First Lady Michelle Obama is slated to be one of the speakers at the Partnership for a Healthier America’s first national summit opening today in Washington, DC. This sold-out conference, which is expected to draw some 600 people from the corporate, public health and policy sectors, is designed to showcase success and highlight new commitments from corporate partners to make the nation’s children leaner.
A growing number of groups, from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the industry- supported Healthy Weight Commitment, have made ending childhood obesity a top priority. But it’s the Let’s Move program, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, which often sets the national agenda.
Let’s Move! isn’t set up to work with private partners, so the Partnership was created nearly a year ago to take on that task. The Partnership is independent, non-profit and non-partisan, but it works closely with the Let’s Move! program. The First Lady serves as its honorary chair. Among the Partnership’s honorary board members are Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Senator and transplant surgeon Bill Frist.
At a recent Breakfast Club meeting at Powell Tate, Partnership CEO and President Lawrence A. Soler, gave a sneak peak at the national summit agenda, which includes four tracks of sessions to foster healthier environments in childcare, widen access to healthy food, increase physical activity and make schools healthier.
Lack of cooking skills and cost are often cited as barriers to healthy food. The Summit plans to address those issues tonight with the Great American Family Dinner Challenge, one of the few Summit events open to media. James Beard Award winning chefs Tom Colicchio, Maria Hines, Holly Smith and Ming Tsai will compete to prepare a healthy dinner for a family of four for about $10. Their culinary creations will be judged by a handful of families.
Also slated for the Summit, according to Soler, are announcements of new corporate partners. We plan to attend the Summit and will post updates here.
My colleagues are probably already tired of my gloating, but I have to share that I won a contest. A new restaurant recently opened up near our office called Roti. (Not a client, by the way.)
In addition to the big sign announcing their opening and giving just enough information about their take on the classic lunch offering, they also handed out flyers with a contest to win free Roti for a year.
Who doesn’t like the idea of free lunch for a year? Certainly not me because I went back to my office and pulled up the contest website.
Now this is where I can actually make the gloating relevant to our PT Insights blog. This wasn’t the online equivalent of tossing your business card in a jar contest. You actually had to write something about why you thought you should win.
I got to the essay part – and, of course, it was a required field – and stopped and thought, “Do I really want to do this? Do I have time? Do I have something interesting to say?” But when I thought of all the contests I have organized as part of education and awareness campaigns, I knew that the higher you set the bar for entering, the less likely people are to participate.
The upside of that particular hard truth is that the people who do enter and take your action – be it an essay, a photo, a haiku or a video – are probably pretty motivated and make the best advocates or potential donors. And, yes, I fall in that bucket apparently. Exhibit A: I’ve started following Roti on Twitter and have tweeted twice about what I am eating there. And, exhibit B: I’m writing a blog post about it for PT Insights.
I don’t know how many people entered. It could have been my clearly superior content that resulted in a win (albeit a runner up category) of free food for a month. I am a communications professional after all. We’re all writers and editors here. But, it is something to think about when designing a contest. Is your goal to get the most active and motivated participants? Then, set your bar high. If you want broad participation, make it easier for people to join, get to know you and hopefully take progressively more ambitious actions.
This week's National Women’s Law Center Annual Awards Dinner boasted some important special guests, but it was the message that shone through at the end of the evening. The event honored several female Freedom Riders by hosting a panel discussion, which was followed by a keynote speech from President Obama. Although President Obama was just a baby during the Freedom Rides of 1961, he joked that he “knew something important was going on.”
As a refresher, the Freedom Riders were a group of male and female activists who led nonviolent protests of the segregationist Jim Crow laws by traveling together on buses and trains that crossed state lines- an act that drew harsh punishment from law enforcement, society, and even the White House. As the women shared their stories, it became clear that they acted because they felt they had a responsibility to better society for future generations. President Obama echoed this sentiment when he said, “My wish for my daughters and yours is for them to go out into a world where no dream is out of reach.”
The evening’s host, NPR’s Michel Martin, closed the panel by asking the women what injustices or causes today need the same passion that they devoted to racial segregation back in the 60s. Some of the issues raised included religious intolerance, gender inequality, and the public education system. But my favorite response came from Ms. Helen Singleton, who said that everyone has a cause that stirs passion or frustration in them, and that’s what they should focus their energies on. She closed with a challenge that is well worth sharing. “Figure out what it is about our society today that pisses you off, and then do something about it,” she said.
One thing I really love about our Social Impact work is that every non-profit we work with is unique – unique causes, priorities, expertise, people and perspectives. But working with non-profits as much as we do, I also see commonalities – most non-profits share a lot of the same challenges. Often the primary challenge is how to effectively inspire would-be advocates to take action – be it to sign a petition, join a mailing list or donate money. In the latter case (though I think this applies to most calls to action) we regularly encounter a practice that I joking characterize as “the big red donate button.” The reaction of many organizations facing fundraising challenges is that the problem must be the donate button. Make it bigger! Redder! Use exclamation points!
But is this likely to truly inspire someone? I recently came across a blog post by Joshua Porter that manages to encapsulate the conversation that we often have with organizations on this subject. He writes: "We’re not fighting an attention war…we’re fighting an emotional war. We need to convince people of the value of what we’re offering enough so they actually care.”
While Porter is specifically referring to ‘Sign Up’ buttons on start-ups’ websites, I believe his observations and lessons are hugely relevant to non-profits with challenges in inspiring action. Simply replace his references to ‘Sign Up’ with your own call to action. Then think about what it is that makes your audience care and put your emphasis there.
Our team is in San Francisco this week for the 2011 BSR Conference– a gathering of 1,000 corporate social responsibility and sustainability leaders and advocates from 37 countries that starts today. (Weber Shandwick is the global agency partner for BSR.)
As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’re excited about our work with BSR to Storify the event. This will offer conference attendees, and interested parties around the globe, access to real-time content from the conference. Whether it’s takeaways from plenary sessions with Al Gore, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn, and Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito, or insights from discussion of topics such as the impact of technology on sustainability, effective engagement with consumers on sustainability, and more, the #BSR11 Storify channel will have a curated stream of conference highlights.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
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