So, why are we here on earth?

by Bob Hope

Every human wants to feel significant and appreciated.  But that can sometimes seem like an impossible goal.

After all, there are eight billion people on earth, and each of us is only granted a relatively short and finite time on earth.  There are millions of solar systems and planets.  Our significance can cynically be seen as not more important than a speck of dust in the continuum of time.

I think I solved that dilemma.  I ventured to a very remote place 25 years ago.  It is the Agalta Valley in the state of Olancho in rural Honduras.  Olancho, if you don’t know, is known as the “Wild West” of Honduras.  Its theme was printed on T-shirts that read, “Olancho.  Come if you will. Leave if you can.”  It was a place of legend.  The legend was the “Lost City of the Monkey Gods.”  The ghosts of the monkey gods were supposedly in the mountains, and anyone who ventured into the valley would be cursed.  Luckily, I didn’t know that.

We traveled eleven hours from the airport in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, the last several hours on treacherous dirt roads winding through the mountains.  When we approached a river or stream, the only option was to find a shallow place to drive through.  There were no bridges.

The only people who lived there were the natives whose homes were tiny houses made of mud bricks and whatever other materials they could gather to use for construction.  They were lovely people, but they had nothing.  Somehow, they didn’t seem poor.  They were happy; they just didn’t have any possessions.  They also didn’t have schools.  It was a place that time and the government had forgotten.

I asked teenagers what they wanted to do when they grew up.  Their responses were based on what they knew.  All the girls wanted to have babies and live in their villages.  The boys wanted to be truck drivers (there were only a very few trucks) and ranch guards.  It was a remote but very simple life.

I was charmed and wanted to do something to help.  An organization called Honduras Outreach, based in Atlanta, had built a ranch there, and church groups had begun visiting and working in villages installing cement floors, building latrines and basins for washing.  That didn’t appeal to me.  I asked if there were other options.  I was told they wanted schools and asked if I could bring some people from the states and help them figure out how to build schools.  I agreed to try.

That was a quarter century ago.  Since then, each spring I gather a group of friends and friends of friends to travel to the place.  There are now over 50 of us.  We’ve helped fund and build marvelous schools, schools that would rival anything you might have in your community.  In a country where only about 60 percent of youngsters ever go to school and only about 60 percent of those make it through sixth grade, our students all graduate from high school and almost all go on to college.  They are bright, bright-eyed, and even though I don’t speak Spanish, they speak English.  It teaches clearly that education is the solution to almost all problems when it comes to building a community and converting difficult living conditions into living in a paradise.

I just returned from this year’s trip.  The school complex is beautiful, and the students are even more beautiful. They are filled with hopes and dreams.  When asked what they would like to do in their lives, answers include being a doctor, or a scientist or a computer programmer.  The schools are mostly built and just need upgrading and maintenance.  When we arrived, there was a brand-new cement building that would become the first grade and kindergarten.  Our group quickly had it painted and ready for students.  There were other projects at the school, but with 50 of us, two teams volunteered to travel to somewhat remote (an hour and a half away) mountain villages and put in the cement floor in homes, build latrines and basins for bathing.  Others divided up to do assorted projects, like installing 125 water filters in homes so they would have clean water to drink.

It is an amazing experience.  Everyone in the group thrives on the joy of helping others, meeting new friends and better understanding what’s important in life.  One of the most amazing things is how people in our group bond and become lifetime friends.

Even those who reluctantly came on the trip are committing to come back in the future.  I am not suggesting that a trip like this is for everyone.  Sometimes our group members come once, and that is enough for them.  However, for everyone, it is an experiment to find a purpose and passion in life that adds to their own sense of significance and inspires them to give back some of the blessings they’ve accumulated.

I love this trip, this work, the people who have become friends in Honduras and greatly love the people who travel with me to this very remote place in the world.   You should consider trying it.  There is a chance that you might be hooked on it forever.  If you want to give it a try, our annual trip will be March 1-8 next year.  You are welcome to join us.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Why are people so mad? What is causing us to become so firmly planted in our ideas and beliefs that we cannot even engage with someone who may differ in those beliefs? It saddens me! So, what can we do to be happier and to coexist? 

