Growing up Black in the South, we weren’t allowed to participate in Halloween because it was labeled as ‘the Devil’s day’ by most pastors, preachers and nosy church folk within a 50 mile radius. That was the test of truth. Because no one challenged the ass-backward beliefs of my mother and stepfather, many years passed my younger brother and I by with no Halloween. Naturally, when we gained two younger siblings many years later everyone got amnesia and it was then seen as a fun, celebratory occasion by which we could continue to feed the machine of consumerism by going out and buying a costume to be worn once.
In my adulthood, I allowed myself to embrace my love for Halloween and was okay with the fact that this was a holiday that I personally felt connected to. But, I didn’t fully understand why…was this rebellion? Or was I picking up on my inner Harry Pottress?!
Twelve years into adulting and I realize now that my connection to the holiday know as Halloween by our corporate culture – Samhain or Hallow’s Eve in others – is it a time of remembrance. Traditionally, costuming was a way of channeling certain energies, spirits and ancestors. It wasn’t just about going from door to door asking for candy that was likely packaged by a foreign factory worker…nope. The traveling from door to door was about weaving together story and remembering those who had gone before us and invite them into the last window of opportunity before Winter fully set in. Being that I have lost 4 family members in the past 3 years, I am hyper-sensitive to ceremony and times of reflection on life and death. If nothing else, I have learned how precious and short life truly is and that’s brought me to my own personal place of remembrance for who I am…who I agreed to become when I manifest into this Earth suit. So as wild and off the cuff that this might all sound, I just want to give thanks for being in community with people who are doing Halloween RIGHT. What a gift that during times as intense as these, we can reflect on moments of love, beauty, connection and goodness from our ancestors. Truth is, regardless of the color of our skin – we ALL have ancestors. And I would almost bet that on the other side, they’ve squashed their beef and are voting on next year’s descendings already. What I want to get across is this – check your assumptions about the meaning of Halloween and really explore for yourself why we need to costume and run door to door asking for sweets. Consider what it might look like to spend Hallow’s Eve & All Saint’s Day being grateful for this life and giving thanks to all those who have passed that we might now stand on their shoulders.
Often the moments that completely shift who we are, are not those moments that come parading back into our memories like an elephant train. Often the moments that completely shift who we are, whisper ‘Remember Me…’ as they slip by nearly unnoticed. Often the moments that completely shift who we are, are one point on a complex grid of synchronistic connections and seamless interaction with the right people at the right time.
In a time when so much is uncertain, the certainty of peace at a gathering among women from all across the globe; from all trails blazed for the rights of women to gather in the name of herbs and share amongst them the wisdom of healing, gifted to us by Mama Appalachia and beyond; from all ages; all stages..and ethnicities multiplied. In a time when so much is uncertain, we certainly did gather together this Fall because the revolution cannot be denied. When given every reason to stand apart, we unify. And re-mind ourselves to use our Third Eye. To look into the windows of souls without rosy colored glasses. To connect with people whether they look like bleached sugar or molasses. Re-mind yourselves that only love is real, the plants will heal us and the revolution will not be televised.
And so then the women came.
And with the women came a new way. There tucked away in the wombs of 1,200+ women was the seed of love, hope and faith. Everyone that came, gave graceful birth to the path of sacred sisterhood.
For me – true to my water-fire sign – I met Corinna, Founder & Director of the Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference, around a firepit after a long day of being on and off stage and in and out of rain at a music festival produced by and for women. The conversation around the fire was about gathering spaces and places for women of all walks of life. In some ways similar to SEWW, the mission of music festival we were attending then was focused on celebrating the talents and artistic expressions of badass women. To learn that there was another gathering similar that I didn’t yet know about, was exciting. I was game. That weekend in Boone around the fire, I jumped into the front seat of a 4-year transformation from shamed/confused tomboy to acknowledging and owning fully the divine feminine. I personally feel that my maturity into womanhood has been due to finding my medicine and learning about healing at SEWW. It is here that I get to be my full self – queer, old soul, Southern black girl from ‘round the way and vegetarian humanitarian convinced that authenticity is the answer to global conflict. Often the moments that completely shift who we are, are one point on a complex grid of synchronistic connections and seamless interaction with the right people at the right time.
