Thoughts of a Toronto-based PR consultant. A focus on the PR profession and the charitable sector, with forays into arts, society and politics.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Greetings

This year instead of buying tons of gifts, our family paid for oral rehydration treatments for over 1,450 children through UNICEF, and contributed to community programs at Casey House. Feels great, shopping was WAAAY easier, and our friends and family seem to feel relief as well.

Happy holidays to all, and may there be joy and peace in 2009.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A modern parenting dilemma

As the mother of a six-year-old boy who is (verging on) obsessed with computers, I followed Brandon Crisp's story with dread and grief, my heart aching for his parents. So I was particularly glad when I got to the end of Katarina Onstad's column in Chatelaine this month, for the grace she bestowed upon worried parents everywhere with her thoughts. I was particularly struck by her insight that perhaps Brandon climbed that tree and suffered that terrible fall because he was looking for the way home. I dearly hope so, for all our sakes.

I agree with Onstad's opinion that not all online play is necessarily bad. Largely creative, many of these games allow him to build upon his skills and reason, and over time have given him the opportunity to feel fluent and capable in this incomprehensible world. He works so hard at learning--all the time, ceaselessly-- his immature handwriting improving day-by-day, while the erasers on our household pencils are rubbed to nothingness. So creating an imaginary world, a refuge in which he is master, whether racing onscreen cars really really fast or bouncing on jungle flowers with Diego... I see the value in that, and I watch my son play with my heart in my throat, loving him desperately and hoping it will all turn out okay for us all.

That being said, he is NOT getting a DS for Christmas, no matter how hard he lobbies. I'm not ready to relinquish control over screentime, not yet.

Brandon Crisp's parents have set up a memorial trust in his name. Read about it here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Payback's a byatch

I always enjoy the Massey Lectures. And I always enjoy Margaret Atwood. So it's a given that this book is on my Christmas book wishlist. (After I finish listening to it here of course.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks to Toddand for this, from his social media relations slideshow:

Great tips on storytelling for not-for-profits

Scroll past the first nine intro slides, then you'll get to some great ideas delivered by Kivi Leroux Miller in a presentation to the 2008 Planned Giving Days conference of the National Capital Gift Planning Council
SlideShare Link

Doctor, read thy novel

Doctors-in-training are now being required to read Virginia Woolf and Chekov? Love it!!! Makes me feel like I'm that much closer to that medical degree my parents desired for me...

From the article in the New York Times...

“We’re teaching the humanities to our residents, and it’s making them better doctors,” said Dr. Richard Panush, a rheumatologist and chairman of the department of medicine at Saint Barnabas. The idea of combining literature and medicine — or narrative medicine as it is sometimes called — has played a part in medical education for over 40 years. Studies have repeatedly shown that such literary training can strengthen and support the compassionate instincts of doctors."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, dear.


Obama's Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy

I giggled at this story by Andy Borowitz in the Huffington Post-- enjoy!


Smash the mirrors

In an economy when everyone is so stretched, when we’re all doing five jobs at once, it's far too easy to develop tunnel vision and just deal with day-to-day urgencies, without taking the time to stop and think strategically. I've felt that creeping into my worklife too, so I see this blog as an opportunity for me to write about matters-- whether esoteric, philosophical, or simply diverting-- that are part of the bigger picture of my passions and ambitions.

I’m a small business owner, a one-woman communications shop in a field that is nothing but deadlines. My clients call me when they are overstretched, generally with the “drop dead” deadline looming, with information that they urgently need me to convey, and there’s no room for futzing or delay. As much as they and I would like to have the time to plan, to conduct research and carefully zero in on the strategic approach, it all too rarely seems an option. So I’ve devised a quick triage approach to much of the work I do.

For example, my method of approaching a donor magazine story with a very tight timeline? Review the client’s goals, of course, then go straight to booking an interview, whether or not I plan to include a quote. Skip the exhaustive background reading (okay, do a little), and spend half an hour talking with someone at the heart of a story—perhaps a program user, a staff member, or a donor. This will often yield the roadmap into the story, with all the interesting sideroads and intersections clearly marked. Through equal parts experience, curiosity and intuition, I’ve gotten good at drawing people out in interviews, getting past the roadblocks of what they think they should say, until we reach the thing that really excites them about an organization. Then I go back and research that idea, placing it at the centre of my story. I can turn an article like this around in a day.

None of this can begin, of course, without a clear sense of direction coming from the client. “Who do you want to reach?” is my first question. Then, “What do you need to convince this person (or group of people) to do?” Then, taking those points into consideration, “What is the story at your organization that is most likely to convince that person to take that action?” This is where we all too often take a leap of faith, because we don't think we have enough time or money to do proper research into that question.

Too often, we approach organizational storytelling as though we’re looking in a mirror, reflecting only on our internal viewpoint. If we’re going to draw people into our organizations—whether as donors, volunteers, clients or staff—we must smash those mirrors (or save them for gazing into at the retreat), and get used to looking at our organizations from inside-out and outside-in, and that takes both formal and informal research. Sure, it’s going to require some time and money, but in this increasingly competitive charitable environment, it’s the only way to go.