Erica Stein

Photo of Erica Stein

Senior Account Executive
Washington DC
Posts: 5

Erica is a Senior Account Executive in Ogilvy’s Social Change practice. Since starting her career at Ogilvy Washington in 2013, Erica has supported the development and execution of social change campaigns in the public health sector. Her specific responsibilities include leading social media planning and execution, conducting research to inform program messaging and strategy, managing the development of creative materials, and serving as a point-person for campaign spokespeople and community organizations. This includes work on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bring Your Brave Campaign; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s The Heart Truth® Program; and CDC’s Dating Matters Program.

Erica graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where she also earned a minor in Sociology. Since 2010, Erica has volunteered with the American Cancer Society, helping raise $240,000 in the fight against cancer across four planned Relay For Life events. In her spare time, you’ll find her in a CrossFit gym, on the soccer field, with her nose in a book, or learning a new recipe. (@estein_)

Can Zebras Stop Traffic Violations?

Feb 22

Picture this. You’re making your way around the traffic circle in Dupont, glancing at the time knowing that you’re late to meet your friends for brunch. Feeling a little overeager, you inch forward at a red light – inadvertently blocking the pedestrian crosswalk.

With mimosas and eggs benedict on your mind, you’re startled when a zebra suddenly appears in front of your car and breaks out into a dance (for visualization purposes, I’m imaging the running man, Macarena, or the Nae Nae).

You thought no one would notice your seemingly minor violation of traffic decorum. But now people are definitely noticing. Startled and feeling guilty, you look around to see the chortling faces of the pedestrians, bikers, and other drivers.

As you anxiously wait for the light to turn green, the zebra’s dance moves are relentless enough to make embarrassment and humiliation creep into your bones, ensuring an extra level of caution as you continue on your route.

Sound crazy? This is exactly the type of tactic used in both Colombia and Bolivia to nudge drivers toward safer habits.

In the 1990s Bogota’s mayor, Antanas Mockus, “hired 420 mime artists to make fun of traffic violators because he believ[ed] Colombians fear[ed] ridicule more than being fined” according to The Guardian. Turns out that sometimes silence is the answer – the mime experiment helped cut traffic fatalities by over 50%.

Since 2001, La Paz has adopted a similar approach to curbing traffic violations – but with zebras, or cebritas. These cebritas “dance, gesture comically at drivers, and help pedestrians safely cross the street.” An article from The Atlantic notes:

“On a lot of busy corners you will have police directing traffic, but their method of doing it is whistling at you, yelling at you, pulling you over, giving you a ticket,” says Derren Patterson, an American who owns a walking-tour agency in La Paz. “Whereas the way the zebras do it, if a car stops in the crosswalk, they will lay across his hood.”

In addition to their civic duties, they visit local organizations such as schools and hospitals. Those who don the black and white suit of honor range from disadvantaged students earning a small stipend to tourists participating in the “Zebra for a Day” project. Sixteen years after the program started, the original humble herd of 24 zebras has now grown to over 260 volunteers across four cities in Bolivia.

In this instance, I think behavior change by way of a zebra-induced guilt trip works. According to the author and clinical educator Dr. Brené Brown (insert praise hands), guilt can be a healthy thing. The psychological discomfort that arises when we do something against our values (i.e., violating a traffic law) can be a driving force to realign future action with those values (i.e., following the law).

However, I don’t think that leveraging embarrassment to drive behavior change can be universally applied, particularly if the behaviors we are trying to change are often tied to shame – as opposed to guilt. Brown explains that “shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior…shame is ‘I am bad’ [and] guilt is ‘I did something bad’.” I would hypothesize that the behaviors many of us fight shame and insecurities about – maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, being financially responsible – would be ill-fit to be addressed with tactics related to embarrassment.

But, when it comes to traffic violations – something that many people would feel a little guilty about, but not necessarily internalize as an ‘I am a terrible person’ – it works.

So, two questions for you:

  1. What do you think would be the most effective guilt-inducing mascot for your city? Zebras? Mimes? Something else?
  2. Do you believe humiliation and embarrassment can be an effective way to drive behavior change?

Walking the Fine Line – Fear and Health Communications

Jun 05

Ronald Klain speaking at the Health Conference. (Photo Credit: 1776)

Ronald Klain speaking at the Health Conference. (Photo Credit: 1776)

I had the opportunity to recently attend the Health Conference at 1776’s Challenge Festival. The first part of my day was spent immersed in panel discussions that featured thought leaders whose end goal is to create a healthier world. The second part of my day was spent sitting on the edge of my seat while 20 health-focused start-ups from around the globe pitched their companies to the panel of judges.

Despite the excitement that pumped through me during the Shark Tank-esque portion of the event, my mind would continuously drift back to the “fireside chat” given by Ronald Klain, aka the “Ebola Czar,” whose role is was to keep the bureaucratic gears turning to efficiently and effectively foster solutions to the already raging epidemic.

