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3 questions for Coral Darby on the Stand Up Initiative

Darby Comm's new Stand Up Initiative provides pro-bono PR work for worthy environmental projects and causes.

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Darby Comm’s new Stand Up Initiative provides pro-bono PR work for worthy environmental projects and causes.

Coral Darby
Coral Darby, founder and owner of Darby Communications // Photo: Courtesy

Coral Darby, queen bee at Darby Communications, believes that “it’s really important to put people first, before profit, and when you do that, profits follow.” Her 8-person boutique public relations firm based in Asheville, North Carolina, handles clients like Granite Gear, Aventura, Sierra Designs, IceMule, Astral, and Industrial Revolution to name a few.

Darby’s desire to give back can be traced to her internship in the marketing department at Patagonia in the early 90s, when she was a student at Colorado State University. “I spent a semester living in Yvon Chouinard’s guest house on the Pacific Coast Highway. One evening Yvon joined me for dinner,” Darby recalls. “I was in awe of this iconic man, but not fully aware of the magnitude of the experience. He told me great stories about living free and minimally and being as resourceful as possible.”

Darby recalls one tale he told her about his dirtbag days. While on a climbing trip, Chouinard found fresh steaks someone had tossed in a dumpster. He and his buddies feasted that night. “I remember him being so humble and speaking so passionately about his love for wild lands and adventure,” says Darby.

Flash forward twenty-something years, and Coral Darby is running a PR firm that is determined to do good work, and do its part in protecting the environment. She recently launched the Stand Up Initiative. It’s essentially a PR grant program in which she will donate the resources of her team and their expertise to worthy environmental causes.

“That internship [with Patagonia and Chouinard] guided my career and continues to inspire me,” says Darby, now 45. “I realize how important it is for Darby Communications to take leads from those we respect the most.”

1. What gave you the idea to launch this program? Any specific non-profit that inspired you? 

After the election in November, we knew we wanted to stand up for smaller non-profits who may see a lack of funding and support moving forward. We have done pro-bono work in the past and thought this would be a way to make the most impact for a variety of groups across the board instead of just one. Plus, the team felt the impetus to get involved beyond an annual donation. The Darby crew wants to be on the front line, helping these important organizations get heard.

There are many environmental non-profits in our state, and our hometown of Asheville, specifically, that we admire and who are doing everything they can to protect the wild spaces that we all love. Without the hard work they do on a daily basis, the Appalachian mountains and our local rivers would not be preserved and protected for us to enjoy. We know these hard-working non-profits are throughout the U.S., and that’s why we wanted to open up the initiative to all small environmental non-profits throughout the nation. Our goal is to always support one group here in western North Carolina and then work with others throughout the U.S.

 2. What will the selection process be?

The application process will reopen annually, at which time we will determine the non-profits we will work with in the following year. This year, requests that exhibit the greatest environmental benefit, including clean air, clean water, climate change and deforestation mitigation, will be given the highest consideration alongside a project that could benefit the most from PR support. This year we will work with 3 non-profits, in following years we will work with 4 per year (1/quarter). The application process will reopen in December for 2018.

The Darby Comm crew stands up for environmental non-profits. Back row left to right: Suzanne Hermann, Shelly Smith, Angie Robinson, Carly Fleming, Isaac Presson, Coral Darby Front: Julie Bacon, Julie Hansell // Photo: Courtesy

3. Other PR companies do pro-bono work for nonprofits. What makes this program different?

The Stand Up Initiative focuses on smaller non-profits, the organizations that are less likely to be backed by large communications firms. We definitely admire what our peers are doing and we have offered our services to organizations such as the American Hiking Society in the past. Our concern today is about the smaller organizations that are fighting to protect our mountains and streams, wildlife, and water quality. Since they are more likely to fall under the radar, we are dedicating our pro-bono hours to them, and by incorporating the application process we can ensure that we are providing PR support to these groups when and where they need it the most.