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A little girl – and her parents – reach out to a big world


A rare, progressive and fatal disease. A little more than a year ago, this was the diagnosis given to 2-year-old Katherine Belle in Kentucky. It was a devastating and isolating realization for KB’s parents – if only for a little while.

While KB’s diagnosis has been a pendulum of answers and questions; more questions than answers. We know that KB has a rare disease, but we also know she’s not alone.

Her father is an attorney and her mother has a growing list of professional experience as a blogger, photographer, social media explorer and, most recently, Rare Disease Hunter. Together they have started a blog Hope For Katherine Belle and a Facebook page detailing their journey to find a cure for KB. Their sites receive considerable attention (not just because KB is cute) because they are using social media tactics to reach out to a big world to find a cure for their little girl.

For KB’s cause or any other organization, it is critical to engage others.

They rally. Those of us who surround KB and her family struggled with ways to comfort them and help find a solution. We felt equally helpless after each diagnosis. But, KB’s parents, in a time of despair, help redirect the energy to projects that would make a change and even find a cure. At first the supporters began by sharing KB’s story with others. They posted their #hopeforKB message on their on social media networks. Photos of messages in the sand, on chalkboards and displayed in lights were posted by friends across the nation. From KB’s parents high school classmates to world-wide celebrities like Cee Lo Green and Courtney Cox, the hashtag trend elevated KB’s message to a national audience but also provided a great boost to KB’s family and the tribe of followers.

They call. Since then, the tribe has been called to other actions beyond sharing and spreading – things that will have a tangible impact. They’ve been asked to contact their U.S. representatives encouraging them to fund the National Institute of Health’s research programs, to spread the word about Rare Disease Day and, to help provide for medical expenses not covered by insurance.

They shared. KB’s parents told a hard and honesty story. I don’t know how they have been able to see through their tears to do it. I could barely see though mine to read the Dad’s raw and beautiful account of relaying the doctor’s call to his wife.

On the advice of friends – and probably therapists – KB’s parents continue to publish the joys, journey and other pivotal moments since their daughter’s first diagnosis. By sharing their story, they have shown that KB’s disease is not as isolated as they thought. Their social media outreach has linked them with dozens of other parents in the world facing other rare diseases. Through these connections, KB’s parents have learned about research programs, connected with medical specialists, and received a great deal of emotional support.

Their outreach has resulted in an article in The New York Times and their efforts have gained attention from Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell. More importantly, it has linked them to professional medical experts and linked them to testing and treatment options that may bring them closer to a cure. Most importantly, it’s connected them with other families also seeking a cure for rare disease.

As a parent, I imagine that KB’s Mom and Dad would prefer to not have this story to tell and share with the world. But they do. The world is amazingly big, but approachably small for a rare little girl in Kentucky.

Nicole Candler, APR is owner of Nic Creative Public Relations in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a member of the Kentucky Commission on Women where she met KB’s remarkable mother, Glenda McCoy.


Snark Gone Bad Can Lead to Workplace Abuse

By Dawn Stranne, President, Dawn Stranne & Associates

Happy Snark Free Day! Today, our group of public relations professionals from every corner of America asks everyone to take some time to think about the power of words and to be snark free, just for a day.

Snark gone bad can cross over the ugly line into bullying at the office. For most of us, we probably experience or dish out a little snark at work now and then. But for those who have been bullied, snark is probably where the bully began the torture.

While Snark Free Day doesn’t address that level of abuse, it is important to those of us who make a living in communications to be aware of such workplace abuse issues.

How is snark different than bullying? Bullying is a pattern that systematically beats down an employee. Make no mistake, morale and productivity can suffer in an atmosphere of bullying or snark.

A 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found that 35% of the U.S. workforce (an est. 53.5 million Americans) reported being bullied at work and an additional 15% witnessed it.

Surprisingly, there is not a single federal or state anti-bullying law for the workplace in America. Two months ago, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2053 requiring managers to undergo training on preventing abusive conduct at work. California’s new law is a start, but it is far short of the proposed Healthy Workplace Bill, which has been introduced in many states and defines an abusive work environment, gives employers reason to terminate or sanction offenders, allows the target to sue the bully as an individual, and seeks restoration of lost wages and benefits.

The Healthy Workplace Bill calls for action when mistreatment is so severe that it impairs a worker’s health. No bullying case is trivial when a person suffers cardiovascular disease or some other stress-related health complication that prevents them from being a productive worker.

Some think that Federal Employment Discrimination laws would cover bullying. But, they only cover a hostile work environment if the recipient of the mistreatment is a member of a protected status group based on gender, race, disability, etc.

Others say that workplace abuse is best dealt with by employers. According to the WBI, when employers are told about incidents of bullying, nearly half do nothing, while 18% worsen the situation by retaliating against the individual(s) who reported it.

So, what can we do now?
1) Watch for snark gone bad and speak up for conflict-free work zones.
2) Review corporate statements of vision, mission and values—see if they promote a healthy work environment and are upheld.
3) See if a Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced in your state.