Throughout his talk, he often underscored the importance of communications in helping control the outbreak. He emphasized how effective communication–both internal and external–helped provide a rapid response, build medical infrastructure, coordinate across government agencies, and manage public fear.

I was particularly interested in the discussion of how communications acts as both a mediator and a (often, unintentional) propagator of fear.

Deborah Kotz effectively summarized this phenomenon in the context of the Ebola crisis in an article she authored for the Boston Globe, “An estimated 36,000 Americans are expected to die of the flu this year, but, if history is any indication, the majority of us will skip the recommended yearly vaccine. We’d likely, however, be lining up around the block to get an Ebola immunization if one was available — even though only one person has died of the infection in this country so far.”

In health communication, we often have to walk the fine line between sharing critical information without sparking irrational concerns. This high-wire act is even more important in the age of social media where misinformation can spread like wildfire. Our challenge of health communicators is to 1) be proactive without inadvertently adding fuel to the fire and 2) As Mr. Klain explained, acknowledge to the public that their fear is normal to an extent, while providing information to mitigate the fears to a realistic level. Communications as a mediator of fear, however, often comes after the fire is already burning bright.

Mr. Klain’s talk affirmed the importance of thinking strategically before conveying health and risk messages to the public. Know your audience, know how to reach them, and perhaps most importantly know how to shift your tone to avoid creating a culture a fear.

New career goal? Become an expert tight rope walker – one that can walk the line between effective behavior change communications without instilling irrational fear in those I am trying to reach (à la homemade hazmat suit).

Forging Connections through Storytelling

Jan 14

Over our holiday break, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel for ten days as a gift from Taglit-Birthright Israel. History, culture, religion, and nature intertwined to mold the perfect taglit (discovery, in Hebrew) of a newfound home away from home. We began our journey as a group of 40 Americans, and were joined by eight Israelis for the mifgash (encounter) portion of our trip. The word “encounter” does not do this experience justice, as our time together manifested in some of the most impactful memories from those ten days.

Graves in Mount Herzl CemeteryOne of the most moving experiences of our time with the Israelis was when we visited Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery. Our first two stops in the cemetery were the grave of Theodore Herzl and the Resting Place of Great Leaders of the Nation, the area reserved for Israel’s presidents, prime ministers, and other dignitaries. Though I knew of the great importance of the individuals buried there in those places, I admittedly felt a strange disconnect between the significance I could intellectualize and the level of emotion I was feeling. I reconciled that this was likely because I am not a huge history buff, and because the extent of my Jewish education stopped shortly after my bat mitzvah.

From there, we moved on to the portion of Mount Herzl dedicated to the Israel Defense Forces, where all soldiers are buried side by side regardless of rank. I thought about the dichotomy of beauty and sadness-one that was evident as we moved from one section to the next. My eye was constantly drawn to the ages marked on the graves…most in their early twenties.

We file into a row of graves and paused.  Amir, one of the Israeli soldiers on our trip, unfolded a piece of paper and waited for us to quiet down. He tells us the story of his friend, Oz Tzemach, whose grave we stood in front of. We learn about Oz’s selfless personality, passion for learning, and love of sports. We learn about his determination to serve in the combat field, recruitment to the tank unit, and how he was killed at the age of 20 while helping others.

Stone on a Grave in Mount Herzl CemeteryJean Luc Godard, a famous film director once said, “Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” This quote epitomized the punch in the gut that I felt and unabashed stream of tears that rolled down my face while hearing about the Oz’s life and the lives of others, taken too soon. From this story came a newfound level of emotional connection between myself, Mount Herzl, and my Israeli peers.

Achieving behavior change or attitude shifts often requires cozying up dry hard facts with stories that touch the inner core of those we are trying to reach. The ability to intertwine this yin and yang of information into a compelling and effective story is an art form. An art form that is essential to our industry.

How do we make the leap from a face and name to a moving and memorable individual whose story strikes a nerve and evokes action with our audience? How do we transform background noise to information you cannot turn away from? Regardless of the method and end goal, it is essential to ask these questions at the forefront of strategy development. Without story supplementing our work, we miss out on key social and neurological connections that help our message hit home. Harrison Monarth writes, “Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

Springboard: A New Online Resource for Health Communication

Oct 03

Springboard for Health Communications LogoHave you ever had a client ask you to brainstorm an idea for a new project or campaign, but you weren’t really sure where to
find some initial inspiration? Springboard for Health Communications (Springboard) is a new online resource from Johns Hopkins University Health Communications Capacity Collaborative (JHU HC3) that aggregates resources related to health communication while also knocking down the silos between practitioners through a social environment. Despite the impactful work being completed around the world, until now there has never been one go-to place to share best practices and lessons learned.

We interviewed Soma Ghoshal, the Global Program Manager for Healthcare at NetHope, Inc. and Springboard Community Manager, about the platform and its capabilities.

