Radio Interview Transcripts

MorePhotos Radio - Bert Behnke for ImagingUSA


ANNOUNCER:  Welcome to the More Photos’ Radio Photography Spotlight brought to you by helping professional photographers with all their internet needs world wide. Also brought to you by Finally, an e-commerce solution for professional photo labs that makes sense. Now here’s your host, Damien Allen. 

DAMIEN: Good afternoon and welcome to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen, and I’m in the studio today via the telephone with Mr. Bert Behnke with the PPA Charities. Good afternoon, Bert, and welcome to the program.

 BERT: Thank you, Damien, and how are you today?
DAMIEN: I’m doing just fine. Hope you’re doing fine as well. You’re going to be speaking at the upcoming conference at the Imaging USA with a workshop called All Star Charitable Marketing. Could you tell us, please, what is this all about?
BERT: Sure. Well I’m just one of many speakers there. We have about 10 or 11 speakers coming in to give quick, concise little tips on how to use charitable marking in your business plan. Many photography studios get involved with either national or local charities as a good will gesture to give back to the community, and we’ve always found that that’s also a great way to keep your name positioned in front of a lot of your local business people and citizens as the studio to go to when they are looking for work also.
DAMIEN: How did you get started with the PPA Charities and what kind of need did you see that made you want to take this path?
BERT: Well actually I’m second generation in my business so I’ve always been watching my folks when I was young and they were always involved with the community and back in 1997 when I incoming president of PPA, I thought it would be a good idea for PPA to finally get involved with a charitable entity to give back to the communities and our ideal was to find different children’s and women’s charities that we could help out utilizing our, at the time, I think 15,000 member base where maybe as individuals you couldn’t do too much financially, but as a group I thought we could do something substantial to help out different charities. So that was established in 1997 by the Board of Directors of PPA.
DAMIEN: One of the programs that you are working with is called Operation Smile. What is Operation Smile and what are the goals for this year and next year?
BERT: Operation Smile is an unusual organization out of Norfolk, Virginia, that does cleft pallets and cleft lip and other facial deformity surgeries to children all over the world. Some in the United States, but mostly it’s an international group. I know they have done over a 100,000 surgeries so far for children all over. They have a hard cost of $240 per surgery which is pretty amazing when you think about what they do. They have doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, dentists; all kind of medical professionals from all over the world that donate their time to go on all these missions, and I believe if my numbers are correct, they did about 150 – 160 missions just in 2009 this year. 

DAMIEN: I understand that you had gone down to Paraguay to help with this Operation Smile. Could you share a little bit about your experiences down there? 

BERT: Oh, certainly. We have been involved with Operation Smile for about 5 or 6 years with PPA Charities, and one of the things I have been doing is as Executive Director of PPA Charities, our goal is to raise as much money as we can to help them so I always mention that if they ever need a hand doing photography or sweeping the floor or anything else on a mission, give me a call and this year they did and it was just an amazing opportunity and amazing trip. It was sunshine in Paraguay for 12 days. When I arrived, the first three days we did screenings of about 260 children and some young adults that had different facial problems and of those 260 they selected 115 to have surgery the next week. On Saturday after the end of the first week, I got to see the faces of the people who were selected and then unfortunately of those who weren’t selected. It just made me understand a little bit more they have a little more preference to the younger children, because they can still teach them or retrain the to speak with like cleft surgery it’s harder to do with the older ones. So they try to get as many of the young ones taken care of early in their lives. And then the next week was just an amazing thing watching all these professionals get together. It wasn’t quite like surgery here in the United States. The conditions and the facilities weren’t as beautiful and grandiose like we have here, but it had five surgery beds and they did about 25 surgeries a day except for the last day they only did 15, but to watch these parents have their children go into surgery with the doctors that many of them don’t even speak the same language, but were all smiling and hugging and things like that. And just a couple hours later they would go from having this problem to what I like to call being fixed. There was a great story one of the first days I was there, I met a little girl who her name was Blanca. She was 10 and we got to talk to her through an interpreter, and we asked her where she was from and all the standard questions, and we said, what are you hoping to have happen while you’re here, and she said all she really wanted was for the kids to stop making fun of her at home. And, of course, it made us very emotional, and I took one look at her, and she was just the most beautiful little girl, but she had the cleft lip with the teeth sticking out and things like that, and I told her don’t worry, sweetheart, as soon as we’re done, you’re going to be asked to the prom by about a dozen boys in your class. And as the week went on, I found out she also had a little brother there who was 9 and a sister who was 2 so there were three of them from the family. All of them got surgery and on the last day when I went back to see them, their parents were there. The three of them were their with their 3 month old little sister who of course the parents had to bring with, and I just couldn’t tell you the feeling it gave me to see them smiling , how grateful they were to all of the professionals who were down there, and I got to be the beneficiary of all the hugs and thank you’s when they were leaving, but it was just amazing; just amazing the work they do, and we were glad to just be a part of it, to support them with our fundraising. 

DAMIEN:  In deed. Besides Operation Smile, what other charitable activities has the PPA been involved in? 

