PR agency

Our summer intern, Christian Varty, took on the job of delivering a random act of kindness for September (although he delivered it in August since he headed back to school a few days ago). His random act of kindness report is below. – Ruth


popcornOne of the benefits of doing good things is how it can inspire others and create more good things. This is what happened to me when I said I would deliver an AHA Random Act of Kindness.

Every year, our local Marketplace IGA hosts a family outdoor movie event. They project a movie and have snacks for sale. This year, the movie had to be postponed due to dodgy weather. This meant that in the back room of the store, we had giant 10lb bags of popcorn. I was asked if I wanted to buy one of these bags for $10. Of course I said yes – who wouldn’t want that much popcorn? It wasn’t until later on that I got the idea of buying more popcorn, bagging it and giving it away to people passing by.

I asked the store owner if I would be able to do this – paying for the popcorn with the money provided by AHA. Not only did he let me set up a table in front of the store to give away the popcorn, but he also said that we could have it for free instead of paying for it.

This meant that I was able to deliver on my AHA Random Act of Kindness and I was also able to donate the money I would have used to pay for the popcorn to Kid Sport. Double good deed!

I arrived at around 9:30 a.m. and set up a folding table outside. My friend (who gladly accepted my request to join me) and I slapped on our black latex gloves and started packing bags of popcorn. Of course, we picked the windiest day of the week to do this – and our popcorn bags kept falling over and blowing around so that we had to chase them! Eventually, we got the idea of putting the bags into a box to avoid the wind.

It was slow at first; our “FREE Popcorn” sign didn’t draw too much attention. Finally, people came over, asking what we were doing and why. We tried to explain it as best we could, but some people just didn’t understand our mission. Many people wanted to give us money, which we refused. We stayed all day – until 4 o’clock – and shared around 20lbs of popcorn with people. It was a great day!

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We recently had a call from someone who wanted to hire us to “distribute a release and build media relationships” for them. Those requests immediately gave me concerns and I was pretty certain that we wouldn’t be a good fit for this particular project. However, we never want to shut someone down before understanding what they need. If we’re not a good fit, we will do our best to help them find someone who is.

I questioned this person a bit further. Even though AHA doesn’t distribute releases that aren’t written by us, I asked to see the release so I could understand what this person wanted to promote. It was five pages long, filled with corporate speak and industry jargon. And, as far as I could see, there was no news value. When I explained the fact that we aren’t a news release distribution service and identified the challenges in the release, this person then asked if we could just develop a media database for them of all the journalists we know and they would distribute it. He went on to explain that he needed to create some media relationships and wanted to do that as quickly as possible. I did my best to explain how it doesn’t work that way, but I am not sure that he understood what I was trying to tell him.

At our PR agency, media, blogger and social media relationships are an important component of what we do. We spend a great deal of time and effort on this. We have established strong, positive relationships in a wide range of areas including travel/hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, education, non-profit and government to name a few. As we build our relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers, we build our clients relationships with them as well. We set up information meetings, we help our clients provide relevant information (which is not always about them), we provide access to interviews with senior people at client organizations, and we make sure there are images, information, facts and stats ready and available to their deadlines. We get our clients to participate in social media and to authentically connect with their communities.

We follow journalists on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn and even on Facebook (sometimes – but that’s a different blog post). We read their articles every day, we watch their newscasts, we listen to the radio shows and we spend a lot of time online to see what is going on. We engage on social media sites with influencers (never disguising who we are, by the way). It takes time and effort. We work at it. And we get results for our clients.

You can’t just casually hand over relationships like those and expect that it would work that way. And the fact is, even if you could, we wouldn’t.

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AHA Creative Strategies is a PR agency and we often get calls from individuals and organizations that are looking to work with an agency. From the moment that we started AHA more than eight years ago, we had a vision of the type of clients that we wanted to work with. It wasn’t necessarily focused on any one industry or field, but more the approach, the integrity, the character and personality of the person and the organization. We’ve been incredibly fortunate that we have been able to work with great clients that came to AHA because they were focused on communication either within their organization or to an external stakeholder group (or groups).

We provide a range of services, which if you are interested you can see here. Most importantly, I think, we have always approached our work with clients as a partnership. We take the time and make the effort to understand their needs, objectives and expectations. We also have honest and respectful discussions about what is possible and what is probable.

There are times when we reach high and we’ve achieved some great results that we are proud of. However, there are moments when a potential client says something like: “I expect to be on Oprah.” Or, because I worked at Maclean’s, they want to be on the cover of the magazine. That’s when we start to provide a reality check. There are people and organizations that have been on the now defunct Oprah show. There are people and organizations that are on the cover of Maclean’s (not always for positive reasons) and while we never say never, we also don’t often take on a client who thinks that is success. There is so much more to what we do – more than a short blog post will allow. At the core of it, what we provide is strategic PR and communications services that help build awareness, provide visibility for the brand and that develops, maintains and expands an understanding of the organization and what they offer. If their only goal is to get on the cover of Maclean’s, we’re not the right agency for the project.

I had to smile when I came across this piece on Seven Stupid Reasons To Hire a PR Agency. It puts a great deal into perspective when it comes to how and why to work with someone like us.

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