I first learned about Leah Peterson doing research for a social media client a few years ago. I was trying to find women bloggers who would be interested in participating in a conference call with Gloria Steinem. (Yes, THAT Gloria Steinem. It really wasn't that hard.)
If you read Leah's blog you learn very quickly that she's really up front about her mental illness. She shares a lot of details. And I have to admit I was a little nervous about inviting her to the call. We were putting a high-profile client in a public setting, and we would be giving access to someone who wrote frequently about multiple personalities, drug addiction, and worse.
But here's the thing: it was quite clear the other moms knew her well. They all linked to her blog and said very nice things about her. I remember she featured interviews of other bloggers - and that's where I got the idea for the sidebar on the right. She was a full-fledged, credible member of an online community. She wrote a reasonably prominent blog. The only reason we'd be excluding her was her health status, and that's just wrong. So we invited her.
The conference call went well - the women asked great questions, and Gloria Steinem gave great answers. So, happy little PR flack that I am, I went to the blogs to see if the women would write about it. And I saw a post on every woman's personal blog except one - Leah's.
Turns out Leah published her piece on The Huffington Post. You know, that blog with the millions of visitors. So from a PR perspective, she went from being a "risky" choice to being an absolute no-brainer.
I kept in touch with Leah over the years, as any halfway-decent social media flack would - not as much as I keep in touch with some bloggers, but every now and then. I saw her at BlogHer '07 in Chicago and thanked her for the post she wrote. I wrote about a project she was working on called Real Mental. A couple of months ago she sent me a note out of the blue, asking me to contribute some stuff to her new magazine, LP Creative Humans, so I did.
And now I learn she's a consultant for Showtime's Emmy-winning series, The United States of Tara. She's doing it to help educate people about mental illness, get people talking about it, and reduce stigma. Not too shabby, huh?