In the business of public relations and advertising, the best work comes from the marriage of head and heart. After weeks or months of digging for insight, the perfect solution often arrives like a lightning bolt—a thrilling moment whose striking precision belies its difficult conception.
Lauren Curler remembers when one of those “aha” moments occurred in the conference room at Rawle Murdy. A dozen employees were parsing reams of research about the Charleston Animal Society (CAS), imagining how to shift the dusty image of the local “dog pound” into something as shiny and bright as the new digs being built for it. “We didn’t want to go down the guilt route,” says Curler, who helped lead the pro bono project team. And then it hit: what if they mirrored national news by electing a CAS “president”? Pitting a dog against a cat could make people take notice; stroke some checks; adopt many, many pets.
It proved a brilliant idea that helped launch the CAS with a bang. It also earned the society and Rawle Murdy raves from national media, including The New York Times, and major industry awards. Firm insiders can’t think of a single employee who didn’t work on the project, from negotiating ad rates to carrying posters in parades. It was total immersion and hundreds of donated hours.
That level of engagement has also benefitted WINGS, the Charleston-bred, nationally honored nonprofit that uses an after-school program to deliver social and emotional intelligence to kids. Founder Ginny Deerin notes that Rawle Murdy did more than volunteer to design a logo or brochure. “They got to the heart of what we do,” she says. “They saw WINGS as a movement, and that changed everything.”
Company chairman David Rawle doesn’t know how it could work any other way: “I can’t imagine doing anything by half. That’s like leaping the Grand Canyon and coming up a foot short.” For him, it has all been about making a difference since the firm’s inception more than 30 years ago. Spoleto Festival USA, the effort to revive tourism after Hurricane Hugo, and the Coastal Community Foundation, among numerous others, have all been on the receiving end of this sense of duty.
It’s a philosophy that extends throughout the company. “We’ve written down our values and shared them with employees,” says president Bruce Murdy. “Personal development is on the list, and giving back is one way we achieve that.”
Pro Bono Profile:
WINGS for Kids
Identifying WINGS as a movement helped the organization take flight:
• An 11-minute Rawle Murdy-produced film generated thousands of dollars in contributions to WINGS.
• Within two years of beginning a campaign for WINGS, contributions and grants for the nonprofit doubled.
• WINGS received national recognition as a model by Scholastic AfterSchool magazine and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. www.wingsforkids.org
Charleston Animal Society
Spike vs. Biscuit was creative—and effective. The winning campaign netted lots of results:
• Double-digit increases in adoption rates for 2007 and 2008
• $297,486 worth of media coverage (print, TV, radio, and Internet)
• The Charleston Animal Society website experienced 10,000 views of the “election” website, 4,300 YouTube downloads, and a sustained 100,000 visitors to the site each month for an entire year.
• Rawle Murdy was awarded a Silver Anvil—the industry’s highest award—from the Public Relations Society of America.