Business and human rights: a key seat at the table

While I’ve moved around in my career, from politics to journalism to humanitarian assistance and now to work with the private sector, I always say there’s a common thread.

Every single individual has a responsibility to promote human rights and I see myself as moving around a “table” of key entities that play various roles in protecting and respecting human rights. These days I find myself at the seat at the table with businesses.

Having spend the last year plus working with the EICC and its 100 electronics companies members on responsible supply chains, I’m very pleased to now be consulting with Shift, an independent, non-profit center for business and human rights practice. Shift is operated by the people behind the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and Shift’s team of experts supports governments, businesses and rights holders to implement the Guiding Principles in their activities around the world.

I’ll probably be a bit quiet while I get up and running with Shift, but I’m looking forward to being more active on this blog in the near future. I’m looking forward to writing more soon!

Ok, so I have a new job.

This blog is not about my personal life (although it does reflect my personal and professional opinions). However, my new job is probably worthy of an announcement.

Four weeks ago I flew from Berlin, Germany to Washington, D.C. to start a new position in a new field. After over a year of reflection and many discussions with some stalwart supporters, I’m trying out the world of corporate social responsibility (CSR)/sustainability. I’m now the Director of Communications for the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), which is a coalition of electronics companies working together to improve their impact on human rights and the environment throughout their supply chain. Continue reading

Breast cancer campaigning and the limits of awareness raising

As usual, campaigning about the impact of breast cancer — raising awareness about prevention, treatment, and the toll it takes — rates highly in the news these days. Just before I went on my holidays, I planned to write a post on campaigning on breast cancer awareness and the Komen Foundation, following a magazine article on the topic. Then out came yesterday the Angelina Jolie New York Times op-ed. It’s an evergreen story if ever I saw one.

Breast cancer is an important issue to me, as I’m obviously a female and I’ve had family members with some tumor scares. But I’ll admit I rejoiced when I read a New York Times Magazine article about breast cancer campaigning, the Komen Foundation, and just how far awareness-raising campaigns can go to save lives. In short: there is a limit.

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The role of emotion in advocacy and communications

Like over 26 million other people (!) I was moved by the latest beauty-is-more-than-skin-deep salvo from Dove. Their wildly popular video, “Real Beauty Sketches,” compares women’s descriptions of themselves to descriptions given by relative strangers. The video doesn’t push Dove products very hard, but it certainly burnishes the brand as caring about their customer’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Selling is a lot about trust — and Dove seems to build trust very, very well.

The video, and the ensuing chatter (mostly positive, some negative), provoked a range of thoughts from me both on a personal and professional level. My biggest takeaway on a professional level is how important it is to appeal to people’s emotions in order to create positive change. For a non-profit advocacy organization, being influential and winning people over to your view takes likability, a compelling argument and good timing. And quite frankly, I think likability comes first. How do we determine likability? With our emotions. Continue reading

Campaigning videos: more than ticking boxes

Videos! It’s where it’s at these days for non-profits, it would seem. “Get viterate” (video literate) was the featured advice on a recent post at the Gates Foundation blog, “5 Experts Share Top Social Media Advice for Nonprofits.” Ever more non-profit organizations are sinking thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of dollars into videos and video competitions to promote their campaigns, build their brands and improve citizen engagement.

Yet just like when I was an online editor for National Public Radio five years ago (which is light-years in social media time), just doing the latest cool thing on the Internet doesn’t actually get you to your goals (unless you goal is strictly ticking the box that you used video and promoted it through social media channels). In a matter of days last week, I saw two big campaign videos from two big non-profit/public organizations, one which was absolutely wonderful (Rainforest Alliance) and one which was absolutely tone deaf and provoked its own scandal (European Parliament). I thought I’d share them here and my thoughts. Perhaps comparing these two extreme examples will spark some strategic thinking to help you out next time your boss asks you to produce a video that will get half a million likes on Facebook. Continue reading

Presentation: Media and Communications in Emergencies

I recently gave a presentation on media and communications in emergencies at Fordham University’s course on humanitarian assistance (International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance, IDHA). I’ve turned that presentation into a PDF and I hope you find it helpful! Click the link below to view in here, or check it out on Slideshare.

The presentation addresses a number of questions, including who and what is “the media,” why do we engage with the media in emergency response operations, and best practices for engaging with the media and giving interviews. There’s also a group scenario exercise built into the presentation.

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From the Boston Marathon tragedy: some lessons on crisis communications

Not to jump on the bandwagon, but my parents live in Boston and I consider it my adopted hometown. After following the coverage of yesterday’s tragic disaster at the marathon, I wanted to share some reflections on how Boston authorities have demonstrated some best practices in their crisis communications, and some basic tips on speaking to the press during crises. I should note I’m not in Boston right now, and if you have another opinions about the City’s response, I’m happy to hear it. Continue reading