How diving in to doing good helped me survive the pandemic and re-ignite passion for my work
It feels like every article written in 2020 starts with some variation on “these are unprecedented times.” Well, no kidding! For many of us, it has been quite a ride. Working from home, teaching from home, not leaving home. I, for one, went from a low level of excitement mixed with anxiety, to full blown anxiety, to a rhythm that is working for me, my clients, and my family.
But it was not an easy road. And I credit my 11-year-old with helping me get through it by reminding me to use my skills to make a difference, (even when getting out of bed and facing our weird new world seemed really daunting.)
My husband battled lymphoma in 2014, when my kids were five and three. And ever since, my daughter has talked about starting a charity initiative to raise money for Dana Farber Cancer Institute, where he was treated. A couple of years ago, she and her friends started talking about Creations4Cancer – a group they would start to sell cupcakes and their artwork to raise money. They even started building a webpage and tinkered with it during playdates and school vacations. But even though they were excited about it, it never went too far.
As the school closures of March and April started giving way to a summer with no camp and not much to do, the kids, and the adults, had time to focus on Creations4Cancer. And so, we did.
My daughter finished the website, designed a logo, and started hounding us to help her plan a launch event – DURING A PANDEMIC. Her dad, who feels especially proud of her commitment to the cause, helped her contact our town health department to find what precautions were needed to conduct an outside event. He also supported her in contacting Dana Farber directly to get official support for her efforts.
Finally, she was able to launch her website, connect to Dana Farber to start collecting donations, and begin planning her event.
Spreading the Word – Getting Excited
All of this took place as my clients – which include tradeshow producers, technology companies, and medical associations, among others – were scaling back their marketing programs and cancelling their events. Like many others during this time, I was not feeling great about my work.
So, imagine my surprise when a yard sale/bake sale being organized by a group of sixth graders got me out of my funk!
Spending the next few weeks helping the Creations4Cancer team plan their event, navigate disagreements on how the event should be organized, design flyers, put a budget together for supplies and signage, and determine how to get the word out energized me in almost the same way my first product launch had made me fall in love with PR and marketing early in my career. And this time, I could get excited not just about the work, but about the result – raising money for an organization that is important to our family.
It was also fun to do something hyper-local, which I have not done in a really long time. Surprisingly, after years of driving PR programs for multinational corporations and publicly traded companies, I found myself getting really excited about reaching out to local newspapers and blogs in our small town to ask them to write about the kids and their efforts. I also enjoyed helping them to build an audience for the Creations4Cancer Facebook page and website. And I helped them craft posts that drove tons of engagement in town Facebook groups.
I was doing what I have done every day for more years than I care to admit. But I was doing it locally, for a good cause, and sharing that knowledge and experience with some really excited kids who were soaking it all up – and even teaching me a few things as digital natives.
The experience reignited my interest in and passion for my work, culminating in the arrival of a local news camera crew at the event to interview my daughter. They had seen the online coverage and wanted to do a story. During my career, my teams have helped clients gain coverage in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, 60 Minutes, Newsweek and more. But I think this placement in Spectrum Local News is my favorite of all time.
Success is Infectious
In the six weeks since their launch event, the kids have raised over $1400 – and have big plans for building on their success. As for me, I’m a lot more excited about helping companies communicate their stories than I have been in a long time.
Since launching Creations4Cancer (and sharing their successes), I’ve connected with old and new contacts, brought on some new clients, and come up with some creative new campaigns for existing clients as well.
Without this experience, I might still be in my COVID rut, looking to just keep my head down and make it through the crisis. With a new attitude, and a sense of purpose, I’m proud to be actively building my business – and helping my clients to build theirs – again.
No matter what you do for a living, I highly recommend getting out there and using your skills to help a non-profit, school, or club. I have no doubt you’ll find yourself getting excited about things again – COVID be damned!