Paddling in to News Conference

Hartwell Carson, left, French Broad Riverkeeper, paddles in to news conference with flotilla following.

I really enjoyed one of my volunteer activities the other day. I helped the Western North Carolina Alliance in Asheville announce that it is the new home for the French Broad Riverkeeper through a license granted by the Waterkeeper Alliance.

We decided to make it a fun event by having the Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson, paddle in to a news conference on the bank of the river. Donna Lesenby, the Watauga Riverkeeper from Boone, NC and board member of the Waterkeeper Alliance was there, too, to join the paddle-in and give a few remarks.

Riverkeepers are a fun group of people to work with and have something to teach anyone who needs to speak with the news media and before audiences. As advocates and defenders of rivers and streams, they are promoters, educators and scientists. That involves a streak of showmanship as well as a lot of detailed, technical knowledge.

Hartwell swears he never got any public-speaker training, but I enjoyed watching him and Donna in action. They both spoke easily with the reporter from the Asheville Citizen-Times, who covered the event. She rode in a canoe – one of four canoes in the flotilla – and started taking notes immediately for her story. Donna worked very well with her on that, and their conversation continued on land after the news conference. Donna handled some politically sensitive questions with ease and confidence.

Hartwell handled his questions well, too, and he gave a relaxed, smiling presentation on camera for the local TV station that covered the event. He followed that up with a couple of radio interviews, again, speaking easily and knowledgeably with his interviewers.

As a PR guy, it’s a pleasure to work with people like that. When you’re well prepared and understand how all the pieces of a picture fit together, you become a credible source of information and an effective communicator. It’s something to keep in mind whether you’re working behind the scenes to prep a client or you are the one who’s out there representing your business or organization.