Lauren Belisle

Photo of Lauren Belisle

Account Executive
Washington DC
Posts: 9

Lauren is a former Account Executive at Ogilvy PR.

“Gamifying” Weight Loss and Behavior Change

May 21

We all know that weight loss is a simple equation – more calories expended than consumed. Eat healthy and increase physical activity. But if it was that easy to change behavior, break habits, and stave off cravings, then we would not be facing the problem of obesity among over one third of all adults in the U.S.

Last week, amidst all of the Weight of the Nation buzz, an article in The New York Times caught my eye. Nicole LaPorte’s article, “Dieting for Dollars (or Maybe a Movie Ticket),” presents a few important ideas:

  • “Gamification,” or applying techniques from games and psychology, can change real world behavior. The IBM engineers featured in the article wanted to make weight loss fun, so they took inspiration from their favorite video games to develop a program that helps with weight loss every step of the way.
  • Real time encouragement and feedback is key. The IBM program takes a card from the Honda Insight hybrid and gives immediate feedback on behavior – meaning someone is “scolded” when they eat a candy bar but praised when they opt for a salad.
  • Tangible rewards don’t hurt either. Beyond the encouragement, the program offers actual incentives like money and movie tickets as a reward for successful weight loss.
  • Workplace participation and support means success. IBM envisions the program being offered by health insurance providers through workplaces, meaning employees are encouraged to get up and take a 15 minute walk at lunchtime, or bike into the office. Institutionalizing healthy living and weight loss encourages actual lifestyle changes rather than fad diets.

Gaming is being applied more and more often in social marketing – and not just in the weight loss arena. For more posts about the use of games to change behavior, check out these previous posts: Using Games in Social Marketing and Modifying Behavior Through Video Games.

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Social Media Week Event Wrap Up: The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare

Feb 15

This morning we welcomed more than 100 social media and health enthusiasts to the Ogilvy Washington office for our social media week panel, The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare.

The panelists and audience discussed many facets of the same challenge: leveraging social to improve health.

A few highlights and common threads throughout the morning:

Using online interaction to foster offline action. Amy O’Connor of Eli Lilly noted that as her key driver – a much better way to define success than, for example, number of Twitter followers. On a similar note, Danielle Leach of Inspire brought up a case in which a group of women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection connected online and successfully advocated for the Mayo Clinic to create a patient pool of information on the condition.

Creating connections that aren’t likely to happen offline. Ogilvy’s Rebecca Davis emphasized the power of social media surrounding The Heart Truth campaign to bring people together. Danielle noted that people go online looking for people who are experiencing what they are experiencing.

Building community is not based on one-way brand-driven marketing. Joel Selzer of Ozmosis stressed the importance of basic two-way conversation, and Amy shared that she builds community by sharing the voice of others who you agree with rather than just the voice of the organization.

Regulation is a struggle. As one of the most highly regulated industries, we are constantly challenged to be impactful without violating FDA and other regulations or revealing patient information. Adapting engagement in order to be successful is crucial – Amy recommended talking about holistic issues, not products, so that engagement in real time is possible. Joel also endorsed the approach of taking calculated swings to foster a discussion that steers clear of adverse events and off label discussion.

Listening is essential. Rebecca highlighted the importance of listening, not only to identify potential red flags, but also so that senior executives can be educated on the existing conversation. On that note, she also mentioned the necessity for collaboration between web content developers and social media managers – if social media managers know where demand lies, an organization can streamline its content development and ensure that there will be interest.

Defining success is crucial. Amy asks herself who her target audience is and if she is reaching them. Joel aims to improve patient care and reduce costs. Rebecca brought up designating diagnostics that align with key performance indicators.

Achieving actual change in behavior remains the goal (and a challenge!). Danielle pointed out that people are connecting regardless of the stage of change that they’re in, while Rebecca touched on the importance of inspiring in people the motivation to change their behavior.

The future is about streamlining. Amy noted that bureaucracy within our organizations gets in the way, and Joel pointed out that moving beyond social media to social business that makes life easier for health care providers and other entities is where he sees the industry moving.

