The Publicist:

PR plays a key supporting role in Asian humanitarian efforts

PR plays a key supporting role in Asian humanitarian efforts

I spent the holidays in Budapest, where the young locals gleefully indulge a dangerous habit of ringing in the New Year by tossing firecrackers at each other. "Bangers" were going off in the midst of crowds, on sidewalks, in the subways, just about everywhere. I'm quite sure 2004 weren't the only digits that became history during the night. A city that withstood invasions of Hubs, Turks, Nazis, and the Red Army may not survive many more New Year's Eve celebrations. The weather was generally cold and wet, but we had to consider ourselves lucky, given the awful tsunamis in Southeast Asia. If, like me, you were glued to the nonstop coverage of the tragedy, you probably noticed that disaster relief and emergency crews weren't the only ones scrambling to deal with the situation. PR reps of humanitarian and relief charities went into full-scale response mode as well, taking to the airwaves to talk about the efforts of their respective organizations. Instead of a leisurely holiday break, many communication staffers were busy writing fact sheets, talking points, and pitch letters. Within hours of the disaster, a doctor from AmeriCares was on CNN explaining its mission and what it was going to do to help. People are obviously very familiar with the Red Cross, but it was reassuring nonetheless to see one of its spokespeople discuss the challenges it was facing with the floods, and ways that people watching helplessly from home could help. It's a different form of crisis communications, and one that'I spent the holidays in Budapest, where the young locals gleefully indulge a dangerous habit of ringing in the New Year by tossing firecrackers at each other. s enormously important for education, volunteer recruitment, and fundraising. Habitat for Humanity had a comprehensive media awareness program under way within a day, using its Asian offices to answer media queries and address efforts to alleviate the housing crisis in that region. It's critical for these nonprofits to address the world when it has its undivided attention. What better time to remind us that our support is vital for conducting these impossibly difficult humanitarian efforts than when we can actually see the efforts unfolding? The PR profession rose to the occasion during this emergency, and those efforts, while not as courageous or dangerous as the workers on the ground, will help raise money and awareness to rebuild damaged lives, homes, and dreams. Makes me feel proud of our industry and its role in helping sustain nonprofits. Think I'll write some checks and count my New Year's blessings. Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer

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