Thursday, 25 November 2010

PR – The Slow Burn Technique

Magazines do have a long shelf life. This is what Norwich PR consultant Paul Dickson discovered last year.

In 2007, I helped Illuminée Nganemariya, a Rwandan Genocide survivor living in Norwich, write her story of survival and subsequent life in the UK. It was published as Miracle in Kigali by The Tagman Press in October 2007.

How would it feel to wake up every morning for more than three months facing the prospect that you and your newborn baby are likely to be brutally murdered that day?
This was Illuminée’s experience. She and her son Roger, who was born during the Genocide, survived the 1994 attempt by Rwanda’s Hutu extremists to wipe their Tutsi neighbours from the face of the earth.

After watching her husband being dragged away to be killed by friends who had celebrated their wedding with them a month earlier, Illuminée embarked on a horrific journey through the Genocide with Roger strapped to her back – their survival was a miracle.

Miracle in Kigali was promoted with Norwich, London and Rwanda launches, signing events, talks and media interviews. A magazine called the Norfolk Journal, which no longer exists, featured a two-page spread about the book, with a current photograph of Illuminée and Roger, in its January 2008 edition.

Fast forward to Christmas Eve 2009 – the phone rang in Illuminée’s flat. It was Mark Blaney, one of the producers of a new feature film called Africa United. His parents-in-law live near Fakenham, Norfolk and Mark happened to be in the county for Christmas. Africa United was five weeks from going into production and they still had not cast one of the main characters, Fabrice, a middle class teenage, Rwandan football fanatic.

Mark’s mother-in-law had just given him her old copy of the Norfolk Journal, which included the Miracle in Kigali feature and happened to include a reference to Roger’s footballing prowess.

Mark’s enthusiasm for his project was infectious and Illuminée agreed to the film’s Director, Debs Gardner-Paterson visiting Norwich straight after Christmas to audition Roger. This was rapidly followed by a second audition in London on 3 January. Four days later he was offered the part.

So, on 25 January, Roger flew out to Johanessburg for 10 weeks filming in South Africa, Rwanda and Burundi, and also returned to South Africa in June for the opening ceremony of the World Cup.

Africa United’s premiere was at the Odeon West End Leicester Square on 17 October. Roger experienced the full red carpet treatment with banks of photographers and news cameras. Then on 5 November he flew out to Kigali for the Rwandan premiere, meeting the President, Paul Kagame.

As a result of his work in Africa United, Roger was cast in a BBC docu-drama to be screened at Christmas and is now being represented by United Agents.

A miraculous year for Roger, the boy whose mother’s tenacity brought him through the Genocide, and who was discovered in Norwich thanks to a PR story in an old county magazine. Keep the dream!

For more information about Africa United see and Miracle in Kigali