BERT: We, obviously, encourage our members to be very active in their local communities. I know I am here with different organizations, but PPA Charities specifically the first organization we were involved with was the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation. We have also been involved with the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital down in Memphis and we have also helped a lot of our own members either through personal crisis; we had a fellow photographer who suffered an aneurysm last year at our photographic print judging and by having PPA Charities in place it gave a place for all of his friends and colleagues to donate money to help defray his costs especially with him being stuck in Atlanta. To be in Atlanta where he was hospitalized and his home was in New Jersey so we were able to help fly his wife down and give them some financial help. We have helped many of the photographers who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina a few years ago and we have just done different things on a smaller scale to help different members and different organizations. 

DAMIEN: We need to take a short commercial break to let the sponsors get a word in. We are on the phone today with Bert Behnke, and we’ll be right back with more More Photos Radio. 

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ANNOUNCER:  We now return you to More Photos Radio Photography Spotlight. 

DAMIEN:  Good afternoon and welcome back to More Photos Radio. I’m Damien Allen, and again we are speaking with Mr. Bert Behnke. He is going to be speaking at the upcoming conference at Imaging USA. He has a workshop called All Star Charitable Marketing. Welcome back to the program, Bert.   BERT: Hey, Damien, glad to be back. 

DAMIEN: What day and times will your workshop be held during the conference?

BERT: The workshop is going to be one of the pre-convention classes on Saturday, January 9th. We are starting at 9 in the morning and will go till 5 that day, and we have a ton of speakers that are coming out to share their ideas. We scheduled 30 minute segments with many of the top marketing people in PPA in the photographic profession. We have things like Mary Fisk Taylor out of Virginia talking about real life community fundraising and how they do it to position their studio. Jed and Vickie Taufer from Morton, Illinois. They are going to be talking about event marketing. They are really strong in hosting events at their studio to bring people in and keep them exposed in the community. Sarah Petty from Bloomington, Illinois, is going to talk about creating your own charitable fund. She did it with a Santa Claus image she painted a couple years ago and raised a bunch of money for local charities. We have a woman from Ireland coming in and talking about how their association has banded together to raise a bunch of money for children in their country. Jeff and Julia Woods out of Washington, Illinois, are coming in to talk about their ArtReach program where they work with a local school to bring art into their school. So there is a whole bunch of different things. Then there will be myself and Graham Wilson from Colorado and we’re going to be speaking about the Operation Smile mission that we went on this year. We’re going to have time for the attendees to talk to each individual speaker one on one. We also have Lori Craft, Tim and Doug Waldon, Ann Monteith who is a marketing and management guru for so many people and Lori Nordstrom who is also a great marketer also. All of these people are going to be in this day giving programs to the students to help them establish their own charitable marketing concepts and events and things like that. It’s going to be a great day of education and an opportunity to learn a lot from the top speakers. 

DAMIEN: How can the participants find you at the convention? 

BERT: Oh, they can find me usually yelling. I’m someone usually running all over. PPA Charities has a booth in the tradeshow that we’ll be in Sunday through Tuesday on Saturday we’ll have the class we just talked about and also Saturday evening we have what we call our celebration event, and we will be having some fun, some dancing, a little bit of food, little bit of drink, and that’s the night that we give our yearly check to Operation Smile. They will be sending a few people down to join us, and this year we’re real excited. The past two years we’ve given over $50,000 and as of today we are well over $70,000 that we will be contributing this year. So we’re really excited as we just love giving them that big check every year. 

DAMIEN: How can other photographers help raise money or donate to Operation Smile?  

BERT: There are just so many ways. You can donate not only to Operation Smile, but any community organization, but specifically Operation Smile you can go to their site which is to get involved; see what it is they do. You can also set up little mini-websites I guess they are on your own website where you can contribute through your website to Operation Smile, but it as an association we would really like if they come right through PPA Charities, because the more we can do as a whole it just sheds a great light on our profession and our association and what we do. If they go to, it will tell them all about the different things we do; the different programs we offer, ways to contribute that can contribute for things we do such as Family Portrait Month to raise funds for Operation Smile. We have what we call an Operation Smile Studio program where they can get some marketing ideas and help with different things and that money goes for Operation Smile and they can also make memorial donations for family members or anything like that, but the best way is just to go to and they can find mostly everything right there. 

DAMIEN: How long have you been associated with the PPA, Bert, and how did you get involved? 

BERT: I’m second generation. I grew up and watched my parents involved. I actually joined myself in 1973 so I’m a 36 year member. I just had been real involved with my local association and then in the mid-80’s I had an opportunity to start working on some committees; got involved with committees, stuff with the Board of Directors and was really fortunate to become president in ’97 or ’98 and kind of seen it from the inside, the outside, and just about every way I could and it’s made me a better photographer, and I think a better business person by being involved with my association. 

DAMIEN: Well if somebody wants more information, Bert, where do they go? How do they get a hold of Bert Behnke? How do they find out more of…where do they contact? Where do they go? 

BERT: Ok. As I mentioned, is the easiest way. My email address is and they can contact me any time.

DAMIEN:   Thank you for joining us today and talking about what’s going on with Imaging USA and Operation Smile and all the great events and charitable contributions of PPA Charities. Thank you for joining us.

BERT: Well thank you, Damien. I appreciate you giving us the time to speak and hopefully we get to meet down at in Nashville this year.

DAMIEN: It was definitely our pleasure having you, sir, and we strongly encourage our listeners to attend your workshop and many others and attend the Imaging USA Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. You’ve been listening to More Photos Radio. My name is Damien Allen. Everyone have a great afternoon.

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