The personal lessons engagement taught us in 2021

We’ve made it through a most interesting year. A year of engaging with communities, communicating with transparency, and, let’s face it, making our way through a maelstrom of mandates, masks, and maintaining social distancing. 

We wrapped up the year with our leadership forum where we reflected on what we’d learned as engagement experts. But as we chatted over champagne and charcuterie, we also reflected on the individual lessons we’d learned during 2021: the things we’ll take into 2022 and the things we’ll happily leave behind. As the consummate communicators that we are, we thought it best to write it all down. So, without further ado, here are the personal lessons the team at Articulous learned last year.  

Trust yourself 

Sometimes your best ideas are your first ideas – the ones that pop straight into your head. That’s because you intuitively know when something is going to work. It’s important to build on these ideas or explore them further. You can achieve this through a co-design process or seeking feedback collaboratively with others. It’s also important to understand why your ideas have legs. Will you engage the right stakeholders at the right time; are your methods going to have the best reach; will you reach your goals? Either way trust your instincts, and let that creativity flow. ~Emma 

Find the kindness 

As we tackle some of the biggest challenges of our time – climate change, poverty, domestic violence, houselessness or polarised communities – you can find kindness and humanity around you. It might come from some of your most critical or “toughest” stakeholders or from people you didn’t expect. It’s so lovely to be reminded that people do care, and we can all be allies when faced with real adversity. ~Alice 

Don’t take it personally 

Sometimes our clients are working in tough, stressful situations on complex or time restricted projects. It’s a good practice not to take on the stress of situation personally or pass on the stress of the projects pressure to others in your team. Manage expectation with the client by agreeing on timeframes, your capacity to complete unforeseen work, and agree to a project schedule that is suitable for both groups. If a concern arises, collaborate with your client a way forward and don’t be afraid to ask for help from others in your team. ~Jesse

Life isn’t linear 

Even the best laid plans don’t always pan out, and that’s okay. Life isn’t linear, so our approach to engagement can’t be either – you always have to be ready to think on your feet and try something new. Sometimes that can even be the push you need to apply some creative thinking and come up with a solution that’s even better. ~Ella 

You’ve got what it takes

This year I have learnt that I can push myself further than I thought I could. Even when I feel as though there’s no fuel left in the tank and my fuel light is flashing, there’s always the leftover fumes I can run off to get those extra kilometres, or in this case time, energy and attention needed to apply that extra 10% to the task at hand. ~Maddy 

Your voice matters 

Nothing beats the power of a phone call.  As our inboxes become more and more crowded, messages can be lost or not read as quickly as hoped, and sentiment can be misunderstood. Simply picking up the phone saves mountains of time, ensures messages are clearly understood and helps strengthen relationships. ~Luke 

Face-to-face beats virtual 

Face to face contact with colleagues and clients is invaluable. Online meetings and lunch breaks were a necessary thing to get us through lockdowns. But brainstorming, collaborating and generally chewing the fat in the same room with colleagues and clients cannot be underestimated. Somehow that in person interaction brings so much more creativity to the fore. ~Sue 

Chaos becomes a new normal 

Who’d have thought the chaos of 2020 could be topped? New ways of working, communicating, shopping, even seeing your GP. What I’ve seen most is such kindness and appreciation for those around us, the strangers we live alongside. That human contact is so much more appreciated. And from all that chaos, new relationships with one another, with our communities and with ourselves are emerging. ~Sandy 

Take the leap 

The biggest thing I learnt in 2021 was to be brave and to be bold. To step outside my comfort zone and make things happen. My advice to others is to send the email, make the phone call, start the conversation. Only once we take that leap do wonderful things happen, in work and in life. ~Shoshanna 

That’s the year that was 

Did you notice anything as you read this? Despite being asked what they wanted to leave behind in 2021, everyone focussed on what they’ll be taking with them into the emerging challenges and delights of 2022. And with a sense that indeed, anything is possible. 

All the best for 2022, 


Written by Shoshanna Berry-Porter
Shoshanna is a project officer with a varied skillset across marketing and communications and engagement. She has a flair for creating compelling narratives that resonate with audiences across platforms through text and design.