Two Reactions, Same Person: Thoughts on the PR Effectiveness of March for Our Lives

For the record, I am the SVP and Partner here at Ketner Group Communications, with nearly 20 years of experience working as a public relations professional. I love the industry I work in, and I love helping my clients elevate their brands by telling impactful stories that make a difference. When done right, timely and ethically, PR is a beautiful thing to watch. It can also lead to a horrible train wreck when done wrong, too late or unethically. It’s hard for me not to notice good PR or bad PR when it’s happening outside of my work with Ketner Group – it’s like second nature to me.

I am also a proud mother of two awesome kids, ages 9 and 13. I don’t know about the rest of you parents out there, but as soon as I became a mom, I felt as though I became an honorary mom to all the children on the entire planet. Meaning, I not only worry about my own two offspring constantly, but I also find myself concerned about every single kid that I see or hear about – even the older ones! A recent example: during the Winter Olympics, I found myself telling the young and talented athletes (via talking to the TV) who fell on the ice or lost a race, “Aww, it’s ok! You’ll get ‘em next time!” And don’t even get me started on when there is an injury involved. When watching college football, I’m always saying to myself, “His mother must be so worried about him right now!” I can’t help it – it’s also like second nature to me.

So, for the most part, my “life lens” is part PR professional and part mom.

When I watched all of the March for Our Lives protests happening around the U.S. this past weekend, my two “selves” automatically kicked in. By recent reports, March for Our Lives was one of the biggest youth-led protests since the Vietnam War. These protests, as we all know, were in direct response to the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. By all accounts, the marches were a huge success – obviously!

My PR Reaction: This is PR at its finest! The students, from the onset, created a message that was compelling and most of all, honest, open and raw. They also used the platforms they knew would be the most effective to get their message across – in this case they were TV and social media. Lastly, they used those channels and their message to go about changing opinions with the intent of changing laws. It is more than impressive what they have done, and it’s a case study worthy of a dozen PRSA Silver Anvil awards. As Amy George wrote about this week in her column in Inc. Magazine:

“In just five weeks since the shooting spree that killed 17 of their classmates, a handful of these survivors have become pros at live TV interviews, created the ‘Never Again’ campaign and raised millions of dollars — from celebrities and organizations like George and Amal Clooney, Oprah and Gucci — for the massive ‘March For Our Lives’ demonstration that they’ve planned for Saturday in Washington.”

My Mom Reaction: These kids must be so tired, I hope they are getting enough to eat and are sleeping enough!

My PR Reaction: I admire the fact that with little to no formal education on PR strategies, objectives and tactics, they’ve been able to, as Amy outlined in her column, accomplish two very important things when faced with launching an effective PR campaign:

  • Own the conversation: These kids have done a commendable job of keeping their conversation going and going so that others don’t do it for them. Any good PR person will tell their client or company that you must get out there before anyone else to tell your story, or risk the conversation or message going in the wrong direction.
  • Master the soundbite: The students have also quickly mastered the art of the soundbite. Of course they have! Even my nine-year-old son can come up with clever soundbites to explain a funny situation that happened to him at school. They have been groomed for some time now to talk in short, witty conversations via social media.

My Mom Reaction: I wonder if they got nervous before speaking to the crowd in Washington?

The final end result of the PR campaign is TBD. But this we do know – it is a campaign that has quickly commanded the spotlight and is bound to continue to do so. I’ll continue to be in awe of them as a PR professional and will also worry about them as “far away mom,” but something tells me these kids are going to be just fine.