The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is a fascinating book that provides some solid evidence to suggest that the humble checklist is one of the most valuable tools known to mankind.
But one chapter that stuck out for me was one entitled The End Of The Master Builder. This section of the book focussed on the extensive use of checklists in the construction industry – and why this had come about. Gawande interviewed Joe Salvia, a structural engineer, who had the following illuminating comment:
“For most of modern history, he explained, going back to medieval times, the dominant way people put up buildings was by going out and hiring Master Builders who designed them, engineered them, and oversaw construction from start to finish, portico to plumbing. Master Builders built Notre Dame, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the United States Capitol building. But by the middle of the twentieth century the Master Builders were dead and gone. The variety and sophistication of advancements in every stage of the construction process had overwhelmed the abilities of any individual to master them.”
The use of checklists extends not just to the building process itself, but to the communication between specialists.
As Gawande explains: “In the face of the unknown — the always nagging uncertainty about whether, under complex circumstances, things will really be okay — the builders trusted in the power of communication. They didn’t believe in the wisdom of the single individual, of even an experienced engineer. They believed in the wisdom of the group, the wisdom of making sure that multiple pairs of eyes were on a problem and then letting the watchers decide what to do.”
So what are the parallels with PR? If you think about it, PR professionals in the past may have considered themselves the comms equivalents of master builders. Namely, that a skilled PR would be able to understand and manage the whole PR process from start to finish.
Like construction, PR is now far more complex. The ability of any single individual to be able to have genuine expertise in every aspect of PR (let alone digital marketing) is going to be remote.
Which is why Share This: the Social Media Handbook from the CIPR is a reflection of this reality. By gathering 20 individuals who know their stuff in their respective specialisms, the reader is getting a much more valuable insight into the complexities of modern PR (as well more insightful ways to handle that complexity). The process of writing the book mirrored the use of communication checklists in the construction industry (ie many pairs of eyes scrutinised everyone’s content).
I’d urge anyone working in PR and communications to read the book. Aside from my own humble contributions to it, you’d be hard pushed to find such a diversity of relevant content and knowledgeable experts in one place.
There is a 20pc off list price offer if you order the book via www.wiley.com – just use the following discount code: VB964. Or you can order via Amazon.
I look forward to your feedback on the book!