If you know someone who has been bullied in the workplace, offer your support and suggest they consider professional help. Until there are laws against workplace bullies, they will need to look for a new job. Your words of encouragement can mean the difference between a tragedy and survival to someone who has been bullied.


Snark Free Day Returns (Let the retorts begin)

By Felicia Knight, President, The Knight Canney Group

When PRConsultants Group, a national consortium of public relations and communications professionals launched the first annual Snark Free Day last year, the response from some quarters was predictable—even funny. Turns out, some people are just too damned cool to lose the snark, if only for 24 hours. It’s like asking Gordon Gekko to nuzzle a kitten.

The point of Snark Free Day is make people take a moment to think about the effect their words or deeds have on other people. The abundance of snark is especially evident in cyber-space, where speed and anonymity make it oh, so easy to be snarky, i.e. mean.

Here’s a sample of some of what the Internet regurgitated in response to last year’s Snark Free Day:

  • This is like declaring, “Don’t Put Your Goat On the Copier Day” at work.
  • Some PR people have declared today to be “Snark Free Day.” Well then, f*** **u, sincerely.
  • You may call them a dreamer, but you’re not the only one.
  • So…how long do we see this idea lasting?

Well, it’s lasted at least another year, because we’re back with another Snark Free Day. October 21, 2014, to be precise.

Look, we get it. It’s just so irresistible to sling that zinger. We’ve all done it. Everyone laughs; we’re just having a good time. A good time is great, but does it have to be at someone else’s expense? The relentless need to be snarky whether in person or on line, has left us in a place where being polite, being kind, being thoughtful, showing restraint, or offering encouragement are all losing ground to meanness.

Sometimes it’s cloaked in humor, sometimes not. On the Internet, it’s often cloaked in anonymity that invites hubris and hostility—to such an extent that never would be ventured face-to-face. Isn’t it worth 24 hours of your time to think before you speak, post, Tweet, or snap?

Yes, we dreamers are back for another crack at Snark Free Day. We’re ready for another barrage from those who refuse to lose the snark. That’s fine. We’re secure enough in our own knowledge that one day of kindness won’t kill us. It may even make life a little better.

Resources, images, and more available at


Snark Free Day is less than a Month Away! October 21st!


A Gaming Convention Comes to Town

By Stacia Kirby, president of Kirby Communications

When a big convention rolls into town, many of the locals brace themselves for a takeover as their downtown becomes crowded, hotels and restaurants full. Combine that with a lack of understanding as to who is exactly coming to town, and you have a classic case of a PR challenge.

Back in 2003, Gen Con “The Best Four Days in Gaming!” moved its annual convention to Indianapolis from Milwaukee. It is fair to say that the residents of Indianapolis were a bit dubious as to what Gen Con would be like when it took place. Gen Con is not your average convention/trade show. It is the largest annual consumer fantasy, electronic, sci-fi and adventure game convention in North America. Each year over 180,000 gaming enthusiasts converge to share their enthusiasm for all things gaming; whether its tournaments, celebrity appearances, exhibit hall booths, workshops, seminars, anime, art shows, auctions or countless other activities.

At first many of the residents were unsure of all these gamers’ coming to town because at Gen Con attendees don’t just come to see, they come to play. In 2014, we hosted over 14,000 gaming events.

We have worked with the local media to educate them on all aspects of Gen Con, to help them see past reporting it as just a ‘Geek Fest’ to a family friendly, all around worthy event for anyone who likes to game. This effort has helped increase local attendance. Gen Con attracts attendees from all 50 states and 34 countries. The key to working with  the local press is that we’ve allowed the media to experience what the attendees are doing and to see what good business Gen Con brings to Indianapolis.

In 2014, Gen Con brought in over $49 million making it one of the top conventions. We also have increased partnering with local companies to draw them into the mix. This past year a local brewery made a special Gen Con Beer ‘Froth of Kahn’ and local restaurants create special menus. We have brought in local talent to perform and local vendors. The essence of Gen Con is to include everyone and to have fun because that is what gaming is all about. The personality of Gen Con has revealed itself through a concerted effort to be inclusive, to educate the media about the event and allow them to observe for themselves what it means to the attendees and to the city. In 2014, Gen Con hosted its largest show yet!



If you want a good PR person, hire a soccer player

By Margaret Nathan, Partner at Strategic Communication, Inc.

In a recent article in The New York Times, the great David Brooks wrote and article about the difference between baseball and soccer. He posed the question:

Is life more like baseball, or is it more like soccer?

He then went on to quote, “as Simon Critchley pointed out recently in The New York Review of Books, soccer is a game about occupying and controlling space. If you get the ball and your teammates have run the right formations, and structured the space around you, you’ll have three or four options on where to distribute it. If the defenders have structured their formations to control the space, then you will have no options. The man who is touching it does not primarily define even the act of touching the ball; it is defined by the context created by all the other players.”