How would you describe the Springboard and its purpose?

Springboard is an online resource for health communications practitioners to come together and learn about the newest trends in the space. Members are able to partake in conversations around best practices, research, events, and much more in addition to networking with one another and learning about new organizations and campaigns.

Who should join and how do you sign up?

Anyone who is interested in health communication can sign up! It doesn’t matter whether you are an expert, a student, or working in the field — Springboard is a space for everyone interested in health communication to come together and learn from each other. Simply go to to register (it takes less than 5 minutes), and then log in to start posting. We encourage new members to post an introduction about them after singing up to let all the members know what they are interested in.

What types of conversations will members be able to participate in?

All sorts of conversations are happening on Springboard. We’ve seen members share articles on education entertainment programming and sexual responsibility in young adults to campaigns like the ALS bucket challenge can be applied to global health causes. Of course, there has also been discussion on health communication and messaging for the Ebola outbreak. Members post health communication-focused events happening all over the world as well as videos and photos. In addition, some members post new job or grant opportunities.

How does the Springboard fill a gap for health communicators globally?

Springboard is unique because it focuses solely on fostering discussion around health communication and offering a forum for global health events. While there may be other sites that discuss global health, Springboard does a great job of bringing together health communication practitioners from academia, NGO, government, to private sector so that we may learn from each other and offer more effective health communication campaigns.

What have you found most enjoyable about being a member of the Springboard online community?

I love hearing the different perspectives that are brought onto Springboard. If one member posts a campaign and has an opinion on it, then it is almost guaranteed that two other members will have a completely different angle or approach. Those perspectives strengthen our understanding of what motivates behavior change to make us more impactful practitioners at the end of the day.

We encourage our colleagues and peers involved in the social marketing community, and beyond, to sign up for Springboard. When you do, comment below and share your experience with us!

Soma Ghoshal is the Global Program Manager for Healthcare at NetHope, Inc. She works on the HC3 Project on the ICT & Innovation team as a Community Manager on Springboard and leads various projects, including the Innovation Webinar series, NetHope Working Group, and research. Soma has her MPH in Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation from The George Washington University.

Super Bowl and the Second Screen: 4 Tips for Social Marketers

Feb 06

A year ago, Oreo set a new standard for real time marketing during the 2013 Super Bowl. One power outage and one tweet was all it took for their brand to swiftly become what everyone was talking about – even without a $4 million dollar ad buy. This year, companies talked up their social media “war rooms” that featured employees on call, with their fingertips constantly hovering above keyboards, waiting to strike when their moment of cleverness and relevance crossed paths. What were the results? In my eyes, very little.

JC Penney was #TweetingWithMittens. Hillary Clinton tweeted a right hook at FOX. Butterfinger chimed in on the safety that started off the game. But other than that, it seems as if Oreo pulled off a Twitter heist that transitioned real time marketing into a norm, inspiring social media engagement that almost felt forced one year later.

Have we come so far away from the authentic wit of a community manager that we have to incentivize with $1.5 million just to get our hashtag trending? I admit, although I did tweet #EsuranceSave30, and have a special place in my heart for John Krasinski, it did leave an artificial taste in my mouth.

As social marketers, it’s just as important to take advantage of these real time opportunities as it is for commercial brands. A prime example of this is how Pharrell’s hat at the Grammy’s inspired tweets by Smokey Bear. When Smokey’s social media agency, HelpsGood, saw the conversation growing regarding the likeness of the two hats, they took full advantage of this cross-section of pop culture and social marketing.

So how can we anticipate these moments during the Big Game, or similar events, to join the conversation while still feeling authentic?

  1. Take advantage of the event before, during, and after. Depending on the mission of your organization or client, there are ways to provide social marketing messaging beyond the run of the clock. Knowing that the majority of Americans are whipping up their favorite (albeit, unhealthy) snack for the game, tweet healthy alternatives. After the game, share messages about recycling. And heaven forbid there’s another power outage, why not share emergency preparedness tips?
  2. React to conversation that already exists. With Twitter timelines filling with feedback after each commercial, contribute in a way that’s relevant to your cause. For example, colleagues and I joked over Twitter regarding the food safety of the Chobani ad, a topic that we often touch on for one of our clients. How long had that yogurt been sitting out on the un-refrigerated shelf before the bear got to it?
  3. Converse with other organizations and followers, not just at. Some of the best real time marketing from this year came from organizations engaging with one another (see Tide’s reaction Vines). When relevant, promote your partners and engage with other brands. Similarly, responding directly to mentions indicates your organizations investment in its followers.
  4. Know your audience. Invest your resources on the platform that works best for your audience, at the times where they would most likely chime in. If you’re trying to reach your typical American mom, she’s probably more likely to be checking her social channels following the Goldie Blox commercial versus the Maserati commercial.

That being said, never underestimate the importance of good old spontaneity. Happy tweeting, everyone!