The most important question we’ll consider this year

The most important question we’ll consider this year

Guest post by Stacy Armijo, Senior Vice President for Pierpont Communications and General Manager of the firm’s Austin & San Antonio offices. 

Spin doctor… slickster… flack… These things and worse have all been said about professionals in my industry. Long ago, I stopped defending myself from such allegations, having learned one of the truisms of the public relations industry, which is that the conversations you choose define you. This month’s Engage breakfast reminded me another: Great PR does not fix bad companies, it puts up a mirror and amplifies what the public sees. The question you then must consider is: will you like what you see?

This month’s Engage breakfast, titled “Community Conscience,” asks a similarly foundational question. The promotion for the event ponders that: “Austin is thriving in many ways, but are we really living our defining values?” With our profile rising nationally (and internationally) and more than 100 people moving here every day, we’re about to have that mirror put up to us. When we look into it, will we like what we see? I think we have an opportunity to see something great, but only if we understand what truly defines our city and how to grow within that.

Stacy-540x350 (2)In my business at Pierpont, we create something called “message architecture” for our clients. That means we help organizations understand how to talk about themselves in a way that matters. When it’s done well, it hits dead center into Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle and goes straight to the heart of “why.” If I were to pretend that Austin were my client, here is how I would approach that…

I’d ask a stakeholder, “What makes Austin great?” and they’d say something like “Live music!” or “Beautiful open spaces!” or “Entrepreneurial energy!” Then, I’d say, “Great, that’s ‘what,’ now tell me why…” Then, an interesting discussion would ensue about why we care about things like a vibrant music scene or green space or a strong entrepreneurial culture. Once we’ve asked ourselves “why” about a million times, we would center on some values-bases attributes that are the common thread across why we love this place so much.

If we’ve done it right, those values would grow with us, helping us avoid short-sighted and ineffective “no growth policies” that pretend Austin will always remain as it is today (or revert to what it was a few decades ago). On the flip side, they’d help us recognize when we’re uncomfortable with a new idea, not just because it’s new, but because it just isn’t right for Austin and what we want this city to stand for.

I don’t have the answers, but I do believe that this conversation – about our values as a city and a region – is one of the most important conversations we can have. I’ll be there to participate. Will you?

Stacy Armijo is Senior Vice President for Pierpont Communications and General Manager of the firm’s Austin & San Antonio offices. She believes strongly in the power of community to create great places to do business and speaks regularly on topics related to marketing, public relations and community leadership. Learn more at