Trish Taylor

Photo of Trish Taylor

Senior Vice President
Washington DC
Posts: 9

Trish is a former Senior Vice President at Ogilvy Washington.

Authenticity: An Imperative of Successful CSR

May 21

Authenticity is such a buzz word in PR. We use it all the time: our channels must be authentic — i.e. use earned media and integrated content, vs. paid placements – so our audiences are less skeptical of the content being communicated; we must use authentic voice when talking with our audiences, so they trust us and are more likely to pay attention; spokespeople must have an authentic connection to the issues/products/topics we are communicating about for them to be credible.

I would argue that in the case of authenticity, we use that word or principle frequently, because of how very important it is. And Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one particular area of business where authenticity is especially critical to success.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines CSR as “the continuing commitment by business to contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the community and society at large”. Restated simply – or perhaps even oversimplified — CSR is about the ‘good’ a company does.

While CSR has evolved tremendously over the last 10 to 15 years – into a key discipline integrated into many companies’ business strategies and plans, it historically has often operated as a discrete marketing or HR function, in many cases instituted for the purposes of building — or in some cases ‘fixing’ — a company’s reputation.   Corporate reputation issue? Enter a CSR campaign to help distract from that issue or compensate for that issue.   Because of that reason, many are skeptical of companies’ CSR programs.   Are they truly intended to improve the quality of life of employees, their families, and community and society at large? Or are they reputation-band-aids, that are purely to help enhance the company’s reputation with some potential ‘good’ impact as a bi-product?

The scrutiny and skepticism that often surround a company’s CSR efforts are the very reason why authenticity of such programs is demanded and necessary for their success.   Recently, Jennifer Risi, Ogilvy’s Director of Media Influence spoke on a panel entitled “Earning Stories for Good – Big Rewards for Your CSR Program”, and published an op ed on a similar topic. She made the important point that earned media placements that tell a company’s CSR story are often more credible than paid, given the authenticity they bring, helping these stories resonate more with their intended audiences.     I would build on Jen’s point and go even further to suggest that the actual content of the CSR story must focus on the actual good being done, and not lead with or place too much focus on the company doing it. If there is a benefit to the company from the CSR story being told, all the better – but the focus of the story should be on the positive impact being made, with the company making that impact as a supporting point.

CSR that is instituted with the intent to truly have a positive impact is authentic. And authentic CSR is powerful.   It improves lives, strengthens communities, delivers good for society at large. And, ultimately, when CSR is authentic, and delivers the good it has promised, it brings the added benefit of driving company reputation, and even in many cases functioning as a business driver for the company. A win-win for all.

Does Prevention Have an Expiration Date?

Jan 28

Jason Karlawish

Photo credit: New York Times

I just read Jason Karlawish’s article Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry.   Karlawish uses singer Leonard Cohen as a way to tee up a very compelling question: “When should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?”  Cohen celebrated his 80th birthday this past weekend, apparently by recommencing his smoking habit with a celebratory cigarette.  His argument –at 80, he is too old to worry about the health risks.

All of the health risks of secondary smoke and the impact on others around him aside, this act and attitude gave me pause.  My inner public health zealot immediately came up with multiple reasons why this was a ridiculous excuse to light back up – there are NO good reasons to ever light up in my heart of hearts.   However, the rest of the article went on to explore the deeper question of when or at what age risk reduction becomes unnecessary or ineffective.  Given all of the prevention messages we are exposed to throughout life (or that we, as public health professionals, are disseminating), is there a time where we should pursue not just living, but also happiness?

With the vast population of boomers aging into their senior years, we will likely see this question being asked more frequently.  We have more active and vibrant senior populations than ever – largely due to the advances in medicine; knowledge regarding the importance of prevention; and behaviors that result from that knowledge.  Still, at what point will these audiences grow fatigued with all the preventive efforts, and adopt Cohen’s philosophy of living in the present?   Will the tide shift overwhelmingly toward that philosophy, reaching a tipping point? And will it then start to ebb younger and younger, in a backlash to our current preventive efforts?   What may happen is still yet to be determined… until then, we each may want to give more thought to the question of at what point happiness becomes more important than prevention.   The answers may be telling.


