By Bob Hope, a member of the Rotary club of Atlanta, Georgia, USA
I am a longtime veteran of the public relations business in New York and Atlanta and a member of the Rotary Club of Atlanta. For the past 17 years, I have organized a group of business leaders who travel to rural Honduras to work on schools and medical clinics as well as in small mountain villages. Our efforts in Honduras have been supported generously by The Rotary Foundation and several Rotary clubs, including my own club and the Rotary Club of Juticalpa, Honduras.
One of the most enlightening and encouraging things I’ve learned over the years is that the news media has big hearts and is every bit as interested in what we are doing as any Rotary member. Several years ago, I asked the editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, David Allison, to join us on one of our trips. David did and wrote a wonderful story about our work. He has since been back 12 times, and is now a member of our club.
Each year, one of the newspaper columnists travels with us and writes a column on what he sees and learns from the trip. A photographer comes along and produces a series of videos for us pro bono that we use to show to other Rotary clubs and also a longer version that we show at our main annual fundraiser.
Last year, our club spearheaded an effort to build a new Covenant House for homeless teens. We slept out on the streets as part of a fundraiser, and invited Kevin Riley, the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to join us. He wrote his Sunday column on the experience.
There are 34,000 Rotary Clubs in the world and all have great projects. I am just beginning to understand the full power of inviting the media to help us get our message out. Only good comes from asking.
A great way to add spice and excitement to your projects is to involve celebrities and make sure the media knows. Several years ago, I asked legendary University of Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley to join us in Honduras. I had long since given up and stopped sending him updates, but last year he called up and joined us. His presence generated a lot of excitement and enthusiasm with our travelers, a lot of attention throughout our district and a good bit of media. In January, we will honor Coach Dooley at our annual fundraising event, which will generate more news coverage for our project.
Next spring Patrick Mannelly, an Atlanta native, long snapper and tackle for the Chicago Bears, will join our trip to Honduras, opening the door for Chicago media.
Our Rotary projects around the world are newsworthy. It is worth inviting the media to join us, and share with the world the good work we are doing.