the health/fitness/wellness industries.

So, I thank 2020 for the invaluable wake-up calls it provided. The new year has started in dramatic fashion–this past week in Texas is one we hope to never repeat–but I’m incredibly optimistic about the year ahead. Hope you are as well.