Like any good discussion, the crowd and panel raised as many questions as they answered. An audience member brought up the importance of prevention, and panelists acknowledged that reaching unengaged audiences is a challenge. Moderator Dana Allen-Greil asked if we’ve actually figured out how social media can improve health – something I think we’re all still refining as we go.

Thanks to everyone who attended the panel, and if you could not attend, view the tweets that made #smwhc a trending topic in DC. You can connect with our panelists at @danamuses @makegood @jbselz @LillyPad and @TeamInspire.

Ogilvy Washington Social Media Week Events on healthcare and more

Feb 03

You might think that after the Super Bowl there’s nothing to look forward to until President’s Day weekend – but you would be wrong!  Washington, DC is one of 12 cities worldwide hosting Social Media Week from February 13-17 and Ogilvy Washington would love to see you at one of our events.

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In social marketing and throughout PR, we know that social media channels allow us to reach nearly every segment of our target audience.  In the realm of health and behavior change, it’s especially crucial to have that one-on-one interaction with individuals.  Huge growth and social media adoption has taken place among health care consumers, providers, and organizations in the past year, but we have only just begun to embrace the possibilities for healthcare on social media.

On February 15 from 10-11:30am, please join thought leaders from across the health care and social media spectrums to discuss what’s next in social media for the industry.

The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare

  • Joel Selzer, Founder & CEO, Ozmosis
  • Danielle Leach, Director of Partnerships, Inspire
  • Amy O’Connor, Director, Digital Governmental Affairs, Eli Lilly
  • Dana Allen-Greil, Account Director/Digital Strategist, Ogilvy Washington
  • Rebecca Davis, Executive Vice President, Digital Influence, Ogilvy Washington.

To connect with our panelists and RSVP for the event, visit the Social Media Week website here.

If you can’t make this event (or want to come to more), Ogilvy Washington is hosting two other Social Media Week events:

On February 16 from 10-11am, Ogilvy’s Kety Esquivel and Julio Valeriano will share their expertise on reaching Hispanics in the U.S. (16% of the total population, according to the 2010 Census) through social networks, mobile technology, and content creation.  Email and visit here to RSVP.

  • Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence Digital Trivia Night

Let your knowledge (and random fact knowledge) in social media, design, development, and the Internet shine at Mackey’s on February 15 from 6-8:30pm.  If bragging rights aren’t enough, the $100 bar tab for the winning team should be ample motivation!

Visit the Social Media Week DC website or leave a comment here if you have any questions, and hope to see you at one of our events!

Wake-up calls and lifestyle changes

May 24

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times featured a great article about behavior change entitled “Why are unhealthy people so reluctant to change their lifestyles?”  In the article, Dr. Valerie Ulene, a preventive medicine specialist, examines just how much it takes for someone to adopt what she calls the three principles of healthy living: not smoking, five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and regular physical activity.

Many would think that serious health events like heart attacks or cancer survival would be the wake-up call that facilitates the adoption of a healthier lifestyle, but several recent studies have said otherwise.  For example, a Washington University study found that one year after a heart attack, 1,200 overweight men and women had lost an average of just 0.2% of their body weight.  A 2008 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that just 1 in 20 cancer survivors were following all three principles of healthy living (although most had given up smoking).

Clearly, there’s more to adopting a healthy lifestyle than just a wake-up call.  A third study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that physicians are lax in discussing lifestyle issues with patients following a diagnosis—just 1 in 3 were given diet recommendations, and 1 in 4 received physical activity advice.  Less than half were asked about smoking.  If doctors aren’t viewing health scares as wake-up calls, how exactly does someone get to the point where they’re willing to change?

