Some professions are glorified; others are in desperate need of a makeover. It's ironic that we're in an all-about-image business and yet our own industry could use some serious rebranding.
As we all know, PR professionals are often depicted in a negative light. From The Sweet Smell of Success’ Sidney Falco, the unscrupulous press agent who epitomized the very worst of our kind, to the myriad of more recent loud-mouthed, ethically challenged professionals we routinely see in movies and on TV.
The truth is that we as media professionals have a tremendous opportunity to create positive, lasting change. We can transform and save lives through our relationships and expertise. And as an unintended bi-product, in the course of helping those in need, perhaps we can actually start to remake our own collective image.
We all read the stories on our Facebook feeds about kicked puppies and abused children and often feel helpless in the face of so much tragic need in the world. We may sign a petition, re-post on social media, or forward to a couple of friends, but then we get caught up in the day-to-day demands of our clients and click back to our inboxes to return to our own personal grinds. We, too, had been stuck in that cycle for years, until we decided to do something about it.
My partner Jocelyn Kalsmith Minton and I are huge animal lovers, so for the past few years, our agency has offered our PR services to several animal-related nonprofits. We have decided to channel those feelings of despair and helplessness into something constructive.
For example, we recently secured a segment on The CBS Evening News for a wonderful rescue organization that helps the most downtrodden castaways possible, paralyzed cart dogs, and gives them new purpose as service animals. The placement has been transformative for the charity.
The organization, which had been barely surviving on a hand-to-mouth basis, has received tens of thousands of dollars in donations, been asked to attend conferences, invited to apply for grants, and received countless emails pledging support and gratitude. It was CBS News' number one social media hit for the day, and the response continues to be overwhelming.
We’ve had to be creative to compete with the Goliaths of the nonprofit world. So we’ve retooled messaging, provided focus, leveraged our personal relationships with celebrities to use them as spokespeople, and tapped into our network of media contacts to put these amazing charities on the map. Over the years, we’ve secured tremendously impactful placements such as: People, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Access Hollywood, and many other hits for these incredible organizations.
Witnessing how these nonprofits have been forever changed has reinvigorated us. Since we started our PR careers, we’ve lived through 9/11, watched colleagues battle illnesses, and lost several special people along the way. When those life-changing moments occur, we often wonder about what we are doing and whether any of it really matters. Well, getting involved in nonprofit work and observing the people who tirelessly and selflessly dedicate their lives to helping others has given us renewed purpose and indescribable gratification.
Inspiring others is contagious—there’s a domino effect. We can use our relationships and skills to create public awareness and perpetuate the spirit of giving back. It’s not just about strategically positioning our clients to affect the bottom line or figuring out how to get them out of crisis situations, it’s also about really making a difference to help children, animals, humans, the environment, etc.
It’s exciting to imagine what could happen if every PR firm or publicist dedicated some time and services to their passion—how much of an impact could we have as an industry? So pick your passion and put your talents to use. It just might remind you of why you got into this business in the first place, and perhaps it will make the world realize that we’re not all Sydney Falcos.
Lisa Feldsher is a partner at Mind Over Media PR