The phone rang and a voice asked if I could provide some guidance about media coverage. It was Rachel Piercey, then Executive Director of The Pro Bono Project. I had met Rachel socially through a group of single women, who dined together once each month to discover New Orleans’ many new restaurants that were opening in the early 2000s.
Rachel explained to me that she had received a courtesy call from a colleague to let her know that an advocacy group was planning to protest outside the Justice For All Ball (JFAB). The group was unhappy about redevelopment plans for their neighborhood and had learned that the developer was planning to attend the JFAB. Naturally, this seemed like a good place for them to voice their displeasure. Local media had received notice and were expected to be there.
I chuckled, thinking about the old adage, “any publicity is good publicity” and recommended that Rachel should simply let the evening unfold as planned. There was nothing she could do to stop media from showing up, and any attention she might give to the situation would only put the gala evening in the line of fire.
I reasoned that the advocacy group’s argument was with the developer, and any coverage would be directed at the developer, not at the Ball or The Project. My experience also told me that on a Friday evening in New Orleans, news media would likely be chasing down other, more pressing news stories. While the advocacy group did show up, complete with signs, the news media did not. Of course, everyone in attendance at the Ball knew those involved, and ultimately it turned more into a collegial meeting of the minds than a full-fledged protest.
After this happened, I was permanently drafted onto the JFAB committee to provide public relations counsel.
Seventeen years later, you can still find me on the JFAB committee before the event, and on the beat at the JFAB managing media, and whatever else is going on behind the scenes that requires quiet attention. It’s my way of supporting staff, board, the JFAB Committee and the Honorary Chair in having an evening of good conversation, great food and social camaraderie before everyone goes back to their respective roles on Monday morning.
- Joanna Broussard, Public Relations Counsel
13th Annual - 30th Annual JFAB, 2001-2018
If you have a JFAB story to share, please send it to CC Kahr
Photos: JFAB 2001 invitation | (l to r) Monica Surprenant, Mark Surprenant, Joanna Broussard at JFAB 2008