Worried about your job? Or losing that client? Of course you are. We all are.

But, based upon the conferences, meetings and sundry soirees I’ve attended of late, far too many of us are hunkering down and not rocking the boat. I don’t hear the word ‘innovation’ being bandied about. I don’t hear the word ‘customer’ being uttered (unless it’s in relation to an agency’s client or a CMO’s senior management). And, I sure don’t hear the words “college kids” coming up in any conversation.

I attended one recent session where agency leaders were fretting who would ‘own the idea.’ They worried that traditional advertising and digital agencies were encroaching upon ‘our space’ and that clients were likely to spend what few, remaining marketing dollars with whichever agency could prove it should own the idea. That seemed rather myopic to me. I was surprised that that group (and another group of corporate communications executives my firm just interviewed) never once mentioned sales or customers. It struck me that no one seemed willing to roll up the sleeves, insert the Dr. Scholl’s foot pads and start pounding the pavement to hear about customer pain points. In my opinion, it’s not about who owns the idea. It’s about how the customer and prospect define success in this ‘new normal’ in which we live. We all know it’s changed dramatically. But, how many of us are personally finding out how it’s changed?

I don’t hear leaders talking about leadership either. Sure, they’ll discuss how trust and transparency is more important than ever. And, it is. And, they’ll cite their organization’s use of social media as a way in which they’re connecting with customers in new and different ways. And, I’m sure it helps. But, I sure don’t hear leaders talk about going into the field and doing what public relations executives used to do. They used to attend client sales calls. they used to listen to what prospects were telling the sales force and then position their organization (or their client’s organization) as the ideal solution to the customer’s pain points. It seems to me that listening to a client’s customers has never been more important. Understand the customer’s new normal and you will own the idea.

I don’t hear leaders talk about our industry’s future either. I don’t hear them commiserating over glasses of pinot noir about the plight of college seniors. I’ve been lecturing at such schools as NYU, Northeastern and Monmouth. And I can tell you that the kids are petrified. They’re worried about finding a job. They’re worried about disappointing their parents. And, they’re worried about paying off their student loans. I’ve yet to see one of our trade publications ‘cover’ this story. I’ve yet to see one of our trade groups host a webinar or podcast on the subject. And, I sure haven’t heard any of our industry leaders discuss the next generation (and their fears) at one of our social gatherings.

We live in challenging times. But, the best and the brightest always seem to rise to occasion. I think it’s time we stop worrying about who owns the idea and start pounding the pavement alongside our clients’ sales forces. And, I think it’s time we reached out to the PR majors and let them know two things: first, how to best market themselves and, secondly, that this, too, shall pass.