Vancouver PR Agency

Timmies SignToday, I had the honour of doing another AHA Random Act of Kindness. This is the third time I have been given this opportunity and I have to tell you it is very hard to commit to an idea. After much deliberation, I received a tip (thank you Paul) that I could leave money at a Tim Hortons’ drive-thru, which would pay for many coffee drinkers’ orders. Perfect!

So, after purchasing a $50 gift card, I knocked on the drive-thru window and told the ladies working what I was up to. I would be sitting in my van in the parking space directly in front of the window, watching people’s reactions as they found out they didn’t have to pay for their order.

I don’t know who was more excited about this – them or me! Honestly, one of the ladies working was having so much fun with this, she was shouting out the reactions to me as people drove away. “That guy wants to make sure he’s in your will!” It was awesome!

You’re probably wondering what I observed. Well… I saw many smiles and much confusion. I saw a man pay for his order anyway (which one of the employees had told me people often do in this situation – they don’t feel right taking it for free when someone else might need it more). I think I saw one or two customers leave a tip. Many people just looked completely confused as they were trying to figure out what was happening. Someone mentioned that it might be a Just for Laughs gag and was looking for the hidden camera. The biggest smiles came from the older generation, and oh – we got a horn honk or two!

This experience left me feeling amazing. I think it really made the employees’ day as well.

Something I notice every time I do a Random Act of Kindness for AHA is that we all seem to have a real need for connection. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was the one who had bought the coffees, but I did want to see how it affected the recipients. And the employees said that many desperately wanted to know who had done this. Where is she? Who is she? But they kept it top secret. No one had any idea that I was sitting right there in front of them, in the old Dodge Caravan.

In doing something nice for someone, I think the only thing we really want in return is to feel something… to know we’ve made a difference. We aren’t looking for a pat on the back, but we do need to feel the impact of what we have done. I was craving those smiles! And people seem to have a real need to give back and to say thank you. It’s been a constant theme each time I’ve done this and I’m very thankful to AHA for once again giving me the wonderful gift of giving.

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AHA CEO Ruth Atherley spoke at TEDx BCIT on January 24, 2015. Ruth identified that in this 24/7 connected world, doing the right thing all the time is much easier and more effective than having to face the destruction of your reputation and potentially your business.

Here is her presentation.

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TEDxBCIT_Black_V1_miniWe are pleased to report that AHA CEO Ruth Atherley will be presenting at TEDx BCIT on January 24, 2015. Ruth has identified that in this 24/7 connected world, doing the right thing all the time is much easier and more effective than having to face the destruction of your reputation and potentially your business.

Ruth is excited about the opportunity and looks forward to hearing and meeting the other speakers.

 

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AHA-logoHere at the AHA office, we’re used to working with clients to develop speeches and presentations. Today we’re talking about what Ruth will speak about at TEDx BCIT on January 24, 2015. She received the call yesterday confirming her as a speaker for this engaging, thought-provoking event. We did an AHA Happy Dance in the office after that call.

We’re looking forward to this event and seeing all of the other speakers that day.

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AHA-logoOn Wednesday, October 29, I will have the privilege of speaking at the Canadian Public Relations Society Vancouver chapter with the Honourable Wally Oppal, Q.C., who was the Commissioner of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (MWCI).

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry was an important initiative that was tasked with making findings and recommendations regarding the conduct of police in handling numerous reported cases of missing women from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – a controversial, highly sensitive subject with a diverse range of stakeholder groups.

I served, with the support of the AHA team, as director of communications for the MWCI and as editor of Forsaken: The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry Report. This was the 1,400-page, five-volume report for the Commission. I also wrote the executive summary.

I look forward to speaking with the Commissioner. Working on this project is a highlight of my career, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with the MWCI team. These were exceptional professionals dedicated to making improvements in the world. Working on the MWCI was one of the most challenging things I have ever done professionally. It was a 24/7, seven days a week job – that was emotional, demanding and unrelenting.

As a communications person, I knew how crucial the communications role was in this initiative. There was a wide range of stakeholders and it was important that each of these groups was kept informed – even during times when they were being highly and publicly critical of the Commission. I also have to say, I was fortunate that Commissioner Oppal, Senior Legal Counsel Art Vertlieb, Policy Counsel Dr. Melina Buckley, and the Commission team also knew how important it was to inform, update and strategically respond to the stakeholders.

During the presentation, we are going to discuss some of the key communication elements from our work during the Inquiry and the development of the report. They include:

  • Managing controversial, high stakes communication with tight deadlines and diverse stakeholder groups.
  • The importance of planning ahead when it comes to potential issues and controversy.
  • How a communications professional can build a trust relationship with the leadership team during a challenging time.
  • The reality of embargoed information in the age of social media.
  • How to manage a consistent message when communicating with diverse stakeholder groups.

There was certainly much more to the communications aspect of working at the Commission, but these five areas are, I believe, at the foundation of strategic communication outreach.

Another component that will certainly thread through what Commissioner Oppal and I talk about is how we balanced the emotional side of the work we were tasked to do. Everyone who worked at the Commission cared deeply about having recommendations made that would make a positive difference to some of our most vulnerable citizens. This feeling of dedication, passion and commitment to making a difference ran through everything that we did – it wasn’t just a job for any of us. We were all emotionally involved. And we all had a commitment to help make positive change. I know I had to be vigilant that I didn’t let my or anyone else’s emotions influence my actions – it had to be about effectively managing the communications aspects for the Commission, instead of leaping into a discussion about feelings and emotions (positive, negative or defensive).

Commissioner Oppal is a great speaker and I look forward to discussing the communication aspects with him at this event – which will have an informal setting. Since there are two of us speaking, my sense is that it will be a little more interactive than a typical presentation. It will be interesting and, I hope, informative for attendees.

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