Karen Costa

Photo of Karen Costa

Senior Account Executive
Washington DC
Posts: 4

Karen is an Senior Account Executive in Ogilvy’s Social Marketing practice. She supports her clients through social media and digital engagement, formative research, materials and web development, and media outreach.

Karen has worked on several Government projects including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Pharmacist Outreach Project, to increase awareness of hypertension management and medication adherence; the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) as an onsite liaison and on the Institute’s pediatric palliative care pilot program, to directly address barriers and increase the use of palliative care among children with serious illness or life-limiting conditions; and the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research’s Effective Health Care Program resources.

Karen holds a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Affairs and History from the University of Virginia. She joined Ogilvy’s Social Marketing practice in 2011.

Ripple Effect: Power of Thanks

Apr 23

I was reminded earlier this week that civility, while not completely dead, is on it’s last legs. Yes, civility. Not to be confused with chivalry, which is an entirely separate blog post. While waiting in line, in the pouring rain for the morning bus to arrive the woman in front of me decided twirling her umbrella in a Singing in the Rain-type fashion was an acceptable pastime activity. It was early and I was still waking up, so I decided to overlook this incident even if my stuff and I were a little wetter then we should have been. It was only when we boarded the bus and said woman decided to block the aisle and swing her oversized backpack and golf umbrella, hitting the woman across from her and just missing me that I determined she was inconsiderate. Not just because of her actions, but rather because she never noticed her actions affecting those around her. Nor did she apologize.

What if the shoe had been on the other foot? The age old adage “Treat other’s as you want to be treated” comes to mind. When you’re young parents and mentors tell you to mind your P’s and Q’s. If someone gives you candy, a gift, or a compliment you say thank you. You send a thank you note. It is something that becomes ingrained, or at least that was my impression.

Apparently not.

According to the most recent Civility in America 2013 study, conducted annually by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, 95% of Americans surveyed believe we have a civility problem in America. Not only that but the perception and reality of incivility are not that far apart. Experiencing incivility has become the “norm,” and the attitude about the state of American civility doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. Since the first survey was administered in 2010, seven in 10 believe that civility is worse compared to a few years ago and will continue to worsen.

Civility in America by the numbers:

  • 17.1 – average number of times Americans encounter incivility in a 7-day week or 2.4 times per day
  • 8.5 – average number of times Americans encounter incivility in real life/online in a week

In a digital world and as someone whose career is heavily dependent on online capabilities the following finding, while not surprising, was unnerving to actually have confirmed by those surveyed.

Americans who expect civility to worsen over the next several years now cite the Internet/social media as one of the leading causes (59%) after politics, American youth and the media. About one-third blame Twitter (34%), at statistically higher levels than in 2012 (21%). As more people use Twitter or hear about uncivil tweets, Twitter is becoming easier to blame for worsening civility in America. The Internet may be a leading cause of incivility because of how frequently Americans are experiencing incivility online, which is reaching an average of nearly nine times a week. Six in ten Americans (59%) report incivility from what they read online in news articles and in comments associated with the articles. Two-thirds of Americans (67%) think that social media as a whole is uncivil. Facebook receives slightly higher civility ratings than the other social sites (34%) perhaps because users have control over what information they see and from whom.

That’s why the idea behind American Greeting’s ThankList is so refreshing. It seeks to take the constant stream of digital content and turn the negative into a positive, acting as a step toward making a world that’s nicer, even if it’s just a little bit. At thanklist.com a person can express gratitude towards those who shaped their life through written word or a thoughtful, personalized video. Just the simple act of saying, writing, or expressing two words makes a significant difference in a person’s outlook and behavior.

It’s been said before, but there is actual scientific proof that expressing any amount of gratitude has a profound effect on your attitude and behavior as well as those around you. In a recent publication, Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan, Harvard Business School’s Francesca Gino cited that, “Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too.” The most surprising finding in her research was the scope of what she refers to as the “gratitude effect.”

In two of the gratitude experiments, 57 students were asked to provide feedback to a fictitious student, Eric, regarding his sloppy cover letter for a job. Half received a terse confirmation email: “I received your feedback on my cover letter.” The other half received an email of gratitude: “I received your feedback on my cover letter. Thank you so much! I am really grateful.” When the students’ sense of self-worth was measured afterward, 55 percent of the group that received gratitude felt a higher sense of self-worth, compared with only 25 percent from the just an acknowledgement group. In a follow-up experiment, participants received a second message from another fictitious student, Steven, asking for feedback on his cover letter. Not surprisingly, those students who had been in the gratitude group were two times more likely to help Steven then students in the no-gratitude group.

So next time you are about to board a bus, hit send on a reply email, or scroll through your newsfeeds, take a moment and think carefully. Are you expressing gratitude, thanks, and appreciation for others? Are you joining in the negative comments or aspiring to see and contribute to the positive? Seize every opportunity you can to say thank you, to focus on the positive. It’s just two words but they are enough to start a ripple effect of change in American civility.

Thank you for reading!

Do You See and Hear, What I Do?

Apr 16

In the aftermath of any devastating event, whether it is the Oklahoma City, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or Boston I’m always aware that I feel not only dumbfounded that such acts of violence occur, but also humbled.  We live in a world where most days are spent ignoring each other either in the office, on the metro, on the bus, or on the street. Yet we are more connected now than ever before through social media. Why does it take monumental events such as yesterday’s Boston marathon bombing or Virginia Tech shooting six years ago, where lives are forever changed for us as people to take notice?