It got me to thinking about my profession and the best PR people are always the one’s who know the playing field cold, the one’s who know where all the bodies are buried and who can feel the space and timing of a great opportunity or a good story, who knows the best people in the company from which to get information and how not to hide, but to explain.

“As Critchley writes, “Soccer is a collective game, a team game, and everyone has to play the part which has been assigned to them, which means they have to understand it spatially, positionally and intelligently and make it effective.” A good PR person or public relations firm operation is the same.

I get asked frequently from clients why isn’t my acquisition, my product, my company front-page news. Well now I can explain it. If you have the “product” and your company runs the “right formations to control the space” and your competitors are in awe, you probably have a great story.

Good PR people should be able to help your company run the “right formations,” and structure the right timing and space around the company and then always be able to provide three to four options for the company to run with. While baseball is also a team sport, it is primarily driven by individual achievement. “The team who performs the most individual tasks well will probably win the game,” according to Brooks. But the question is can they win it for the long haul.

“Once we acknowledge that, in life, we are playing soccer, not baseball, a few things become clear. First, awareness of the landscape of reality is the highest form of wisdom. It’s not raw computational power that matters most; it’s having a sensitive attunement to the widest environment, feeling where the flow of events is going. Genius is in practice perceiving more than the conscious reasoning,” said Brooks.

So I would encourage everyone who is hiring a Public Relations firm to ask yourselves are these guys’ soccer players or a baseball team.   If the PR firm or the PR person is not constantly revaluating your business, introducing you to new ideas and people to drive your business then go find someone who will. Go find a soccer player.

Link to the original David Brooks piece


Landing National Media Without Being the Center of Attention

By Solveig Raftery, The Firm Public Relations and Marketing


When it comes to national media, it doesn’t always have to be about you, you, you to make a lasting impression. So long as you are part of a compelling story, the message will stick.

The Firm Public Relations and Marketing’s client, Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada (CCCN), was approached by a mother, Elizabeth, and her five-year-old daughter Abby, who wanted to distribute care packages to chemotherapy and cancer patients at CCCN offices throughout the Las Vegas valley.

This delivery though, was part of a larger initiative by Elizabeth and young Abby, who was inspired by her grandmother who had battled (and won!) breast cancer. Abby decided to help other cancer patients through “Abby’s Purple Bag Project”. The goal was to distribute 1,000 purple bags full of items that would be useful for cancer patients while at their appointments or during chemotherapy treatments (items including water, socks, game books, lip balm, candy, etc.).

But the plan wasn’t for solely Abby to deliver the 1,000 bags. To help spread the word the family created a Facebook page – “Abby’s Purple Bag Project” – and through the course of a few months the page had racked up 600 followers. Each time they received a message or post on Facebook that a purple bag delivery was made in a specific state, Abby would color that state on a large map of the U.S.

Earlier this year, CCCN mentioned Abby and her story to the team at The Firm, noting that Abby was planning another purple bag delivery to a CCCN clinic. Following the meeting, Jasen Woehrle, The Firm’s Senior Vice President said that his internal “this would be great national media” alarm went off. This story was prime for a national audience – a feel good story with nothing but a positive message.

National media is something that many want, but is sometimes difficult to garner – unless you are or represent a celebrity or well-known entity, brand or product. Editors and producers at national media outlets get hit with thousands of pitches daily. To rise above the clutter you have to have something that would be appealing to that media outlet’s audience.

The Firm pitched a producer at the Today Show that we had communicated with in the past (without much success, but we still communicated with her!). Our email subject line was simple: “Five year old girl brings joy and comfort to cancer patients”

Within 10 minutes we had a response that the pitch had been forwarded on to senior producers. Great! But we receive similar responses regularly from local producers usually meaning, “we’ll call you if we want you.”

Within the next 20 minutes we were contacted by another producer who wanted more information and to discuss the pitch on the phone. Within the next two weeks, the story was confirmed and the producer/camera was coming to Las Vegas to interview Abby, Elizabeth, a CCCN oncologist and patients visiting CCCN who were the beneficiaries of Abby’s sweet gifts and warm heart. Our client knew the focus of the story would not be about them, but about this little girl in our own neighborhood giving to people in our community.

A few weeks following the taping, the segment aired nationally on the Today Show as part of its “Hope To It” series – inspiring thousands across the country to help Abby reach her goal, but also to consider doing their own giving – whether a version of the purple bag initiative, or helping out their own community.

Following the airing of the segment, “Abby’s Purple Bag Project” Facebook page skyrocketed in “likes” and now stands at more than 5,100. She also quickly reached her goal and each state of her U.S. map was colored in purple.

But the giving continued.

According to the Facebook page, more than 2,400 purple bags have been delivered – some by Abby’s own hands, but more so by the majority of viewers throughout the country touched by seeing Abby’s story while drinking their morning coffee.

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