In PR and News, What We Do Can Actually Save Lives

“It’s not like we’re saving lives here?”

If you’ve worked in a newsroom or a PR firm, you’ve no doubt heard lines like that over the years.

Sure, it helps to keep yourself in check. But a story from this past weekend proves that sometimes, even in this environment of fractured, personal media, even when it seems like we’re drowning in a world of streaming options, political polarization and endless hype, news PR organizations can work together to do something that touches lives in truly amazing ways.

Here is the case in point:

In 2009, our longtime client, the MIU Men’s Health Foundation – started by urologist Dr. Michael Lutz to promote men’s health and raise money for prostate cancer research and patients – formed a media partnership with Fox owned-and-operated WJBK-TV in Detroit that focused on attention for two events. One – a Men’s Health Event, designed to provide free health screenings for men in the community who would not or could not see a doctor, and the Run For The Ribbon, a Father’s Day fundraiser at the Detroit Zoo. Over the years, this partnership has been a model for how a nonprofit and a local media organization can work together to create stories that can inform an audience, build a brand and grow a mission. Tanner Friedman has enjoyed the privilege of working year-to-year on helping to fulfill commitments, nurturing this relationship and bringing it to life on TV.

In October 2021, Fox 2 broadcast multiple live reports from the Men’s Health Event at Detroit’s Ford Field with coverage from reporter Veronica Meadows and photojournalist Brett Dickie. Here’s where the amazing story begins. Before the live shots, I let Veronica know that based on past years, multiple men will receive tests that day, at the football stadium, that inform them they have prostate cancer, which can be a silent killer if not detected. We have a chance in the first live shots, before the doors opened, to encourage men to be there, even if they hadn’t planned on it, because it could actually save their lives.

At approximately that moment, a woman in Detroit turned on her TV to Fox 2. She saw Veronica and Brett’s coverage and called her brother, Elton, who lived nearby, and begged him to go get tested. Elton was in his early 50s but hadn’t been to a doctor in 12 years. He argued. He said he rides his bike every day and feels good. But she wouldn’t back down. She kept begging. He gave in and, because his sister saw the TV stories, he went to Ford Field to get screened.

In early December, Elton got his test results in the mail, which recommended he see a doctor to talk about one high number in particular. In mid-December, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

After successful surgery in February, and likely only because he got it detected and removed, he’s feeling great. Elton and his sister attended the Run For The Ribbon on Sunday to celebrate his survivorship. Once we put it all together and after the goosebumps got just a little smaller, we were able work together to tell his story on live TV. Watch it here.

For us in PR and news, when we do it right, maybe we can save lives. If nothing else, when we work with great professionals, it sure can be fulfilling. And we’re really, really lucky, we can see how what we do matters, right before our eyes.