Monday, October 22, 2007

A "Do" and a "Don't" from Mia Farrow

Yesterday, Mia Farrow demonstrated to me a "Do" and a "Don't."

At this year's PRSA International Conference, Mia Farrow was presented as the keynote speaker. As some of you know, she's a humanitarian activitist, having done good works around the world (working with UNICEF to eradicate polio) and adopting 10 kids. She's the pre-Angelina Jolie, the pre-Bono.

Mia evangelized during her keynote, speaking of the genocide in Darfur (western region of Sudan) and all the tragedy that the Sudanese Janjaweed (Arab militiamen) have been senselessly wreaking havoc on Darfur-- killing, raping, torturing, and pushing them out to Chad and the Central African Republic.

Despite my opinion that she got too political (bashing former President Jimmy Carter and decrying China for underwriting the Sudanese in the genocide) and despite my thought that it was a somber way to open a conference, Mia's speech was certainly eye-opening-- enough to get me to log on to her website,, to see what I could do to help (I've signed up to contribute a monthly donation to Doctors Without Borders). She effectively persuaded me to participate; this was a "do."

But, you ask, how did Mia's keynote relate to PR? I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out myself. Though it would have been pretty simple to do, Mia failed to make the connection between the Darfur genocide and PR. It could have been: "With your influence as professional PR practitioners, you have the capability to communicate through the mass media the atrocities of Darfur. You have the power to empower those around you, to take advantage of the media as a significant vehicle to bring attention to Darfur" blahse-blah. And, that's just an elementary connection that I created off the top of my head. (I'm sure a strategic speechwriter could have helped Mia concoct a much better connection.)

Further, not only did Mia not relate PR to Darfur, but she also wasn't aware of who her audience was. Apparently, she didn't realize she was evangelizing to a group of 3000 PR practitioners. When the presenter/moderator said to her, "Well, Mia, you are talking a group of professional communicators who can help get out the message..." Mia exclaimed with sheer and genuine glee, "WOW! I am talking to the right group!" It was like, "Oh my goodness, would you look at that? I'm talking to a bunch of PR people! What a coincidence!"

Yeah, I understand that some speakers use one canned speech the entire year and tweak it a bit for their audience. But, hello: can you at least be aware of who your audience is beforehand? That faux pas is the worst mistake you can make as a PR professional: not understanding your audience. Despite her enlightening speech, here, Mia was a clear "Don't."


Blogger jromulo said...

Wow. Good post.

3:13 PM


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