Public relations…taking it personally

You do your job every day, performing well and in a professional manner.  But what happens when personal feelings sneak up on you and cross that boundary into your work? In some cases, it can make the difference between good and great…

(Susan G. Komen Southwest Florida affiliate Race for the Cure PR Team: Marie Mosley, APR, Phyllis Ershowsky, APR/CPRC, Pam Nulman, APR/CPRC)

This past Saturday, the Southwest Florida Susan G. Komen affiliate held their 4th annual Race for the Cure.  It was the culmination of months of planning, the hard work of hundreds of volunteers, teams and committees and an ambitious three-month PR plan that we put in place and implemented through Race Day.

It has been an extraordinary experience. I was honored to accept the position of PR Chair for this year’s race and during the past few months, my PR coordinator Marie Mosley, APR and I have worked to create awareness — not only about the event, but about research, early detection, allocation of funds and the fact that breast cancer knows no boundaries when it comes to age, income, geography and yes, even gender.

From writing and distributing news releases to working closely with our amazingly supportive and engaged Southwest Florida media, it has been extremely rewarding to see it come to fruition with positive results.

But there was nothing more powerful than the survivor stories — warriors young and old who have been down a road no one wants to travel and managed to return with compelling stories to tell about their journeys.

At some point during this experience, the professional became personal. To prepare for media interviews, Marie talked to women who had just been released from the hospital, women awaiting their next surgery within the next day or two, women still bruised and bandaged.  Yet they were ready and eager to tell their stories, openly sharing what up until a few years ago may have been taboo.  Why? Because they know only their experiences will help us understand what we are walking or running for, and why it is so crucial for our daughters, our mothers, our husbands or wives, ourselves.  Their stories brought us to tears — more important, their stories brought 9,500 people out on a Saturday morning, and raised more than $900,000 to help find a cure.

Who could possibly help getting emotionally involved?  Hearing the words of these women, on TV, on line and in the newspaper, told with such honesty and hope, could move even the toughest individuals. And if we’ve moved them not only emotionally, but moved them to action, we have done our job.

By the time the sun rose on Race Day, our PR team was in professional mode, press kits compiled, interviews lined up, news trucks in place, crisis plan in our back pockets. Then the cameras started to roll, and as one breast cancer survivor after another, some with husbands or children in tow, shared their personal stories, suddenly that was all that mattered.

Honorary Race Chair actor James Denton at Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Southwest Florida

At the end of the day, the results were outstanding, and we gained a new perspective that a personal approach to public relations can go a long way — hopefully toward a cure.

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