According to the article, there are a few steps that lead up to a change of habits:

1) First, they must recognize that the benefit is worth the time and effort put into it

2) Then, they must prepare slowly by making small adjustments in their lifestyle

3) When they deem the small adjustments a success, they are ready to commit to change

Of course, committing to the change isn’t everything- it takes a lot of work to undertake and maintain a true lifestyle change.   One thing this article did not mention is that even if people are fully aware of all of the benefits and steps to undergoing a change, if the healthier choices aren’t easy to make, they’re much less likely to choose them.  I’m willing to bet that most people understand the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, but if they live in a food desert, spending an hour traveling to the grocery store is hard to justify when there’s a convenience store nearby, even if it offers only unhealthy options.

This is a place where effective communication can play a huge role in affecting behavior change.  For example, if people are ready to make the small adjustments mentioned in step two above, they can be reminded that you don’t have to go to the gym to be physically active—taking the stairs or walking a few extra blocks is valuable as well.

What do you think—is there a way for health scares to be viewed as opportunities for behavior change?

Why Google when you can Facebook?

Mar 07

When you’re looking for health information, where do you turn?  Do you make an appointment with your doctor? Ask friends and family?  Consult WebMD?

A new survey from the National Research Corporation shows that more and more people are turning to online social networks like Facebook and YouTube for health information.  In fact, 41% of the nearly 23,000 people surveyed reported using social media as a source for health information.

Of the 41% who turned to social media:

  • 94% consulted Facebook;
  • 32% turned to YouTube;
  • 18% used Twitter or Myspace;
  • and 2% utilized FourSquare.

Some of the survey’s findings were especially interesting—despite the perception that social media skews younger, the respondents who used social media averaged 41 years of age.  Those in more affluent households—earning more than $75,000 annually—were more likely to turn to social media than households earning less.

CNN reported that many of the patients turning to social media have rare diseases, and that social networks allow them to develop a support group

Have you turned to social media for health information?  Despite social media’s influence, 50% of respondents named hospital websites as the best source of online health care information.  The survey found that only one in four people using social networks for health information were “very likely” or “likely” to make future decisions based on what they found– has what you’ve found affected future health decisions?

Did You Learn A Lot From a Dummy?

Jan 07

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the results of a 2008 survey which found that that seat belt use has reached 85% among U.S. adults.  Only 11% wore them in 1982, which was prior to the first state law requiring seat belt use.

Additional research released by CDC showed that non-fatal vehicle crash injuries reduced by more than 15% between 2001 and 2009, which can be partly attributed to increased seat belt use.  These results showed that the U.S. is making progress in the six “winnable battles” in public health that CDC identified in 2010, one of which is motor vehicle injuries.

Along with the laws enacted, several major social marketing campaigns have contributed to this major public behavior change—even though it was over the span of 26 years, 74% is still a huge number!

In 1985, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Ad Council launched the Safety Belt Education campaign featuring Vince and Larry, two crash test dummies that reminded Americans that “You can learn a lot from a dummy!”  In the first six years of the campaign (which was retired in 1999), PSAs garnered more than $337 million in donated media time and space.   More recently, Vince and Larry were donated to the Smithsonian Institution and are now part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of American History.  Here’s a look at one of the old PSAs: Game Show.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Click It or Ticket campaign has a catchy name and a simple message.  Their primary audience is men ages 18-34, the least likely population segment to wear seat belts.  Each year, law enforcement agencies nationwide join forces around Memorial Day for an enforcement blitz which is supported by national and local paid advertising and earned media campaigns.

NHTSA also has a Buckle Up America campaign, which reminders drivers and passengers to “Buckle Up America. Every Trip. Every Time.”

I found this PSA from the UK’s Sussex Safer Road Partnership, most engaging as it tugs at the heart strings rather than focusing on fear of getting a ticket or being unsafe.

Can you think of any memorable social marketing campaigns that encourage safe driving? I focused on seat belt use, but what about drunk/drugged driving and distracted driving?

Mainstream Media Goes Social

Nov 19

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of welcoming Alex Nicholson, social media strategist at USA TODAY, to Ogilvy Washington’s offices to speak about the intersection of mainstream and social media.

According to Nielsen, Americans spend 23% of their online time using social media—that’s almost three times more time than they spend on email (8%).  Among other things, social media is increasingly serving as a gateway to the mainstream media, with Facebook the #7 referrer to USA TODAY’s website.

