Some Positive PR

Some Positive PR

  • March 19, 2013

Some Positive PR

Guest post by Margaret Zygadlo

I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit two South American countries, one of which has gotten an extremely “bad rap” in the eyes of first-world countries. Brazil, and Rio De Janiero in particular, has been featured in a number of films, and an even larger number of news outlets. Unfortunately the parts of Rio that are most commonly shown are the Favelas – and they are always portrayed as the ghettos of one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever had the privilege to visit.

Though the incomes are lower, and the land ownership rights have had a different history than other areas, they may be the most culturally vibrant and uniquely beautiful parts of the city. The people are inviting and proud, the art is colourful and positive, and my safety was never once a concern.

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Catalytic Communities: One of the aims of Theresa Williamson of Catalytic Communities is to use some positive PR to change these world perceptions. She works with visiting media representatives to ensure that they have more of a holistic perspective of these Favela’s and the residents inside of them.

While staying in her home during my visit to the area, she was able to take me on a tour of a nearby Favela, and explained how her not-for-profit organization builds on the ideas of public and community relations.

As PR professionals, we work hard to maintain or to change the public perception of a product, a service, an event, whatever – much like Theresa and Catalytic Communities. Theresa’s challenge, however, is to change a very static perception that has been influenced by years of Hollywood sensationalism.

I can certainly understand the challenges that she has and WILL inevitably face with such a hefty end goal.

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Bringing It Home

While I was in the Favela beginning to understand Theresa’s challenge with this project, I tried to think of similar projects back home that are aiming to produce similar results. Due to the timing, I thought of London Drugs’ Anti-Bullying Pink Shirt Day, and their challenge of bringing awareness to an issue that had been ignored for many years. More importantly, they are hoping to change the actions of people through the sharing of their message against bullying. Through social media, and the support of more traditional media, London Drugs, brought to light the fact that everyone has had a run-in with bullying in some way. Many even openly told of stories where they themselves were the bully, which is not an easy secret to divulge. Overall, the initiative was extremely successful and the success is slowly moving east to share the powerful message and call for change in actions with the rest of Canada.

CTV Edmonton

Positive PR – regardless of where it happens, has the potential to create change in actions like in the case of the London Drugs Pink Shirt Day, or change in perceptions like Catalytic Communities and their goal of sharing the unique beauty and truth of Rio’s Favelas.

Good luck to all you PR professionals who face similar challenges either locally or internationally. It’s not an easy feat but success is sweet so keep pushing to make the changes you are working towards!



For nearly 10 years, I have had the pleasure of meeting many PR and communications students, and whenever they ask for my advice, I tell them two things.

1) Volunteer. It’s great experience, plus it’s always good to give back.

2) Travel (if one is able to). The experiences you gain through seeing and experiencing various cultures will always enhance your offering as a PR practitioner.

Margaret is validation of this. She has a deeper and richer understanding of PR principles as a result of her experiences abroad, and I thank her for sharing her experience and her learnings with us.