So, after some immediate correspondence with Corinna about participating in the Work Exchange program and helping with the inaugural Sister Love (Tent at that time, now it’s a Deck), my first journey to SEWW was set (2013). Throughout that first weekend, I learned one very important lesson/observation about myself – engaging with folks simply because of the color of their skin was a deep edge for me. I grew up poor and black in the South so, naturally I grew up on hot combs, grits, relaxers, fried chicken, Kool-Aid, Yo! MTV Raps, bad cable and loyalty to ruckus. Furthermore, I am the black sheep in my family so when I went natural, got a few tattoos, stopped eating meat and began dating women, I left all relevancy with relatives on the front porch of the country store. Yet, here I was having psychosocial and poli-cultural conversations with women who were healers, medicine women, entrepreneurs, ceremonialists, doulas, midwives, teachers and artists. Everything I had been taught to chase for success in life was shot. The lies I thought I had discovered and conquered, multiplied. How dare my family and friends not tell me that our people were healers? How dare my family and friends tell me that capitalism and indebtedness to Sallie Mae meant a bright future? What had I done? What had I done? What had I done? So, not only did I feel guilty for immediately gifting some of these women I encountered my immediate respect when my mother didn’t have it…I was thrown down a deep hole of unpacking my identity and educating myself on balance, alternative wellness, herbal medicine and the sacredness of community in spite of lost ties to the familial network. It rocked my world. It scared me and challenged my fearlessness. It made my queerness throw tantrums because it often had to run and hide in spaces that were exclusive to black folks. Yet, I helped to set up/cultivate the space. I went to the Sister Love Tent as little as possible until Spirit called me back. I came in, sat down and stayed in the role of observer and listener for most of the time feeling heavy because I was going to have to tell Corinna that I couldn’t do this anymore, it was too hard. That day though, was different. We held space for all lenses and perspectives and through a loosely facilitated check-in, I was able to expose my wounds around sisterhood and lack of trust in the black family unit. Our conversations were the salve to my deep cuts and betrayals that I had been wearing and not showing to anyone. Strength don’t fail me now. I spoke my truth about the beauty and potential I see in ALL women and the hope for collectively releasing anger while welcoming love. We had a slumber party that night under the stars – the Earth braided our roots and the Moon carried our dreams off with the stardust. Often the moments that completely shift who we are, whisper ‘Remember Me…’ as they slip by nearly unnoticed.
Since the time of my first SEWW, my life has completely changed…but not because I’m just standing around. My life has completely changed because that night in the Sister Love Tent and riding the waves of SEWW, I found home in more ways than I knew at that time. Four years later as I stood under the full Blood Moon at this year’s gathering, I recollected parts of my dream that night, several moons ago. To give you a glimpse of that magic: I now live at Earthaven Ecovillage (home to the offices and some organizers of SEWW); I work with LEAF Community Arts, which happens on the same land that I walked on and wished on 18 months prior to that opportunity even coming into my awareness; I work with SOIL, which is also based at Earthaven; and I have researched my ancestry to find out that my lineage is rooted in West Africa (explaining my visceral connection to my first fire circle with African drumming – also at the SEWW in 2013)…and many, many, many interactions with mentors and guides.
This year at SEWW, I got to give back to my roots by hosting Newcomers in the heart of the Violet Tent. I appreciated the art and fire of the leaf messengers sitting on trees in the valley. I had a chance to lay on the Earth, with no rain or flooding in sight! And I got to plant the seeds of my future…our future in the soil of the same land once walked by visionaries and artists of the Historic Black Mountain College. Most importantly, I saw myself in the eyes of my sisters at the Sister Love Deck and my sisters in attendance from Earthaven and my sisters from all walks of life, of all nationalities and creeds. This year at SEWW, I became one with my curiosity about the meaning of life and realized that the meaning of life is to keep my curiosity intact. Question everything. Furthermore, I realized that in order to be a real sister and tender of others, I had to first be a sister for my inner child, inner warrior and inner healer. It is my duty to know who I am and where I come from so that as I do my work, I am doing so as a whole and integrated being – armed with the truth of my heritage and the radicality of what I believe to be possible for humanity. SEWW did that for me again, and again, and again, and again.
So, if you’re considering coming to SEWW for the first time or many, keep in mind that what happens at this gathering is so much bigger than plants. This gathering is truly all about the seeds of our sisterhood and sharing practices with one another so that we nurture them and help them grow. For it is on their sprouts that love, faith and hope exist. Often the moments that completely shift who we are, are not those moments that come parading back into our memories like an elephant train. Often the moments that completely shift who we are, whisper ‘Remember Me…’ as they slip by nearly unnoticed.
