Michael Briggs

Photo of Michael Briggs

Senior Vice President
Washington DC
Posts: 3

A senior manager and strategist who works across Ogilvy’s Strategy + Planning and Social Marketing teams, Michael has more than 20 years’ experience in creating and implementing communications solutions for government, corporate, and nonprofit clients.

Michael provides counsel and leadership for a number of Ogilvy’s key clients, including the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lance Armstrong Foundation, Special Olympics, and leading corporations. He assists teams and clients across the agency in devising strategies and creating campaigns and messages that reflect audience and marketplace insights. Michael’s work has won several industry awards, including PR Week’s multicultural campaign of the year.

Prior to joining Ogilvy in 1998, Michael was communications manager for InterAction, an association of global humanitarian NGOs. Before that, he managed media relations and national events for Oxfam America, an international development agency.

Michael serves on the board of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area as chair of the communications committee. He holds a degree in English from Clark University and lives in Washington, DC.

Calling Me On It

Jul 16

Much is written about patient-provider interactions and how they can be improved.  As I learned this week, there is an elegant solution to what is doubtless a common concern among health care providers: is the patient telling the truth, no matter how inconvenient?

The truth: I snore.  In fact, my snoring is loud and legendary—famed in song and story, as an old friend likes to say.  I am also considerably overweight.  Being a health-conscious (if not always health-practicing) person, I am aware that these two facts are not unrelated.  More than that: I know that obesity is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, and that serious snoring is a telltale symptom.  I also know, perhaps in part because of what I do for a living, that sleep apnea is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and that treatments include weight loss (duh), CPAP (ugh), and surgery (eww).

It’s all too easy to attribute poor clinical communication to low health literacy.  In my case, however, it was all-too-well-informed self-interest that led me to significantly downplay my snoring when asked about it earlier this week by a perceptive and persistent cardiologist.  I had been referred to him by my primary care provider (PCP), not for any particular issue, but simply because I was, in my PCP’s words, “over”: overweight and over 40.  So, even though I’ve made the effort to schedule this preventive consultation, and I’m paying out of my own pocket for it (HDHP), here I am brushing off the diligent cardiologist’s inquiries because, well, I don’t want to go there.

Dr. Rosenberg has clearly seen this sort of thing before.  He innocently asks about my marital status and my partner.  Then: “Do you think we could give him a call?” “Right now?” I ask, surprised.  “Sure. I’d just like to talk to him for a second.”  “You’re going to ask him to characterize my snoring, aren’t you?” I probe, trying to steer.  “Just hand me the phone,” he says.

You know where this is going: my partner gleefully confirms the good doctor’s worst suspicions, volunteering that he’s been badgering me about this for years, while I squirm under the cold light of Truth, looking like an unusually large five-year-old who’s been caught fibbing.  I’d been reading just that morning about using mobile phones to help patients manage their health, but I didn’t expect to get such a first-hand (and comparatively low-tech) demonstration of the principle later that afternoon.

Kudos to Dr. Rosenberg for doing something that, in my experience, is rare.  He took the time to get another perspective on the patient, seeking input that would confirm his hypothesis.  I wish I’d been a more reliable narrator, but like many of us, I often paint myself in a flattering light.  I’d love to hear whether something like this has ever happened to any of you.

In the meantime, the episode raises a few questions that I know I’ll keep in mind the next time I’m thinking through a health-education program: How can we encourage patients to tell themselves, and their providers, the truth?  How can we reduce patient fear of the truth’s implications, so that they don’t have such a strong motivation to, you know, sort of sugar-coat it?  And how do we empower/equip those who know us so well, those who sometimes see us more clearly than we can see ourselves, to become our partners in prevention?

The Hero’s Journey

Jun 16

Today is Bloomsday—the day (June 16, 1904) on which James Joyce’s Ulysses takes place. It’s one of my all-time favorite novels, and as I ruminate on it I realize that it also holds several key lessons for social marketers:

— Change is a journey, one that is often fraught with peril and delay. Even when we know exactly where we’re headed, the road that takes us there may be a long and winding one indeed. We need to prepare for the obstacles and detours and threats that are sure to meet us along the way.

— Most of us have complex and often chaotic interior lives, and murky motivations for our behavior. It’s our duty (and smart strategic planning) to walk a mile or more in our target audiences’ shoes—what’s it like to live through their day?—to better understand why they believe what they believe or do what they do.

— Inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places, and influencers can take the most unlikely forms. Let’s push ourselves to look beyond “proven” venues, channels, and partners. What would the program look like if it were conducted in a seemingly inappropriate setting? Who would be a truly unusual champion or spokesperson? Such exercises might take our thinking in a surprisingly productive direction.

— It’s all too easy, especially for those burdened with experience, to quickly dismiss as improbable or tried-and-failed what might actually be (this time) a breakthrough idea. Like Molly, we need to remember to say Yes.

Happy Bloomsday! Here’s to finding adventure and salvation in the everyday.

Through the Shadows

Jun 04

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow […]

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow […]

— T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Which is hardly news to anyone who has tried to change behavior, whether theirs or someone else’s. It’s all too easy to add to Eliot’s lines: Between the resolution and the quitting… Between the will and the workout… Between the awareness and the condom… Between all of our good/new intentions and all of our bad/old habits… Falls the Shadow.

It is often said that behavior change is not about information but rather motivation—but clearly motivation itself is not enough. What then? Social marketing theory and practice suggest numerous answers: search for ways to lower the “price” of the new behavior (most especially, the physical/emotional/social costs of giving up the old behavior); examine “barriers” to behavior change that could get in the way; incorporate into the program various supports that bridge the gap between intention and action.

I recently learned about a theory that addresses this issue in an interesting way. The Health Action Process Approach (HAPA)—developed by psychology professor Ralf Schwarzer at the Free University in Berlin—conceives of behavior change as occurring in two phases, which reflect two distinct psychological states or mindsets. In the motivation or goal-setting phase, people form their intention to make a change; intentions are formed by the interplay of risk perception (“am I truly at risk?”), self-efficacy (“can I actually make this change?”) and outcome expectations (“what difference will changing make?”). In the volition or goal-pursuing phase, people are either actively planning to make the change (“intenders”) or already initiating/maintaining the change (“actors”)—and are in  need of tools to help them translate their intentions into sustained action.

According to HAPA, the key is to successfully transforming intention into behavior—to passing through the Shadow—is planning. Once an intention to change has been formed, two types of planning are useful: action planning, which covers the what/where/when of the new behavior (e.g., I’ll go to the gym Monday and Thursday mornings, and walk home on Wednesday evenings); and coping planning, which covers anticipated obstacles and how to overcome them (e.g., If I oversleep in the morning, I’ll go to the gym after work). Action planning is key for “intenders,” while coping planning is key for “actors” who want to stay on track and avoid relapsing into old behaviors.

In addition to planning, HAPA emphasizes the importance of three types of self-efficacy: action self-efficacy (“Am I capable of this?”) in the motivation phase, and coping self-efficacy (“Will I be able to stick to my new behavior when X happens?”); and recovery self-efficacy (“Will I be able to get back on track if I slip up?”) in the volition phase.

Though not radically different from other social marketing theories— Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model (aka “Stages of Change”) leaps to mind—HAPA does appear to be a relatively simple and useful theory to consider when planning social marketing programs. Are we trying to increase motivation or volition? What planning tools might we develop to help “intenders” take action? What messages or spokespeople could increase recovery self-efficacy?

You can learn more about HAPA here. While not exactly gripping, the ten-minute video is an excellent introduction to the theory.