‘Get me an agent’
I have the occasional word about my experiences around Down’s Syndrome on this blog, and tend to keep this aspect of my life separated from my professional life as a journalist and PR. But this week my worlds collided, leaving me wondering if this post belongs on my personal or professional blog. Perhaps I will post on both?
In the week that I attended three interesting conferences – one about Autism and two about social media my social networks were buzzing about a little boy with Down’s Syndrome chosen to model for mainstream British retailer Marks & Spencer.
Suddenly Down’s Syndrome is cool! That is a sentence I never thought I would ever have the need to write. Amazing things do indeed happen.
Let’s be a bit marketing about this now tho. What does this campaign say about the leverage of online influence as opposed to traditional methods of launching campaigns and recruiting models? It says that companies (like Marks & Spencer) who promote family values and family life as well as a bit of glamour and aspiration, by listening to what their consumers are saying online, (the mum of this child-model originally contacted them via Facebook, natch), can find themselves having a massive PR hit when they respond in the way they have done.
They are featured on the front page of the Times of London, and all the main news outlets, traditional, broadcast, print and digi, are featuring the story. It’s the biggest free advert for a Christmas catalogue I have ever seen. Both for Marks & Spencer – and for Down’s Syndrome.
‘Good looking kid with perfect features and a pushy mum’ doesn’t really make a good headline, whereas this really heart-warming tale of a mum, fed up (like so many of us) of feeling sidelined due to raising a child with a learning disability and perhaps in the wave of euphoria of the Paralympic Games; who has posted a comment on Facebook and in doing so broken into the mainstream on behalf of us all, that’s a great human story.
Finally a positive tale of a child living well with Down’s Syndrome, to dominate Google searches for a while. It is about time the unheard happy tales of everyday life were read about – to balance out the usual fodder of ‘breakthroughs in pre-natal screening’ and stories of bullying or verbal abuse.
There are many groups on Facebook for parents with children who have Down’s Syndrome – the majority are closed groups and operate in secret. Maybe, just maybe, we will feel a bit more confident about blogging and talking about our kiddies and our experiences now. This is the wonderful thing about how online influence well, influences! I am happy to be writing this today.