Until next year.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | CONTACT: Cortina Caldwell
Voices of Asheville Celebrates Cultural History
Asheville, NC – Experience the rich, cultural history of Asheville and Buncombe County during the 1st Annual LEAF Downtown event in the Voices of Asheville tent. LEAF Downtown AVL aims to celebrate communities, creativity, diversity and families in the heart of Asheville, NC. The long-term vision is to build quality of place by intentionally infusing the power of the arts, culture and creativity. LEAF Downtown AVL will further the goals of inclusivity, community partnerships and economic vitality in the greater Asheville area while driving the greater LEAF mission to connect cultures and create community through music and arts. The Voices of Asheville tent will be an open, welcoming space in Pack Square Park for event attendees. LEAF Community Arts will offer a space where participants can experience the cultural history in Asheville and Buncombe County during the LEAF Downtown event in the Voices of Asheville tent.
Local artist, founder of Hood Huggers International and creator of the Peace Garden in the Burton Street community, DeWayne Barton, states his hopes for this experience, “Art driving social change, is a tool to help create a culture of sustainability, that is economic, inclusive and just. My hope is that when people come out, they can envision the future and see a way to create change in real time.”
The Voices of Asheville will be an interactive sanctuary that allows connection to the Latino, Native American and African-American culture in this region by way of:
- Exhibits: An UnMarked Trail, With All Deliberate Speed and Mi Historia (courtesy of The Center For Diversity Education)
- Musical performances acapella pieces, acoustic sets, spoken word and oratory tributes, video art.
- Informational tables with representatives from local organizations who advocate for and empower residents from communities of color.
- Interactive Art board, led by DeWayne Barton for all participants to contribute.
The Voices of Asheville tent has a slower pace but will be an infusion of cultural connectivity that will create a framework for great dialogue and introspecting. To learn more about the Voices of Asheville experience, please reach out to LEAF Community Arts or any of the following community partners: the HACA Residents’ Council, Block-by-Block Industries, Date my City, Nuestro Centro, Green Opportunities, CIMA (Compañeros Immigrantes de las Montañas en Accion) formerly COLA, Voices United and Center for Diversity Education.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | CONTACT: Cortina Caldwell
LEAF International – The Growth of El Tejar
Asheville, NC – In the small town of El Tejar just outside of Antigua, LEAF International partners with Proyecto Escuelas Guatemala (PEG) and ChildAid to implement the only no-cost music and arts program in the town. Like all LEAF International programs, the music and arts program at the CEDIN school focuses on traditional Guatemalan instruments and song, providing an outlet to not only boost self-confidence and creative expression in the minds of the youth, but to create a strong sense of identity and pride in their culture.
“It is a very good way for them to relate to the other kids and also to themselves, and what is good within their own culture. They have in their minds the good things they can do and the good things they can make.” —Father of LEAF International Guatemala student
With humble beginnings, matched with a focused commitment of the teaching artists that run it, the program in El Tejar has grown alongside the students that participate in it. Today, the older students, who have been a part of the program since its beginning in 2007, are now being trained to become teachers themselves. By the end of this year, these dedicated students will be able to extend the impact of the program by initiating their own classes with new, younger students. This development will provide a powerful feedback loop: by maintaining a commitment to the individuals LEAF International serves, students are able to grow into empowered teachers, showing up for their community in a positive way.
LEAF International envisions a world where unique cultural expressions are celebrated as differing manifestations of our shared human experience. Through these differing cultural expressions, we can begin to know ourselves, each other, and our world in a deeper and more meaningful way. To learn more about our program in Guatemala, please watch this short documentary that highlights the teaching artists, students and parents involved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcQB73iiwdI.
Our connection to one another, despite borders and oceans and everything in between, is more visceral and tangible today than it ever has been. To cultivate the notion of global citizenship and the feeling of camaraderie among all of our planet’s peoples has never been more important. By connecting cultures, we are also contributing to a sense of belonging and a sense of understanding so that we may cooperate together for a more sustainable, diverse and thriving planet. To volunteer, register for an upcoming trip abroad or donate, please contact LEAF International at (828) 68-MUSIC or www.theLEAF.org
From the moment we enter into to the public school system (for those of us fortunate to be enlightened by this glorious US institution), we are poked and prodded with the question of ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ And thus begins our conditioning. What may seem to some like an innocent question in one’s human developmental journey is actually our first out-of-body experience that separates us from the divinity that we were born with and starts us thinking that we must be something BETTER or BIGGER than what we are as a child. Truth of the matter is, the wonder that we contain at the age of 5 is something that we often want to find our way back to as adults once the corporate workplace has put a padlock on our creativity and no promises of a stability future after our souls are invested in their profit-centric visions. So, my question to the question of ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ is ‘Why am I not already perfect as I am?’
