Some creatives express themselves with bold strokes brushed across canvas. Others strum instruments to conjure beautiful music, or pen novels that transport us to another time and place. Colleen Troy—a public relations whiz and founder of King Street-headquartered firm Touchpoint Communications—is a storyteller of another stripe. She’s mastered the art of the media campaign, and clients like Belmond Charleston Place, Summers Corner, and Nexton count on her to craft their brand identities and dispatch their narratives. But like many artists, Troy has an activism bent. When she’s not dreaming up new work for full-paying clients, she’s using her gifts to change the world.
The Manhattan transplant and mother of two is big on community, and to prove it, she’s spent countless hours—some gratis, others at a deeply discounted rate—storytelling on behalf of a mile-long-and-growing list of area nonprofits. For her, pro bono and paying gigs alike must meet one key criteria: “If it’s community-building and it matters to us, we want to work on it,” she says.
It’s no surprise, then, that her handiwork has helped define the shape of our city. If you’ve ever taken a deep, smoke-free breath in a King Street bar or stood awestruck beneath the sweeping canopy of the Angel Oak, you can thank Troy and her creative genius. Whether she’s building a data-driven campaign for the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative (she polled visitors and found they’d travel here more often if lighting up was barred from public spaces) or using grassroots marketing to help Lowcountry Open Land Trust (she recruited Charleston Farmers Market vendors to spread the word about saving land adjacent to the Angel Oak) Troy’s making the Holy City a healthier, happier place.
And her clients are grateful. Just ask Stacey Denaux, CEO of One80 Place, who says Troy helped her organization navigate a bout of bad publicity and come out on top. “She was instrumental in getting great coverage—pitching a story to a food editor on homelessness takes finesse!” Denaux says. “And she gets fired up when others show ignorance toward those less fortunate. There is no hourly rate for that kind of passion and understanding.”
This compassion-first attitude has spurred a lasting partnership between Troy and Mickey Bakst, the Charleston Grill maître d’ with a heart of gold who has birthed some half-dozen fundraising events in the last decade. From Dine for the Charleston Nine, a benefit for the families of firefighters killed in the 2007 Sofa Super Store blaze, to Feed the Need, an organization linking at-risk youth with fair-wage jobs in the food-and-bev industry, Bakst has consistently tapped Troy to pilot the media arm of his endeavors. “Colleen is the kind of person you call, and without hesitation, she says, ‘Yes,’” Bakst explains. “She has great connections in town, and she knows how to get a charity the exposure it needs.” Most recently, in the wake of the devastating attack on Mother Emanuel AME Church, the two collaborated with a group of volunteers and businesses to produce A Community United, a dinner benefitting survivors and family members of those who were killed. Pulled together in just three weeks, the event raised more than a half-million dollars for the victims and their families.
Troy’s creative output doesn’t hang on gallery walls or sit on library shelves, it becomes embedded in the fabric of the community. And while she’s extraordinarily humble and quick to dodge any praise for her efforts, the tall brunette admits that doing good doesn’t feel half bad. “There’s that moment when you step back and look at the whole thing—whether it’s at the farmers market and every booth is talking about your project, or a ballroom where you’ve gathered 700 people for a good cause—and it’s very gratifying,” she says. “This is a great city for volunteering because we’re not too big; everyone can make a big difference. I really believe that’s true.”
By the numbers
6 charities/fundraisers—Hurricane Katrina Relief, Dine for the Charleston Nine, Share Our Strength, Feed the Need, Teach the Need, and A Community United—have benefitted from free services.
14 local nonprofits, including Lowcountry Open Land Trust and One80 Place, have received deeply discounted support.
8 organizations get additional volunteer hours from the Touchpoint team.
$6.5 million has been raised by the charitable events Touchpoint supported.
Priceless: Amount of awareness raised and participants brought into the various causes