Protecting the vulnerable while telling your story

April 20, 2009

Last week, I responded to a comment made by  PR student, Crystal Klippenstein on one of my favourite Canadian podcasts, Inside PR. Crystal suggested a discussion about the role of PR professionals in the nonprofit sector. I commented on topics such as the personally rewarding aspects of nonprofit PR, small budgets that drive creativity, frequent misunderstanding of role and isolation at times because a single PR practitioner often comprises the whole “PR department.”

I also mentioned the fine balance PR practitioners must seek when telling the stories of clients to advance the cause of the organization. Public relations is all about telling stories and engaging an audience towards some kind of action.  In sectors such as child welfare or health care, this can be tricky business. I’ve talked about this at length in a previous post.

In the podcast, host David Jones commented on the use of social media and nonprofit PR. He cited War Child Canada’s use of Twitter. The organization’s founder, Dr. Samantha Nutt, has been Tweeting from a war zone in Africa. I started following Dr. Nutt and it’s been a remarkable experience. This is an incredibly effective tactic to tell the stories of extremely vulnerable children in a way that protects them yet gives the audience an intimate understanding of their plight as well as promise.

Here are a sample of some of the tweets:

warchild1warchild2warchild3warchild-6warchild5Reading these brief posts throughout my work day has had an unnerving effect. I think that’s due to the fact that Dr. Nutt is tweeting in real time. These images and events are taking place while I’m sipping my morning coffee or chatting breezily with a client on the phone. The immediacy gives the content an intimacy that is difficult to achieve through other forms of communication such as a direct appeal letter or even a blog post. In my imagination, the children she’s talking about suddenly are standing in front of me. I’ve heard their story while their identities have been protected.

So, what other ways have nonprofits found to tell the stories of the vulnerable they seek to aid? I hope you’ll share them by leaving a comment.

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