Over the past few weeks, I had the pleasure of reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear while away in Costa Rica and I say with all gusto and cliche’ intended that it saved my life. After the initial shock of realizing how I had been scaring off my innate and authentic happiness by adopting a militant regimen with my creativity, I had the pleasure of realizing how much possibility I had in my life simply by creative inquisition. It was then that I finally accepted how much I loved writing as a form of communication and personal expression. With humans, I believe in the power of actions. With ideas, I trust in the power of words. The beautiful thing about this shift in my life is that I’m also taking ‘Writing for Interactive Media’ at @FullSailUniversity so, having the opportunity to reflect through writing was timely. While taking this course helped me to fine tune writing styles specific to Twitter, press releases, event coverage and reporting, I had to muster up the courage to face blogging and other social media on my own terms.
I am incredibly grateful that my journey is exactly where it is in this moment, as Elizabeth Gilbert states in Big Magic – “Trust me, your fear will always show up – especially when you’re trying to be inventive or innovative”.
LEAF Community Arts – a nonprofit organization based in Asheville, North Carolina – brought together a group of fifteen journeyers from February 13th to 21st to travel to Costa Rica’s indigenous communities. LEAF Community Arts (“LEAF”) has a mission to connect cultures and create community through music and arts. Since 2013, LEAF has been working in Costa Rica with communities and youth to preserve the authentic traditions of the peoples that first called the lands home. In 2014, LEAF established a partnership with Isaiah Mosteller of Discovery Expeditions to organize trips to the nine countries in which LEAF works. The recent February 2016 trip was the third expedition that was the result of this partnership. The following report is a brief synopsis to recount the sequence of events of the voyage to Costa Rica.
In San José, Costa Rica the entire community is living according to the Costa Rican way of “pura vida”, which translates to “simple life” in English. The group slowly arrived the doorstep of the Hostel Casa del Parque and fell in sync instantly with the global village of travelers and volunteers staying at the hostel. Upon arriving in San José, the group connected for an evening rendezvous with the LEAF Ambassador team for a welcome dinner. Valentine’s Day, a day of romantic love for most of the world was a day filled with love for the Costa Rican culture.
Morning visit to Indigenous Craft Market, Pedestrian mall, National Theater, Plazas and Main Cathedral followed by a guided tour of one an anthropology museum with Luis Porras, director of LEAF International’s partner, Proyecto Jirondai deepened the understanding of the impact that music and arts traditions of First Nations. The evening was capped with a meet and greet & performance with Alexis Rodriguez, LEAF International teaching artist with the Ngöbe-Buble First Nation.
The next part of the journey involved a trek to Puerto Viejo of the Talamanca region, which began with a visit to “Cacao South” – partner farm and fermentary of Asheville’s French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The group then arrived at Rocking J’s hostel for a two day visit to Playa Colces followed by a Suretka river crossing into the Bri Bri First Nation. Once in Amubri, the group checked into the Koswak Lodge, where we were to remain for the following three days. While in Amubri, the heart of LEAF’s work on an international scale was at the fingertips of the journeyers. The LEAF International-sponsored radio station and the Siwawe Sulayöm Colegio (local high school) were among the first two stops in the Amubri community. The next day in Amubri began with a cultural exchange with the local primary school students, a visit with LEAF International Teaching Artist, Jairo Sanchez and his Sebac drumming class at the Conical House. The final day in Amubri included a cacao ceremonial demonstration an afternoon hike up to a local waterfall/overlook and an evening cultural exchange and performance: music and dance with open participation from LEAF ambassadors and the Bri Bri community which resulted in a gift exchange of cultural music instruments. As stated by Luis Porras, Proyecto Jirondai Director and LEAF International Partner – “Our government has been doing a good job of making us forget that we have an ancient history in this land”. It is the hope of the organizers of the international event that the knowledge and heart of this journey will carry the blossoming artists and global citizens to their next destination and then some.
Most of us can relate to having a stressful work week whether it is job-related tasks or personal tasks that add to our mountain of to-dos. Staying centered in spite of what is happening around us is an important personal development strategy that can help maintain the levels of energy and awareness needed to achieve goals. As someone that believes in work/life balance, efficiency and time management, I decided to author this article for others that may need a quick how-to for keeping a state of balance and grounding.
