By RI General Secretary John Hewko
From the time I came aboard as general secretary of Rotary International in July 2011, one of my top priorities has been to help ensure that Rotary receives the credit it deserves for its leadership role in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as we move ever closer to a polio-free world.
I’m happy to report that 2012 has been a good year in terms of keeping Rotary “in the story” as the news media have covered a series of major developments in polio eradication. Of course, we can do more, but we are making significant progress in increasing the recognition of Rotary.
World Polio Day
We have many great examples from coverage surrounding World Polio Day on 24 October, including The Business Standard (India), CNN.com, NPR, Die Welt (Germany), the Huffington Post, and numerous regional and local media outlets.
The Huffington Post also published an op-ed I co-authored with Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Another op-ed I wrote appeared in Biotech-Now, the website operated by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), the world’s largest biotech trade group.
Last month, Rotary also enjoyed high visibility in the coverage of the special session on polio eradication during the UN General Assembly. The event was covered by TIME MAGAZINE, the Toronto Globe & Mail, Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, and UN News Centre, among others.
Right after the UN event, Rotary got great exposure through our participation in the Global Citizen Festival concert in Central Park. More than 60,000 people were there, and thousands more watched the live stream. Just before rock legend and polio survivor Neil Young closed the concert, I was on-stage to drive home the End Polio Now message, joined by actress Archie Panjabi, a Rotary “This Close” campaign celebrity; Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, daughter of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari; and Ramesh Ferris, a Canadian Rotarian and polio survivor. Each of us emphasized the key role that Rotary has played in the global effort to fight polio.
In June, Rotary received a nice mention in a Washington Post editorial, and in January and February we also figured prominently in coverage of India’s removal from the polio-endemic list after a full year of no new polio cases. Stories were carried by The Economist, Reuters, and the BBC, among others.
As we move forward, all of this media coverage not only accurately recognizes Rotary’s leadership role in polio eradication – a wonderful morale booster for Rotarians who have worked so hard for so long to end polio – it raises awareness and support for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative itself at this crucial point in the campaign.
Media successes like this don’t just happen. It takes a lot of hard work requiring a solid media strategy; tight coordination between Rotarians in the field, RI staff, and our polio eradication partners; and the resources to pull it all together.
Editor’s note: On 17 November, Hewko and his wife, Marga, will join Rotarians in the Tucson, Arizona, area to raise money for Rotary’s PolioPlus Program at El Tour de Tucson. Find out how you can support the effort.