“Everyone is powerful enough to change the world.”
When you hear someone of Michelle Obama’s stature saying those words in a room filled with 1,000 NYC-area schoolgirls, dignitaries and global leaders, you can’t help but think, “I CAN change the world. Let’s do this!” And that was the purpose of Glamour’s The Girl Project panel discussion, “The Power of the Educated Girl” – to inspire and remind us that we live in a world where we have the ability to affect change.
Last fall, Michelle Obama launched a social campaign as part of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative called #62MillionGirls to spread awareness and invoke action to help the 62 million girls around the world who are not in school. She asked supporters to post photos of themselves on Twitter and Instagram along with a message about what they learned in school using the hashtag.
With participants like President Obama, Amy Poehler and Beyonce, the campaign has reached millions.
The kickoff panel – star-studded enough to induce a “pinch-me” moment (hello Charlize Theron, founder of the Africa Outreach Project; Julia Gillard, Former Australian Prime Minister; 16-year-old Nurfahada, Plan International girl advocate; Sophia Bush, The Girl Project advisory board member; and Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine) – was about making this social movement an in-person discussion.
The points they stressed were not just inspirational for the cause, but empowering for the work we do in PR, for our clients and our own personal brands. Here are the key takeaways:
1) You can never and should never stop learning.
We may not be in school anymore, but that doesn’t mean we should stop educating ourselves. Education breeds understanding, tolerance and credibility. Set aside time to read about current events, take a class, volunteer (hey Access Emanate Cares!), and keep your ears and eyes open. The more knowledge you have, the better you will be able to represent yourself and your clients.
2) Use social media to create awareness and have a voice.
This seems straightforward, right? When your client launches a program or product, of course you’ll make sure they are using social channels to create awareness. However, this point alludes to a purpose beyond the standard. Use social channels to create personality, regularly show support and participate in conversations. They are the simplest and most cost-effective way to have a voice. With that comes the responsibility of knowing how many people you can reach, so whether you are representing yourself or your client, be conscious of the messages you’re putting out in the world.
3) Messages are nothing if not communicated well.
When we’re surrounded by so many talented communicators, it’s easy to forget that communication skills don’t come easily to everyone. As PR experts, we can speak to a client, learn their key objectives and messages and advise on how and where to communicate them. Michelle Obama said “There’s nothing you can’t do if you can communicate well.” She’s right and it’s important to remember the value we bring to the table.
4) See failure as opportunity.
When Julia Gillard was asked about her biggest failure, she commented that while unfortunate, she never regrets failure because it builds resilience and is one of the most effective forces in learning how to do something right or better. While we are professionals, it’s important to remember that failure is inevitable and the more you view it as an opportunity to improve, the stronger you will be.
5) Slow down. Be kind to yourself and others.
This piece of advice came from Miss Theron. As much as this was for the 1,000 adolescent girls sitting in front of her, you could tell the adults in the room took a deep breath as she said it, realizing it’s something we all too often don’t do. It’s amazing what happens when you simply smile at your colleague passing in the hallway or give yourself an hour to go to your Pilates class. You perform better, people respond better to you and you collaborate better – ultimately all benefiting clients and the environment around you.
Watch the panel discussion on Aol at aol.com/glamourforedu/.
Want to take action or learn more about Let Girls Learn? Check out letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov.