Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Everything Takes a Village

Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting related to healthcare for seniors, which coincided with a CBC radio program talking about suicide amidst the older demographic  A young woman was talking about her 68-year-old father who committed suicide because of personal issues and because he was over $100,000 in debt.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with "happenstances" such as this that have really caused me to think about the state of our society.  The universal message being sent my way is clear - it's time to stop thinking about ourselves and to start thinking about others.

We are living in a time that will make history on so many fronts -
  • the second great recession that puts huge demands on all of us personally and professionally,
  • the conscious decision to engage in single parenthood (40% of children in the U.S. are born to unmarried women),
  • a shift in the balance of power in the household, as women begin to have as much or greater earning potential than their male partners,
  • an increasing aging population that either wants or needs to find work beyond the age of 65, and needs to be looked after as it ages and ails.  

The crux of the matter is this - if we focus only on ourselves and our personal situations, we are bound to all suffer personally, professionally and as a society. 

Latch-key kids, single parents, older people and entire families need to know that there is a support system outside of their own home that they can rely on - a neighbour, a school secretary, a fellow parent, a colleague.

Companies need to shift their focus from the bottom line to attracting, keeping and nurturing their best employees who will help them grow the business, or lose to the competition that does. 

It's up to all of us to figure out what we can do to make the situation better for everyone - not just the individual - but our organizations, our people, our society.  Only when we step out of ourselves and put ourselves in someone else's shoes can all of our futures be improved. 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Cahoots PR for Charitable Events

Cahoots and Vince Ciarlo of Ciarlo Communications recently implemented the PR behind the University of the West Indies Gala that raised $300,000 for UWI and Haitian students who need financial help to complete their degrees.  The dress, food, decore, entertainment, all facilitated by event planner, Carole Adriaans made for a vibrant, exciting evening that celebrated Canada's rich diversity, as almost every nationality was represented in that room.  The honourees - Malcolm Gladwell, Zanana Akande and Artis Lane, as well as six extraordinary individuals who are leaders in their sectors - are amazing people who set great examples for all of us.

So enough about the gala - what I want to talk about in this blog is the PR lessons learned during its planning and execution.

1. Dig deep for the story.  Each of the honourees at the UWI Gala are incredibly accomplished, but seeing their resume and bio wasn't enough.  You had to talk to them and really do the research to uncover the nuggets worth sharing with the media.  Dig deep for the stories that move you.  If you're moved or inspired by a story, others will be too.
2. Let the interview take its course.  Have a set of predefined questions, but let the interview take its natural course.  If your event ambassador wants to talk about one thing in particular during an interview, they are passionate about that subject matter - and passion always leads to a great story.
3. Tell two friends.  When you have a story to share or an event to promote, tell as many people as possible.  Ask them to pass along the information to their press contacts, colleagues and professional affiliates.  We asked all of the UWI Gala honourees and committee members to pass along the word through the press materials and they did.  It made a big difference to say the least. 
4. Open your mind.  Every event has multiple angles to pitch to the media - the hype and glam of the event, the honourees and their individual stories, the business partners who make it happen.  Open your mind to all of the stories behind the event, and then craft each phone pitch to the media by telling them about the stories their audiences need to hear.
5. Remember the cause.  Amidst all of the story telling and PR behind charitable events, the most important thing to remember is those who benefit from the charity.  All of us would like to have the opportunity to make someone else's life better.  In your toolkit of stories to tell when promoting a charitable event, that's the best one you have.