Monday, October 11, 2004


This is a heartwarming story about an engineer who is more effective in building relationships than most of us. She does it by using old technologies in innovative ways to help the poorest of the poor in Third World countries. Whether it is a new way to make charcoal that avoids overuse of forests or fixing a chlorine metering system with a toilet tank, Amy Smith has found unusual and interesting solutions to help people help themselves.

No wonder she was given a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation Award. Her solutions are as valuable as education programs that nonprofits spend millions to deliver. But she can do it for $20 when it comes to testing water.

She is a more effective PR practitioner than we who call ourselves that. It should be a lesson to stretch outside of skills sets that we know to focus on what people need. PR is less communication than action. It is how we behave as much as what we say about ourselves. Wouldn't you think that some larger engineering companies might have done the same things this woman has done? So far, they haven't. That should tell us something about the difference between real PR and nice-sounding but hollow statements.


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