Thursday, October 8, 2009

Calling for a cause....

With the shaky economy causing many businesses to shrink their marketing staffs and pull back on all 'unnecessary' expenditures, one of the areas that we believe should never be short changed is community service and philanthropy.

The team at Image Professors has long-lived a vision of giving back--working with viable non-profits and local organizations seeking to gain a stronger foothold in the media. We have been fortunate enough for the last four years, to be the communications agency of record for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress. ( October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and in Boston, some amazing and inspirational things are taking place that we just couldn't resist sharing. The most prominent is a competitive swim by 31-year-old Karen Gaffney, an accomplished swimmer and athlete, with Down syndrome. All major media outlets waited on shore nearly an hour for this young woman to complete her swim, culminating in some amazing media coverage for Karen and the Down syndrome cause. We couldn't be more proud to highlight this pinnacle moment in our philanthropic service to a very valuable cause. A sampling from the Boston Globe is below with a link to photos and video.

PR Professionals take note: Pro bono PR results in amazing rewards that are worth more than their weight in gold (or cash!). Don't forget to incorporate a few pro bono clients into your roster for balance and perspective.

A long, cold swim for a cause

October 8, 2009 06:47 PM
By Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

Karen Gaffney, a tiny woman -- 4 feet 9 inches, 95 pounds – who limps and can't use her left leg at all when she swims, nevertheless churned five miles through the frigid, choppy waters of Boston Harbor today.

It was no picnic. But Gaffney did it to prove a point – that people with Down Syndrome have "tremendous capabilities."
"I did this swim to show people what people like me can do," Gaffney, 31, of Portland, Ore., said as she warmed up after the swim at a celebration attended by friends, supporters and advocates at the L Street Bathhouse.
Gaffney began swimming from the lighthouse at Little Brewster Island to the beach at the bathhouse, accompanied by two pace swimmers, a kayak, four other boats, and, at one point, the Coast Guard. The conditions were choppy, with the wind coming out of the west at 15 to 25 knots, said her father, Jim Gaffney, making for a tough swim.
After about 1 1/2 miles, the swimmers were pulled out, partly because the Coast Guard had safety concerns, said Kayley Randall, executive director of the Karen Gaffney Foundation. The swimmers got back in the water at Prospect Cove and swam another 3 1/2 miles to the beach at the bathhouse.
Jim Gaffney said his daughter has had problems with her left hip since she first began to walk as toddler. And she has never been able to run. But that hasn't stopped her from developing the upper body strength of a long-distance swimmer.
"The conditions were really difficult," said Elaine Kornbau Howley, one of the open-water swimmers who paced Karen Gaffney. "She's just a really inspiring person."
The swim was a fundraiser for the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, whose executive director Maureen Gallagher, said, "We want our young people with Down Syndrome to have every opportunity for a full and productive life. And we know they can."
"It was really cold," Gaffney said. "The first maybe half an hour to 45 minutes it started getting really rough and then we kind of switched gears and shortened the route a little bit and made it a little easier."
How did she feel after her feat? "A little stiff, but I'm alive," Gaffney said.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Image Professors Founder Receives Media Honors....

While our business is predominantly focused on our clients, occasionally, the good work done by our firm is recognized by peer groups--which certainly is a nice bonus. Recently, our firm president and founder, Wendy Bulawa Agudelo, was awarded the 2009 MDSC Media Award for her work as the special needs liaison, columnist and freelance features writer for parenting publication, P&K. The newspaper was kind enough to feature an article on our founder on their home page, so we thought it worth linking to our blog as well, since it is pretty fabulous news.

Kudos to Wendy, our fearless and now, award-winning, leader!!

P&K Special Needs Liaison Wendy Bulawa Agudelo Receives Media Honors

Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Recognizes Local Columnist For Efforts to Supplant Misperceptions Surrounding Special Needs

At the recently held 25th Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) Annual Conference, Wendy Bulawa Agudelo, who operates public relations consulting firm Image Professors, Inc., and serves as special needs liaison and columnist for Parents & Kids (P&K) Magazine, was awarded the prestigious 2009 MDSC Media Award.