There is such heightened polarization in the world, in our country, in our neighborhoods and even in our families. And when you couple that intolerance with the abundance and fascination with guns, we have a real catalyst for tragedy. Is there anything we can do?  I believe there are several things we as individuals MUST do.

First, accept that we are all different; we all have the freedom to believe as we choose. We may live in a neighborhood to which some have applied a label – racist or liberal or wealthy or poor – but the truth is, most neighborhoods are not generic, even if a label has been applied. Look for the good in each other. Find the commonality. We are all human! I am reminded of the remembrance Stephen Colbert shared about this friend Toby Keith after Keith’s recent death from stomach cancer. The two seemed to have very little in common. In fact, Cobert recalls that before meeting Keith for the first time, he stopped and said to himself, “He’s your guest. Make him feel welcome. See who he is.” When Cobert did that he said, “We hit it off like a house on fire. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed talking to him. And, evidently, Toby had a good time, too…” Certainly the public personas of these two would show them as adversaries, but they became good friends. They maintained different political views and different beliefs about many things, but they found their commonality, their humanity. Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet and scholar said, “The lamps are different, but the light is the same.”

Second, be happy! For many, that is an overwhelming and difficult task – and may even seem selfish. The Dalai Lama argues that it is just the opposite. Unhappy people are more self-absorbed than happy people, who are compassionate, helpful, and generous. That is why it is your purpose as a human to seek happiness. The key to happiness is peace of mind. This cannot be bought. Inner peace must come from within. The Dalai Lama espouses that the purpose of life is to be happy. Being happy involves understanding the difference between the sensory or physical and the mental feeling of joy. The sensory/physical is usually short-lived; inner/mental joy sustains itself.

“Be happy” is an easy phrase to say but much more difficult to actually be. Personally, I start by trying to be grateful for what I have. At my age, when I wake up each morning, I am grateful! One more day to enjoy! And before I go to sleep each night, I try to name three things I am grateful for that day. It could be an enjoyable conversation with a friend or family member, a beautiful sunrise or, on a more difficult day, simply that the day is finally over! I try not to worry too much about things. Worry isn’t helpful.  If I have a problem, I try to think of the best plan of action (or sometimes the worst that could happen) and then let it go.  That is not always easy. Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”

When I am able to do these things, I am happier, and I am a kinder, more tolerant person. “Remember, our purpose is not to separate ourselves from one another, but to join forces and collectively enhance the well-being of humanity,” Marcus Aurelius 

Or stated another way – A Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Pagan and an Atheist all walk into a coffee shop…and they talk, laugh, drink coffee and become good friends.  It’s not a joke. It’s what happens when you’re not an A!@#$%^.

What to Expect as We Navigate Our Way Through 2024

We have finally made it through the first month of 2024! Now that we have officially kicked-off the new year, let’s take a look at what we can expect to see in the world of public relations.

1. Data is Key

PR professionals are increasingly relying on analytics, tools and artificial intelligence to collect and examine data for more targeted and effective campaigns. By harnessing the power of data, we, as PR teams, can better understand an audience’s behavior, track campaign performance, and make informed decisions.

“A more meaningful and targeted message for the audience can go a long way and have a lasting impact on the brand in question. So keep an eye on data analytics and the tools that make a data-driven approach possible.”

PR Lab

2. AI and Chatbots

AI-powered chatbots are no longer a novelty; they are an essential part of modern public relations. AI-powered chatbots are being used for customer service, crisis management, and even media relations. They provide immediate responses, gather information, and offer a seamless communication network between organizations and their stakeholders.

In fact, our HBE team even attended a PRSA luncheon this month where we learned more about how these AI resources can also assist with event planning, script writing and so much more!

“Artificial intelligence serves as a valuable complement to human expertise, rather than a replacement, in our work. The use of AI-powered tools can help in areas such as analyzing data, providing real-time insights into public perception, generating content, and assisting in crafting strategies and responses.”

