PRSA ICON 2016 – the beginning

Accelerating the speed of innovation & connectivity. #mindblown

PRSA race car

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) 2016 International Conference. Hosted here in Indianapolis, the conference welcomed professionals from around the globe, and let me tell you, nothing was more exciting than being immersed in creativity, networking and professional development. As I debrief from the conference and process all of the panels I sat in on, a series of blog posts will follow. It’s my hope that sharing what I learned, and hopefully providing examples of how I will apply what I’ve learned, will help other PR pros facing similar organizational challenges. So, here goes nothing!

Dr. Derreck Kayongo

Dr. Derreck Kayongo is a brilliant man, and I say this after hearing his keynote speech that lasted about 30 minutes. Business Visionary, Global Soap Project Founder and CEO for the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Kayongo is equally as personable as he is successful. He introduced himself through a series of entertaining, heart-wrenching stories, you see Dr. Kayongo’s childhood includes experiences as a Ugandan refugee. Yet his parent’s entrepreneurial spirit lived in him even when his world was torn apart.

If you aren’t familiar with the Global Soap Project, familiarize yourself now. It’s a beautiful story of a refugee learning what happens to hotel soap, and working to repurpose “waste” to improve global health, one bar at a time. While I encourage you to visit the website to learn more about the story, I’ll provide the cliff notes version. Dr. Kayongo was staying in a hotel and discovered three bars of soap in his hotel bathroom. He used one, and stashed the other two as we all do, and went about his day. The next day, three more bars were replaced. And again the third day. Dr. Kayongo got concerned he wouldn’t be able to afford these daily bars of soap and pleaded with the concierge to take the new bars and give him back his used bars of soap. It was then he learned that hotels discard half used bars of soap into the trash. You see, this is actually where the story begins, as most do. That moment of enlightenment, when you receive a piece of information that can change everything.

The Global Soap Project

It was in this moment the Global Soap Project was born, and it’s solely due to Dr. Kayongo’s service-oriented heart. His purpose wasn’t to create a business, become a millionaire and live a lavish lifestyle. On the contrary, his motives were to provide a mother in a third world country a bar of soap to wash her baby, to help fight death and disease in developing countries, to do that and more with a resource that would otherwise be considered waste. Gives a whole new meaning to the expression ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, huh?

So why would a PR professional benefit from Dr. Kayongo’s presentation? I mean, it’s a beautiful, heart-warming story, but what’s the takeaway? To me it’s a bit bigger than the heart-warming feeling. The Global Soap Project illustrates what happens when we think for the greater good. By communicating our needs (in this example, as a developing country), engaging local partners (in this example, hotels around the world) and educating the public on the impact of a campaign, we’re able to truly move the needle in a lifesaving, world changing direction. I don’t know about you, but that’s a challenge I’m always going to be up for!

Life is about events and observation. If you don’t pay attention to your life, you’re missing out. As you do your work, what inspires you? Where do you go to get that important rejuvenation? I stand before you today to remind you, your profession can give back in ways that make us feel good about ourselves and in a way that benefits others.” – Dr. Derreck Kayongo


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