I read an article recently about an incredible man on a mission.
Lewis Pugh is an endurance swimmer and he dived into the icy waters of Antarctica’s Ross Sea to swim around 350m in just his speedos. The air temperature was -370C, the water was -10C and there was a constant threat from killer whales and leopard seals.
He chose to do this to highlight an issue. The Ross Sea is the most pristine ocean ecosystem on earth, free from widespread pollution, invasive species, mining and overfishing and Lewis Pugh is fighting for it to become a Marine Protected Area.
The stunt – if you want to call it that – was extremely brave, but it was not simply the magnitude of what Lewis did that was so impressive. What impressed me more was that he knew that his six-minute swim was never going to be enough on its own.
Raising an issue is one thing, but for it to be a catalyst of change it is vital to get the right people taking notice and talking about it. Then you have to convince them to make the decisions that will ultimately make the difference. In many ways, the swim was the easy part.
Taking up a cause in any situation is a challenge. First and foremost it needs total conviction. A cause has to come from somewhere for others to believe it. For an individual like Lewis Pugh, who has swum in different ocean environments for the past thirty years, why he chose to swim in waters technically colder than ice is totally believable and awe-inspiring.
Likewise, for a company choosing a cause it must be one that resonates with the business or the people who work for it. If it is not clear ‘why?’ you are championing a cause, why will others be convinced to embrace and support it too? Like Lewis, too, a company championing a cause has to be ready to be courageous, focused and determined – all qualities, I might add, demonstrated brilliantly by Brenda Mitchell at Cycle Law Scotland, Ann Maxwell OBE at Muir Maxwell Trust and Mark Flannagan at Beating Bowel Cancer in our own stable of clients.
For me, Lewis’s story was captivating, but most of all it is a reminder that ultimately to achieve success what’s needed is a compelling blend of PR and public affairs.