Life

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In the first episode of the excellent three-part BBC documentary examining the murder of Stephen Lawrence, his mother says it is important “to talk about Stephen a bit more. So people can see he had a life, not just in death, but before.”

Tomorrow, 22 April 2018, it is 25 years since Stephen died, aged eighteen. His life had been happy, full of promise. Yet a bare 70 words on the Wikipedia page, titled Murder of Stephen Lawrence, talk about his life:

Stephen Lawrence was born on 13 September 1974. During his teenage years, Lawrence excelled in running, competing for the local Cambridge Harriers athletics club, and appeared as an extra in Denzel Washington’s film For Queen and Country. At the time of his death he was studying technology and physics at the Blackheath Bluecoat School and English language and literature at Woolwich College, and was hoping to become an architect.

His mother, Doreen Lawrence, is quoted as saying,

I would like Stephen to be remembered as a young man who had a future. He was well loved, and had he been given the chance to survive maybe he would have been the one to bridge the gap between black and white because he didn’t distinguish between black or white. He saw people as people.

Public relations is about people. The relationships that people, individually and collectively, have with organisations and the people within them.

These relationships may be fleeting or long-lasting. They may be insignificant or highly significant in someone’s life.

When we talk about managing public relations, the emphasis should be on how organisations behave in their relationships with people. Yet stakeholder management is too often reduced to analysing, categorising, prioritising and working out how to influence or control those who have an effect on the organisation.

Listening becomes surveillance. Communication is directed ‘at’, rather than ‘with’. Systems are designed to gain advantage and rarely to learn, adapt and benefit others. In short, too little thought is given to the effect the organisation has on people and the lives they live.

This was evident in the relationship between the police and the Lawrences. In contrast, Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll gained the family’s trust.

Today, 21 April 2018, it is 10 years since my father, Richard Liddiment died, aged almost sixty-eight. It is not a day that I want to remember, as I prefer to focus on life and the happy memories before death.

I believe it is important to talk about people who are no longer with us. What they did, felt, said and who they were and continue to be in our hearts. Most importantly, keeping them alive through talking about the life they shared with us.

And we should do our best to remember in our personal and working lives, to see, and treat, people as people.


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