Carefully Crafted on March 04

Lessons From Haiti: PR Doesn't Cure Cancer, But It Still Matters

We all know PR is misunderstood. Sometimes, that’s because other members of our industry make us look bad … sometimes it’s because we don’t effectively communicate what the heck it is that we do everyday. I love what I do. And, I do see value — whether it’s helping a nonprofit secure new donations, or helping a business communicate their story to potential customers.

But, let’s be honest: We’re not curing cancer. We’re not overthrowing dictatorships.

Before I left for Haiti, I was tweeting about the upcoming trip when someone asked me how the trip was helping people with food, water, etc., as opposed to just PR.

In Haiti, we met Heart of Haiti artisans. Here we are with the talented metal workers.

Truth be told, I’m not rebuilding homes, delivering water or providing much-needed medical care. After seeing that tweet, I felt bad that we weren’t providing any of that much-needed help. But, then, I realized that that was ridiculous. We went to Haiti to learn about Heart of Haiti, an incredible program that employs 400 Haitians and provides much-needed, life-saving, sustainable income. At some point, the relief workers will go back home. The donations will dry up. In fact, donations to Haiti have already slowed down. That’s why programs like Heart of Haiti matter. Programs like this are creating jobs. Putting people back to work. Providing income. When we all go back to living our regular lives, Haitians will still be able to create and sell their work to earn a living. When Willa Shalit launched Heart of Haiti, she did it with an eye on the future.

In Haiti, we heard time and time again pleas from Haitians asking us to let the rest of the world know that they’re working hard to rebuild their country and that there are positive things underway. During dinner with a representative from the State Department, we asked what we could do to help. Her answer? Kill the negative image of Haiti.

I may not be saving lives in Haiti or doing anything nearly as courageous as the first-responders or relief workers. But, that doesn’t mean our journey — and the awareness we bring to the program and the people living here — should be diminished. Quite the contrary. We’re a group of communicators. We blog, tweet and/or take photos and video. Combined, we’re connected to hundreds of thousands of people, and we’re using our collective voice to shine a light on this incredible program and the continued need to support Haiti. Maybe the next time you need a gift or something to spruce up your own home, you’ll recall hearing about Heart of Haiti and buy products from the very people who I met on our adventure.

So, no, PR isn’t curing cancer. But, that doesn’t make our work trivial, either.

Thank you to Incept for supporting my trip. Photo credit: Chadwick Shao, a fellow Heart of Haiti tripster.


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