Wherever my career takes me, I am a dietitian first and foremost. Never was this more evident than when I was asked to participate in a video shoot earlier this week by my employer.
Let me explain.
Late last week our staff received an email from our director that asked us to dress up in red on Tuesday. We’d actually done something similar a couple of months before for a cover shoot for our magazine (which turned out awesome by the way!). This time however, we weren’t given a reason. There was some speculation in the office that it must be related to our upcoming annual fundraising gala, but the exact purpose of the wardrobe request was kept secret.
So when Tuesday rolled around we all gathered in our garden courtyard. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive I noticed one of our maintenance guys bring over a case of Coca Cola, one of CSA’s biggest sponsors.
My mind started racing. What exactly was going on here? Next thing I knew our director was asking all the staff to grab a can of Coke. She walked us through a choreographed scene where our staff would be standing around chatting, then on cue, simultaneously look into the camera and proudly display our cans. The plan was to use this video at our upcoming gala to thank Coca Cola for their support. From a marketing perspective it’s a great idea and no doubt our sponsor will love it.
BUT, there was absolutely no way I could be a part of something like that. Can you imagine people who attend our gala, who either know me personally or from my writing as a dietitian, to see my smiling face on a video screen holding up a Coca Cola can? Personal credibility aside, what message would that be sending?
I had to break the news to my director on the spot.
She protested a little, but was mostly preoccupied with herding the other staff, so we didn’t have time to discuss further. I ended up watching the shoot from the side, which was a little awkward, but ultimately fine.
In the intervening days I haven’t actually spoken with my director about it but in our other conversations I haven’t sensed any animosity, so I think she understands. After the shoot one of my colleagues even thanked me for “standing up for my morals”.
I do want to mention here that I don’t necessarily judge CSA for any of the sponsorship deals they have. As a health professional, do I wish we didn’t partner with companies that have a history of co-opting public health (we’re also sponsored by a tobacco company)? Sure. But I can also appreciate the financial realities of running a non-profit organization whose operation relies entirely on corporate sponsors.
So, at the end of the day, I may be getting paid to edit a magazine and coordinate the website and social media for CSA, but nutrition is my thing.
I am, and always will be, a dietitian first.