- Start each day by saying ‘thank you’ first. Start your day with a list of at least 5 things you’re grateful for, you create the opportunity for abundance to be apart of your daily experience. You also prime your mind and spirit to focus on the positive that may come along during the day rather than the stress.
- Use your lunch break to practice stillness. For most of us, lunch breaks are either 30 or 60 minutes. Research shows that a daily meditation practice can reduce stress and help foster healthy mental activity. Mid-day is a great time to have an energetic refresher.
- Stay hydrated with distilled water or herbal tea. Keeping a good rhythm of water and herbal tea intake can help to keep the body functioning at a normal level (without going into dehydration mode), leaving you to use your energy exactly how you need to.
- Laugh at least once per day. Have you ever heard the old adage – ‘laughter is medicine’? Well, it’s true! Laughter can release positive, happy endorphins allowing the body to relax and ease anxiety/tension. If you aren’t naturally around funny people (or funny yourself), YouTube videos of pranks, cute kittens or goofy puppies might do the trick.
- Do something you love that doesn’t depend on other people. Sometimes we spend so much time on the job or in other roles that we don’t have a spare second to think about ourselves or set aside time that is pre-planned or connected to a task list. What would it feel like to do something for yourself that you didn’t have to over-explain to someone else?
- Spend five minutes in nature. Ever feel like your mood completely shifts once you walk outside of your office? Due to the high amounts of oxygen that plants produce, you will literally feel like you just got a breath of fresh air!
- Ask yourself what you can do to be better prepared next time. Often, the more that we are prepared and organized for situations that we know are around the corner the less they catch us off-guard. Consider what systems of organization can be put in place to help alleviate some uncertainty.
For this article, we sit down with Rachael Kilgour , Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 NewSong Contest, winner of the 2015 LEAF Newsong Contest and Finalist in the 2015 Telluride Troubadour Competition. Minnesota based singer-songwriter Rachael Kilgour effortlessly merges the personal and political, engaging and inspiring listeners of all backgrounds.
“Our partnership with LEAF to produce the annual LEAF-NewSong (Singer-Songwriter) Competition has quickly become one of the highlights of our annual suite of programs. Last year’s 2nd Annual LEAF-NewSong Competition attracted an amazingly talented and eclectic group of artists from across the country, including Minnesota’s Rachael Kilgour, who as the LEAF winner advanced to perform and ultimately win the grand prize of our international live performance and songwriting competition at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. I look forward to discovering what new talent comes our way again in this year’s LEAF-NewSong Competition!” – Gar Ragland, Founder & CEO NewSong Music
LEAF is a nonprofit that seeks to create community through music and arts. Tell us how you came to be a part of the LEAF community and what impact this has made on your life?
I was invited to the 2015 LEAF Spring Festival as a finalist in the LEAF Newsong Contest. It was my very first time in the state of North Carolina. I remember exiting the airport and noticing how sweet the air smelled in May! Something that seems to ring true in my experience at LEAF is that the folks who attend music festivals often create quick and beautiful communities. It takes a certain type of person to commit to sleeping and showering and eating outdoors and filling their days with new musical experiences. I felt so very welcome from the moment I walked onto the grounds. I was so grateful for the invitations to join song circles and bonfires, the sharing of stories and food and the attention paid to each performance – including my own. I look forward to returning in the future.
LEAF is a nonprofit that seeks to connect cultures through music and arts. Tell us what cultures or practices you’ve learned about during interactions with LEAF?
I really loved participating in this year’s fall festival, though my work didn’t necessarily fit the theme. I met some incredible artists from New Orleans whom I was very inspired by. The way in which LEAF focuses heavily on one musical culture at a time gives way for a lot of enjoyable learning.
What has been a transformational moment on your artistic journey so far?
I think the most transformational moment in both my personal and artistic journey has been parenting. There was a shift in how I wrote songs once I started parenting my stepdaughter – a deep acceptance of myself and a longing to make the world a more just and honest place for her. The love I have for her is bigger than anything else I’ve experienced in life so far. The songs I’ve written for her still knock me over and leave me in tears. Learning how to capture such gigantic feelings within a three and a half minute song is one of my most treasured accomplishments.
What things do you keep near and dear on the pursuit of happiness?