I’m guilty as charged when it comes to keeping your head down and commuting in silence. Take this morning for instance, while on my way to work I, like those around me, was looking at my phone. I read the Washington Post, read emails, and poked around Facebook. It was then that I remembered a post from a high school friend called, Stop and Hear the Music. It is particularly poignant to the observation that we as individuals no longer stop to take notice of the little things. We take for granted that those people we encounter on the street, on the bus or metro, the things we see in our structured schedules will be there for the duration. When did we stop smelling the roses, or listening to the music?

In an experiment initiated by The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten on January 12, 2007, American Grammy Award-winning violinist Joshua

Photo courtesy of http://www.joshuabell.com/photos

Bell donned a baseball cap and played as an incognito busker at the Metro subway station L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, DC. The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera; of the 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen to him, and only one recognized him. For his nearly 45-minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 from 27 passersby (excluding $20 from the passerby who recognized him). The night before, he earned considerably more playing the same repertoire at a concert. Weingarten won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for his article on the experiment. I challenge us all to stop and make the time to GO down to the Tidal Basin on your lunch hour, SAY hello to the person next to you on the bus, PUT your phone away, and LISTEN to the music.

Below is a brief excerpt from Weingarten’s article:

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by The Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

OgilvyConnect – Session 2: Developing a Communications Plan

Oct 12

On Thursday, October 11, Ogilvy Washington held the second session of this year’s OgilvyConnect, a four session communications training program for nonprofits that serve the National Capital Region. Building from the previous session, the group learned how to develop a communications plan using Ogilvy’s Blueprint Strategy framework based on their organization’s communications goals and objectives. Presentations and working sessions led by several Ogilvy employees involved spirited conversation and discussions including the difference between business and communications objectives, strategies, and tactics; and several playful NFL metaphors.

To learn more and see photos from the session visit the Ogilvy Connect Facebook page.

The remaining two sessions will be held in November and December, and are sure to be just as successful and informative.

The Benefits of Joking About Public Safety

Apr 10

As everyone knows we are now in the month of April. This means warmer weather, cherry blossoms, pollen, severe allergies, and of course April Fool’s Day. Who doesn’t love a good (harmless) practical joke? Especially one that is a message of public education and awareness. Behold the “Philadelphia E-Lane Initiative.”

During the first week of April, the city of Philadelphia, PA rolled out what might be one of the most bold April Fool’s joke/social experiments.  Along the 1400 block of John F. Kennedy Boulevard, the spray painted sidewalks depicted the well known stick figure pedestrian peering down at a hand-held device. To accompany these lanes, street signs were also placed on light posts to ensure motor vehicles, bicyclists and other non-hand-held device using pedestrians knew they were not to cross over into the lanes for the digitally distracted. These e-lanes, as they are called, are more than just a joke; they are a message bringing attention to a chronic problem that affects cities across the country—the danger of inattentive pedestrians.

Officials in Philadelphia even went so far as to produce a mock news interview with Mayor Michael Nutter and Deputy Mayor for Transportation and Utilites Rina Cutter. Among the scenes of law enforcement removing non-users from the lanes, street interviews, and the obviously staged “protest” of anti-texting protesters the parody was able to emphasize the seriousness of the issue as no laughing matter. In his mock interview regarding the initiative, the mayor referenced the following statistic, “Every four hours a pedestrian is hit by a car in Philadelphia.” Based on this number that’s about 42 people per week, 180 per month, and 2,190 per year. Just in Philadelphia alone!

This is not just a localized problem, it’s national. In 2009, on average a pedestrian was killed every 2 hours and injured every nine minutes in traffic accidents across the United States. Take a closer look and 76 percent of the fatalities occurred at non-intersections, which leads one to believe that sole blame cannot be placed on drivers. All too recently we’ve seen the effects of distracted walking including an incident involving a Michigan mom walking off a pier into the lake and another woman falling on her face during a life newscast. In Washington, DC, alone about 3 times a day someone gets hit by a vehicle. I can attest to this—as I’m sure we all can—that on a typical day I see several near misses some at the fault of the driver, but mostly at the fault of a distracted pedestrian. Overwhelming data show that DC area roads are not safe enough for transit riders and drivers, walkers, and cyclists. In order to create a safe, livable community, the situation must improve.

While I would not go so far as to hail Mayor Nutter as a “trailblazing breakthrough”—as coined by his office—and albeit it garnered a small press coverage, I would venture that it has caught the attention of various other public education campaigns with similar goals regarding public safety around the country. For instance, since 2002, the Street Smart initiative has launched several radio, newspaper and print ads around the DC metropolitan area to bring awareness to pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Last year, they kicked off their spring campaign which included ads featuring giant feet smashing cars. Other actions taken to thwart walking and texting include a recently instituted fine by the Utah Transportation Authorities which targets pedestrians engaged in “distracted walking” near its tracks.

As social marketers we work with a wide range of issues ranging from pediatric palliative care to flood insurance. For something that should be common sense, where did we lose our animal instinct of being aware of our surroundings and only you protects you? Didn’t we learn at a very young age to always Stop, Look Left, Look Right, THEN Go, but with caution? I know I distinctly remember Mr. Rodgers and my good friends from Sesame Street providing this information whether directly or indirectly through song. Perhaps if there were an App that provided views from all angles for chronic texters there might be a higher chance of success. Oh wait there is! The WalkSafe app for Android phones helps makes sure distracted walkers don‘t get slammed by an oncoming vehicle by letting them know what’s coming. I thought that’s what our eyes and ears were for, my mistake.

I don’t claim to know the answer, or even say with certainty that there is an effective solution. Perhaps you have thoughts or care to disagree, but something has to change. And since I’d rather not be the new hood ornament of a metro bus or town car I think our behaviors and actions as pedestrians is that something. Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, so why shouldn’t that same picture (even a spray painted stick figure) dictate those words and resulting actions? So, stop and smell the spring flowers and admire the world around you; it might just save your life.