PR Experiment Proves the Appetite for Hope Lives in 2012

The good news is – hope is thriving.

News means a lot to us at Ketchum. We are a global cadre of news addicts. So, after a year soaking up media reports that were heavy with dissatisfaction, anger and pessimism, we wondered: can PR be a force for change? Can we be candle-lighters rather than darkness cursers?

For an answer, we asked a remarkable group of young people – 350 undergraduate and graduate students from our global Mindfire team, at 37 universities in seven countries around the world – and we got a resounding, affirming, hopeful “yes we can.”

“Let’s replace the narrative of greed, selfishness and negativity with a new human mythology, a sacred narrative of hope and kindness.”

Mindfire is our secret weapon – a creativity think tank. As much as Ketchum professionals are obsessed with current affairs, issues, trends and stories, our young Mindfire colleagues are equally obsessed with creativity. That’s why we created Mindfire. It is an open innovation community for graduate and undergraduate students with demonstrated creativity, communication and digital skills. It has already helped scores of Ketchum clients.

We decided to give Mindfire a challenge from a truly unique client – the human race. Here’s the brief we issued:

“These are tough times. Natural disasters, global recession and political unrest leave people feeling hopeless and desperate for effective ways to make a positive impact in their community and in the world. Dissatisfaction with political and economic systems is being expressed through the Occupy Wall Street Movement …:

 “In what ways can citizens of the world restore hope? How can companies, organizations and individuals bring hopefulness back?”

The answer we received in scores of responses from Mindfire members around the world was personal involvement in collecting, sharing and celebrating the stories of kindness and hope that exist everywhere. The message was: “Let’s replace the narrative of greed, selfishness and negativity with a human mythology, a sacred narrative of hope and kindness.”

Several focused on the idea of creating a simple icon that people can use as a focal point for a new sense of hopefulness and for personal involvement.

Better to Light a Candle

“A lit candle is seen as a symbol of hope … Dedicating a small section a company’s website to allow their patrons to light a candle for someone or something they love would be very inspiring. Being able to click through and see thousands of lit candles with descriptions available for each one would allow people who were brought together by a particular company or organization to see what others are going through, know they are not alone and inspire hope amongst them. Some companies may even be able to donate money from each candle to a charity.” – Lina Kirby

The Keys to Random Acts of Kindness

“The motivation behind (this) is a story about a boy who was headed home to take his own life when a peer stopped to help him carry his books. Years later he shocked his graduation class with the story. The moral: no matter how small, random acts of kindness can make a difference in another’s life – whether you know it or not.

“(We) designed ‘happiness cards’ which we blogged about, and painted keys as a physical symbol to keep as a reminder or pass along to someone else. We randomly passed out the keys to 150 people and asked them to visit our blog and talk about their experience.

I suggest a similar campaign using social media. It is inexpensive and can catch on very quickly. All it takes is time, energy, and positive vibes!” – Grace Andruszkiewicz

Occupy Your Heart

“Take a moment to recognize all of the hard-working “do-gooders” out making a difference in our world today … This could be anything from a father working multiple jobs and juggling the responsibilities of raising a family of children while the mother serves in the military overseas, to a local elderly man who has volunteered at the Boys and Girls club ever since he graduated out of the program himself. There are plenty of people out there serving their communities, which means there are numerous opportunities to highlight the positive lifestyles of many Americans.

The goal is simply to increase awareness of all of the positivity present in the world today …

Uplifting stories and feelings are contagious.” – Jillian Hollis

Capture the Moment, Occupy Hope

Create a “Hope-wiki where people who don’t know each other contribute to an online site for one purpose– share and spread hope. – Christine Dolendo

Others proposed corporate social entrepreneurship programs, music, celebrity engagement, viral digital and social media campaigns.  But all had an element of recognizing and celebrating the good that is around us every day as an engine to create more good; to make the world a better place for all with positive energy rather than give in to pessimism. It was a hopeful result.