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Ross and the Cure Parkinson’s Trust

Ross describes his meeting with the Cure Parkinson's Trust, the charity he'll be working with as part of the Donate28 initiative of The Marketing Academy.


Haven’t written a blog in a while, and in that time I’ve had two more incredible mentor sessions (with Helen Kellie, Director of Marketing for BBC Worldwide and Paul Brown, Director of Marketing & Communication at the Prince’s Trust), and met the charity I’ll be working with through the Donate28 initiative.  As always, I’ve got pages and pages of notes on the mentor sessions which I’ll share another time, but I thought I’d write a bit about Donate28 for a bit of variety.

The Marketing Academy isn’t a one-way street – I know we’re all truly grateful for the opportunity it gives us to meet some very senior and inspirational people in marketing, but it asks a commitment of us as well.  A commitment to give something back in two ways:

1) Donate28
The Academy shouldn’t just be about developing our own expertise and careers – it needs to spread further.  We can all help with this by writing blogs, uploading content to our YouTube channel etc.  But we also participate in an initiative called Donate28, whereby each scholar is matched with a small charity by the Foundation for Social Improvement with a view to spending a minimum of 1 day in the year with them helping with some sort of marketing problem.

2) The Apprenticeship
As well as targeting individuals already on a marketing career path, the Academy will be seeking to award a group of individuals aged between 18 and 23 an opportunity to take a year-long placement in full-time work experience.  And scholars like me will be involved in helping them through their year, with guidance and coaching.  More on that later in the year.

So focusing on Donate28, this week I met the charity I’ll be working with, the Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT).  I’d specifically requested to be paired with a Parkinson’s Disease charity as there is a history in my family, and so with some excitement and nervousness I visited the CPT on Thursday, where I met Fundraising Manager Theresa Samworth and Trust Coordinator Helen Matthews.

For a bit of background, Parkinson’s Disease is a degenerative disorder that effects all parts of a sufferer’s life – mind, body and soul.  It’s a movement disorder that impairs an individual’s motor skills, causes tremors, and slows physical movement among other things.  It’s an incredibly complex and individual condition – the impact varies from person to person.  It doesn’t kill, it imprisons – it’s a life sentence for anyone having to live with it, and gets progressively worse.  One in twenty diagnosed in the UK are under 40 years of age.

The Cure Parkinson’s Trust, though, is an entirely different type of organisation than that very bleak description implies.  It’s an organisation about hope – hope that a cure isn’t far off, and in the words of it’s President and Co-founder Tom Isaacs, “I think there will be a time when I can insert the words ‘used to’ when I say ‘I have Parkinson’s'”.  It’s about a group of people who aren’t suffering from Parkinson’s Disease – they’re living with Parkinson’s Disease, and they’re motivated and energised to make sure they see a time when they no longer have to.

I don’t think I can do justice to their cause in words, but they’ve made a tremendous short film I’d highly recommend everyone watch:


What I love about this charity is their focus – they’re like a very natural ‘challenger brand’ by virtue of knowing exactly what they’re about and pursuing it at all costs.  They’re not about care, or about generally raising awareness of the disease.  They’re about finding a cure, as quickly as possible.  And consequently, marketing is there to support and not lead their agenda.

Which gives me a challenge – I came away from our meeting genuinely moved, and desperate to help in whatever way I could.  But my experience is in an organisation where marketing is at the heart of what we do.  Everything the CPT does in terms of marketing has to work hard – they’ve got ridiculously limited resources, and quite rightly challenge everything they do that isn’t focused on their over-arching goal of finding a cure.  So I need to make sure whatever I help them with, it not only makes an immediate impact but is something they can leverage long after this year.

I’ve got a few ideas, and I’m going to be working with Theresa and Helen over the coming weeks to button down exactly what I’ll be doing.  In the mean time, if anyone has any ideas of their own, I’d love to hear them!  God knows I’ll be knocking on every door in my network over the next 9 months anyway, begging for help…



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