– Jenna Guarneri, Forbes

3. Hyper-personalization

Although AI is becoming increasingly powerful and popular, consumers and clients expect personalized experiences. PR campaigns are becoming more granular and tailored to specific audience segments. Hyper-personalization involves creating content and messaging that resonates on an individual level, fostering a stronger connection between brands and their target audiences.

“As consumer expectations shift and the demand for more authentic interactions increases, taking a more humanized approach in the way in which you interact with people is important… In this digital era, where we are seeing an exponential increase in AI-driven technology, emotional connections and the human touch are more crucial than ever.”

– Jenna Guarneri, Forbes

4. Social & Global Responsibility

Consumers are holding brands accountable for their social impact. PR professionals are likely to be helping organizations navigate social responsibility initiatives and communicate their efforts effectively. Ethical business practices and meaningful corporate social responsibility will be front and center.

Additionally, as the world faces an ever-evolving landscape of global crises, from health emergencies to geopolitical tensions, PR professionals need to be prepared for crisis communication on a global scale, emphasizing transparency and providing accurate information to alleviate risks.

“The definition of quality corporate social responsibility (CSR) in 2024 is very different from its definition just a few years ago. Consumers have been gravitating toward sustainability-focused brands for a while now, and they’ve grown ever more savvy at distinguishing real commitment from half-hearted CSR boilerplate. Accordingly, one of the central tasks of any PR firm in 2024 is going to be teaching brands the difference and helping them communicate their initiatives accordingly.”

– John Marino, Forbes

In conclusion, 2024 is marked by an assortment of technology, responsibility, and personalization. To succeed in this industry, PR professionals must continue to embrace data, leverage new technologies, and align their strategies with the values of their audiences. Staying adaptable is key to navigating the ever-changing PR landscape in the years ahead.

What other PR trends do you see heading our way this year? Let us know what you think we should be on the lookout for as we journey onward through 2024!

2023: A Name Change and a Step Forward in Multicultural Communications

By Gina Espinosa-Meltzer

We’re looking forward with excitement as we begin our 30th anniversary year. But first, I want to reflect on what was a very eventful 2023. 

When I joined Hope-Beckham two years ago, we set a goal to embrace the growing multicultural market, and we have done that successfully. 

We changed our name this year to Hope Beckham Espinosa. Adding a Hispanic name to the company, my name, is a clear statement of just how important this market is to us. 

We began 2023 with what became an award-winning multicultural campaign, Seguros al Volante (Safe at the Wheel), a corporate social responsibility effort to help Latinos learn how to drive more safely in the U.S. and to answer their many questions about how car insurance works here. It was also a successful sales, marketing and branding campaign for our client, auto insurer AssuranceAmerica. 

With more than 700,000 Hispanics living in metro Atlanta, more than 1 million in Georgia, and more than 62 million across the U.S., companies are increasingly aware of the fast-gowing Hispanic market. But it’s only a select few that have begun to communicate with this market, and not just by translating marketing materials into Spanish, but by understanding the culture and the ways to reach this audience. 

I urge you not to wait until Hispanic Heritage Month begins in September to start speaking with the Hispanic market, and don’t confine your efforts to that celebration, just as you should pay attention to the important African-American community all year, and not just during Black History Month. 

To help clients with the multicultural market, we continued to strengthen the talent on our team this year. 

We expanded our services to include a full range of communications offerings: media relations, social media, marketing, branding, community relations, events and corporate introductions. 

And because we know corporations are eager to diversify their supplier networks, we’ve applied for certification as both a minority-owned and woman-owned company. We expect to receive those certifications very soon. 

Bob Hope and the late Paul Beckham started Hope-Beckham in 1994, so we will celebrate our 30thanniversary in 2024. I’m incredibly honored to lead this company now, with Bob’s support, in a new direction, and to continue the legacy he and Paul started. 

Thank you to all our wonderful clients. It’s been a pleasure working with you this past year.  

We look forward to adding to that roster this year. Please reach out if we can help.