Alex shared several best practices for public relations practitioners using social media to reach their audiences:

  • Know which segments of your audience are using each platform. Some key demographics of Twitter and Facebook users are vastly different, and identifying who you will reach through specific social media platforms is key to engagement. 
  • Test what the audience likes and tailor content to their preferences. When asked what audiences responded to on Twitter versus Facebook, Alex noted that Twitter is ideal for breaking news and updates, while Facebook is ideal for good news and heartwarming stories. 
  • Get creative and try new platforms. USA TODAY Tech sponsors’s geek tab.  While Fark is not as well known as many other platforms, it has a dedicated, extremely engaged audience. 
  • Monitor your brand. Alex emphasized the importance of knowing what is being said about your brand online.  She recommended using the Air Force’s Web Posting Response Assessment, which is a flow chart that has been lauded as a guide to determine appropriate responses for various web postings. 
  • Use social media to make things easier. USA TODAY’s #AmericaWants campaign, which encouraged charities to tweet in order to win a full-page ad, worked because it presented a very low barrier of entry for participants.  Charities simply had to tweet to enter, and encourage their followers and supporters to tweet on their behalf.
  • Use numbers. Alex’s presentation included supporting numbers, graphics, and statistics that validated her points.  Finding a way to capture and analyze the numbers behind social media success can help ensure that it is supported throughout an organization.

Most importantly, it is crucial for public relations practitioners to stay abreast of how social media is changing journalism.  Journalists are using social media more than ever– to find sources for their stories, conduct research, communicate with their readers.  Alex’s blog,, and the Nieman Journalism Lab are great places to start.

Follow Friday: 5 Health Tweeters to Watch

Nov 12

One of the best things about using Twitter is that it fosters engagement with companies/organizations/blogs/media outlets that individuals might not otherwise have the chance to communicate with.  Since it is Follow Friday, let’s take a look at some personal favorite health-related tweeters and a recent tweet from each of them!  This is a completely unscientific list, but I found these tweeters notable in that they tweet valuable/interesting content, retweet and reply to others, and present information that might not be found on their website.

Personal Health

@MissHealth tweets about public health, healthy food, tobacco control, cancer, and many other topics.


@ACSCAN (American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network) tweets about cancer advocacy.

Physical Activity

@DailyFitnessTip delivers on its name by pulling a fitness tip every day from other tweeters like @WebMD, @FitnessMagazine and @WeightWatchers.

Public Health

@WHONews tweets important information from the World Health Organization, ranging from flooding in Pakistan to cholera in Haiti.


@LizSzabo tweets about her USA TODAY medical beat, including cancer, children’s health, parenting, and environmental health.

Happy following– who are your favorite health tweeters?

Health Searches Online: Google, Yahoo!, Mobile, and Apps

Oct 21

83 percent of Internet users have looked for health or medical information online, according to 2009 research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  New research, released by Pew on Monday, shows that the use of cell phones to look up health or medical information is growing: 17 percent of American adults have used their phones to look up health or medical information.  In fact, nearly one in 10 American adults have health apps on their phone, allowing them to count calories, track physical activity, and even check someone’s heartbeat.

The Internet allows us to seek health information much more frequently than we are able to speak to our doctors.  Research from web monitoring and research firm Synthesio showed that health is the most talked about topic online, with 14% of online conversations centered on health.  So what exactly are we searching for online?  And do mobile searches differ from traditional Internet searches?

This morning, CNN Health posted an article highlighting Google and Yahoo!’s most popular health-related searches.  Top search terms included herpes, pregnancy, depression, heart disease and breast cancer.

Perhaps more interesting than the terms themselves were the behaviors that the searches demonstrate.  Sex-related queries were much more frequent among mobile searchers than traditional internet searchers.  Researchers hypothesized that this could be because mobile health searchers tend to be in their 20s and 30s, the typical age for pregnancy.  Could it also be because we are more confident of our privacy when searching using a phone rather than say, a work computer?