The MDSC Media Award was established eight years ago to recognize with honor a person or company who exemplifies the MDSC mission to disseminate up-to-date information about Down syndrome. Past MDSC Media Award recipients include Irv Shappell, founder of Woodbine House Publishers, Cynthia Kidder of Band of Angels Press, K.C. Myers of the Cape Cod Times, Gene Lavanchy of FOX-25 Morning News, Amy Marcus of the Wall Street Journal, and Beverly Beckham, columnist for the Boston Globe.

Agudelo is mother to Abigail, a three-year-old girl with Down syndrome, and twin one-year-old boys. Since the arrival of Abigail, Agudelo has made concerted efforts in her print and online writing to educate readers about special needs—including Down syndrome. Through several of her columns and articles, she has helped to dispel myths about Down syndrome, while providing factual information to keep the Down syndrome movement progressing forward. Her canvas is P&K Magazine, a highly-progressive regional parenting publication that has confidently taken the lead at shining, without fear, a consistent spotlight on special needs and related elements.

As special needs liaison and columnist for P&K, Agudelo received top honors for her ongoing series of articles boldly focusing on controversy over the word ‘retarded,’ to a February 2009 cover story on Integrated Sports Programs for children with disabilities. She introduced ‘Dual Diagnosis: Autism and Down syndrome,’ while highlighting a local parent support group, Morning Travelers 2, founded by a local mother of a child diagnosed with the unique combination of autism and Down syndrome, and raised awareness of ‘Prenatal Diagnosis’ and preliminary steps including genetic testing which reproductive couples can take in planning and preparing for their future family.

“Wendy has proven tremendous dedication to the Down syndrome cause and special needs in general by going to great lengths to research and uncover unique topics to introduce to her readers,” said Maureen Gallagher, executive director of the MDSC. “Her articles provide a factual and thoughtful perspective of a special needs world that not everyone understands, yet one of which we should be thoughtful and aware. We are very proud to honor Wendy with the 2009 Media Award.”

Down syndrome, which affects more than 5,000 individuals in the state of Massachusetts, is a genetic condition that knows no boundaries and appears within all nationalities, socio-economic classes, ethnic groups and races. Most people with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome present in all or some of their cells. This additional genetic material alters the course of development for more than six thousand babies born each year in the United States.

P&K has given the special needs community a consistent voice, and through the magazine, it has been my goal to share personal stories as well as useful information to raise awareness and help modify stereotypical mindsets about special needs,” said Agudelo. “The MDSC has been a home to my entire family and its wonderful group of member families, have provided inspiration and ideas to help supplant historic stereotypes and provide a more realistic, comforting and successful view of life with special needs. It’s my job and honor to turn those ideas into stories everyone can appreciate.”

About MDSC
Established in 1983, the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to education about and awareness of Down syndrome. MDSC was founded to provide information, resources and support for families, while advocating for the inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome into all aspects of the community. Additionally, the organization gathers and disseminates the most accurate and timely news relating to Down syndrome to educate the public, while actively and aggressively addressing social policy and legislatively-driven issues alongside state and local human service agencies. The MDSC Parent’s First Call program delivers much needed answers for couples who have received either a high risk result or confirmed Down syndrome diagnosis, and connects educated parents of children with Down syndrome, their knowledge and experiences, with those couples. More information about MDSC can be found at, or by calling 1-800-664-MDSC.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

State of Public Relations in Boston

According to reports from the well-respected and still-in-business Boston Business Journal, the Bay State is experiencing a serious downsizing of its public relations forces.

As a PR person myself, I too have experienced a decline in overall revenues, and new business pitches have slowed a bit, yet I'm happy to report that business continues. The link to the story is below, but I'd ask my fellow PR folk whether or not this is a sign of the times, or finally, a burst of the technology bubble? I entered the PR industry not only in Silicon Valley, but when the technology revolution (read Steve Jobs/Apple and Steve Wozniak-Bill Gates/Microsoft) were just in their garage-based infancy. Since then, the tech industry has seen amazing strides tied closely with the proliferation of media and the unique exchange of information method people now leverage--i.e. podcasts, social media, and blogging to name a few.

With significant print publication declines in readership, subscriptions, and advertising dollars, it was almost inevitable that the marketing function too would feel a cutback. And, it has. Sadly, it is the marketing function that generates momentum for the sales process and simply put, brand establishment and management.

I therefore submit advice to all businesses--big and small--make room in your budget for marketing/PR. Without it, you may build it, but who will come if no one is aware that what you built is available for trial or purchase?