Getting in depth knowledge of the media landscape is one of the many perks of working in public relations. I mean, let’s face it, publicists are used to pitching all day, whether a product or corporate byline, it teaches you the value of research and how a well-thought out pitch can be used to tell a story. This year I challenged myself to use my media knowledge to help one of my closest friends.
Around November of last year, Shameth Diaz, 28, was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst located between his cerebellum and occipital lobe, forcing the bottom portion of his brain out of his skull. The size of the cyst directly affected his motor skills, balance and vision. The cost for a surgery is astounding. Therefore, Shameth (reluctantly) launched a GoFundMe page, asking his friends and loved ones for support for a hopeful January operation.
While there was little I could do financially, I immediately put on my publicist hat. Exclaiming, “Shay, this is perfect! I’m going to pitch your story!” I thought, if I can get his story in widely read New York paper or even on television, it could help him reach his goal. Of course, this was easier said than done.
Having a well-thought out strategy and narrative is part of how you succeed with any campaign. Shay is a Bronx-born father of Latin-American decent, who also happens to be an avid runner with a fighting spirit, and boundless enthusiasm for life. With his compelling story in mind, I sought every newspaper and broadcast outlet in the metro-NY region including fitness magazines like Runner’s World. After tying his personal attributes into the pitch to further characterize Shay, I identified outlets who often share these stories with the hope they would cover his.
The pitch received amazing feedbacks and some placements. Even CBS expressed interest in Shay’s story which, prompted a NY1 reporter to tweet about the GoFundMe campaign. Two Bronx-based outlets also published his story on their websites, including one in which I helped coordinate an interview.
In the end, it is very encouraging and inspiring project for a dear friend that taught me how to stay focused and go after my dreams. Not only was Shay’s operation a success, he is completely healthy and I feel more fulfilled as a publicist knowing our skills can be used for good.