Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stepping up to the plate – use your pitching skills to do good

It is important to remember as a public relations practitioner armed with a good story, we have the ability to help make things happen in the news. So, with this innate storytelling ability comes the responsibility to give back and help non-profits as well as individuals promote a worthy cause. 

If your family is anything like mine, they are probably asking you to help get their friends, contacts or other family members in the news. I take the same approach with my family as I do with clients – while it is our duty as PR practitioners to take a story and run with it, it is also our duty to tell clients when a story idea won’t work and why.  

I often times find myself in this situation with my family.  When my aunt recently asked me to help one of our family friends get some media coverage, I was skeptical that this was going to be yet another instance of a story that didn’t merit any media attention. However, this time I was pleasantly surprised (and perhaps my aunt should be in PR because she knows a good PR hook when she sees one)! This proposed story had a timely angle that hinged on every PR person’s dream words…”first” and “only.”

Thanks in part to my aunt, I was able to pitch a heart-warming, historic and hugely significant, news-worthy event in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. On August 28th, I put my PR skills to good use and helped gain media coverage for our family friend, Leo Parros, a Montford Point Marine. Nearly 63 years after serving as a Montford Point Marine, the first group of African-American Marines to serve, Leo received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal! Leo was finally given the long-awaited respect he deserves and I was there to witness it firsthand!

As a public relations practitioner, we are taught to localize stories, find a timely angle and capitalize on the adjective that is like music to our ears: “first.” Leo’s story had all of these hooks and more, but more importantly, I was able to put my PR skills to good use to help tell an important story to the DFW community about the first African-American Marines and this turning point in history

Leo’s story was set to air on the same night as the start of the Republican National Convention and Hurricane Ike. As a PR pro you always hope your client’s news isn’t up against national headlines such as this, because you can almost assume your local news will be bumped. This wasn’t the case for Leo, which just goes to show that when you truly have breaking news, not even a hurricane or the next President can bump your story!

To learn more about Leo’s inspiring story as he accepted the Congressional Gold Medal, read this article in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. The title, “North Texas man honored for being racial trailblazer in Marines,” says it all! Or, watch the ceremony as covered by Fox 4, CBS 11 or NBC 5. Thank you to all the media who came to the ceremony and took an active interest in Leo and his story! I've included some of the images of Leo and the ceremony below. 

This blog was contributed by Leah Ekmark Williams, @leahcpc




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