It is very important for me to live out my values as best as I can. I focus a lot of energy on checking in with myself and trusting my own moral compass. I thrive in community, I work to trust my own intuition and needs, I grow through discomfort, and I practice cherishing each moment and noticing joy as often as possible.
What does the road ahead look like for you?
I am in the final stages of putting together a new album of original music which I plan to release this spring. I also have a year of exciting opportunities that have been offered to me from Newsong Music as the winner of their Newsong Contest: In a couple days I head out to the Sundance Film Festival to play at the ASCAP Music Cafe, I also get a concert of my own the the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in NYC in 2016 and I will return to Asheville to record an EP at the Echo Mountain Studios. Quite an assortment of exciting experiences coming up in my life. I am ready and willing.
For more information on the NewSong Singer-Songwriter Competition, please visit https://www.newsong-music.com/contest. The 3rd Annual LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition launches on Tuesday, Feburary 9th.
For more information on Rachael Kilgour, please visit https://www.rachaelkilgour.com or her Facebook or Twitter pages.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Cortina Caldwell | email@example.com
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About LEAF | LEAF Schools & Streets | LEAF International | LEAF Festival
Asheville, NC (January 31, 2016) – LEAF Community Arts (LEAF) has been apart of the Western North Carolina community for more than 20 years. In that time, partnerships, community collaborations, sponsorship and donor relationships have all blossomed into long-term investments not only into the organization, but into the futures of the youth that the organization works with. Specifically, LEAF MemberSHIP, the organization’s newest source of support and fundraising dollars, has seen an increase of 200 members in the past 2 years, bringing total count up to around 1,500 members annually. The organization would love to see this program expand – by doubling in number of members annually – by May 12th, 2016. Information and registration on MemberSHIP can be found at theLEAF.org/membership.
“LEAF dreams of deepening our connection to the communities we serve by establishing sustainable practices such as investing in LEAF Teaching Artists; establishing community liaisons; fostering cultural exchanges locally or LEAF International students and much, much more, states Jennifer Pickering, Founder & Executive Director of LEAF Community Arts (theLEAF.org, 2016). LEAF Community Arts is a non-profit organization, building community, connecting cultures and enriching lives through the arts – locally and globally – with festivals, community events, and arts education programs (theLEAF.org, 2016). LEAF, a 501(c)3 since 2012, seeks to be the model for cultural arts education in marginalized communities, cities and isolated organizations.
In 2015, LEAF empowered more than 9,000 youth locally and globally with community driven cultural arts programs. Many of these children live on the margins of our society with limited access to opportunities that support holistic development. Through LEAF International and LEAF Schools & Streets, these students have opportunities to thrive. LEAF Members are members of the community that believe in LEAF’s ability to help children thrive though: community value; cultural competency; creative arts; personal power; self-esteem; and adult role models (how success is measured). By partnering with LEAF and joining the LEAF MemberSHIP, individuals co-create transformative experiences rooted in arts and culture with boundless possibilities for achievement.
Consider joining the LEAF Membership, visit theLEAF.org/membership to find out more about the membership levels or to sign up. To join the conversation on social media – Facebook, Instagram & Twitter – use hashtag:
These past four weeks have been profoundly informative on my journey to understand how the internet influences public relations, communications and relationship building with outlets. Prior to taking the course – ‘Public Relations in a Digital World’, I did not have a true understanding of how communication tools like social media, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), digital press releases or a website for the personal brand impacts public perception and credibility.
Thought leaders such as Abraham Maslow, Robert Cialdini, and Solomon Asch helped to provide context for critical analysis on the effectiveness of the Volkswagen branding strategies. Development of a digital PSA was impactful in the understanding of call to actions, creating a sense of urgency in communications and how to edit video with a pre-determined script. The publication of a website brought together the various elements involved with managing relationships by weaving blogging, social media, website design, and branding strategy onto one site. I then recognized the power in a domain name and the actual capacity of what it can hold. The research and execution of a digital press release helped to identify an organization that I was passionate about and shared the same values that I hold personally.
Overall, what I realize after these past four weeks is that public relations is truly about how we communicate with our external environment in order to create and/or sustain a connection, relationship or way of being together. Starbucks Coffee Chairman & Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Howard Schultz states “Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” This quote by Schultz is a display of the paradigm shift in business, branding and marketing over the last few years. It is now the age of innovation. The traditional ways of a ‘survive and provide’ mentality no longer serve as the primary mode of thought. There is choice and the power of creativity, which facilitates the conditions in which genuine connections can be made. That is the state of public relations in the New Millennium.