Does Fear Work Afterall?

Sep 10

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Tips from Former Smoker’s campaign, which featured raw graphic images in a national paid media initiative to reduce tobacco use, has made a big splash since hitting the air waves in 2012. A new study published on Monday in the Lancet indicates that these ads may have prompted more than 100,000 Americans to give up smoking for good.

These findings were a bit surprising because the literature has suggested that fear-based approaches typically are not effective in eliciting behavior change. In a New York Times article, CDC Director Dr. Frieden attributes the effectiveness of the campaign to the fact that they aren’t using ‘death’ or lung cancer as the motivator, but rather focusing on how the remainder of a smoker’s life may be very unpleasant—so  a more relatable or believable consequence. In discussing this with colleagues, we wondered whether the maturity of the anti-smoking effort is helpful in eliciting behavior change in this case.  Could it be that because the issue is more and more in-grained in culture, that ONLY fear based approaches can break through and motivate change?  Or is it that those for whom these ads were effective were at a certain ‘stage of change’ that allowed the fear-based message to be an effective motivator in prompting them to finally consider changing their behavior?

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below on these promising results for a creative approach that many of us had reservations about.

Can We Be Over-Aware?

May 22


I recently read Peggy’s Orenstein’s thought-provoking New York Times article, “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer,” and I’m hoping every social marketer will read it too. It has sparked widespread dialogue within the social marketing community, and left me feeling unsettled and with many questions about the meaning behind my work.

The article suggests that the spectacularly successful pink-ribbon campaign has ultimately made women less conscious of the facts surrounding breast cancer, “obscuring the limits of screening, conflating risk with disease, compromising our decisions about health care, celebrating ‘cancer survivors’ who may have never required treating”. Orenstein — a breast cancer survivor who benefited from early detection — suggests that the very notion of early detection contributing to a cure is actually a mis-truth or oversimplification.

Orenstein did a thorough job of sharing facts and statistics that were very surprising (to me at least). For example, I didn’t realize that since mammograms/screenings have been introduced there haven’t been corresponding decreases in incidence of metastic cancer. And, that while there has been a 25% drop in breast-cancer death rates since 1990’s, many researchers attribute those declines to treatments, not screenings. Apparently mammograms are not as good at detecting the most lethal forms of breast cancer at a treatable phase. There was much more in the article, and I learned a lot about the history of breast cancer science, treatment, and prevention.

Still, the article was not just about the science behind breast cancer – it analyzed the marketing of the awareness of this disease and definitely took the stance that awareness initiatives like Komen’s pink-ribbon contribute toward overselling “both the fear of cancer and effectiveness of our prevention and treatment”. It posits that being over-aware of our risks for breast cancer can lead to unnecessary screening and preventive treatments. Orenstein goes on to suggest that while fear of cancer itself is legitimate, how we manage that fear, responses to it and emotions around it, can be ‘manipulated, packaged, marketed and sold’. The suggestion is also made that many social marketing/public health initiatives (prostate cancer’s Movember, testicular cancer’s yellow bracelet, heart disease’s red dress) all share a similar superficiality in terms of the response they require from the public.

Paul Holmes recently made a similar argument in an article for The Holmes Report, in which he references the New York Times article and indicates that social marketing interventions may have “ taken a huge step backwards in recent years.”

I bristle at this perspective. I’ve worked on social marketing initiatives for more than a decade, and know the rigor of behavioral theory and planning that is at the heart of much of this work. By applying behavioral science, we drive actual changes in behaviors, beyond simply creating awareness of an issue. Maybe the issues I work on are different by their very nature, where there is no one screening to detect, etc. Still, Orenstein makes a very strong argument for how, in the case of the pink ribbon and breast cancer, the level of awareness does seem to contribute to heightened levels of screenings and diagnoses that may not in fact require treatment.

So, I am left with questions. Are the initiatives we intend to be preventive actually doing harm? How do we protect against that and ensure they are not having a backlash that is unintended or expected? Is raising awareness as a first step toward behavior change justified, as long as the ultimate goal is an actual behavior change? What implications does this analysis hold for our work?

The Power of Positive Messages

Sep 26

What motivates you to exercise or eat healthy?  Are you the kind of person who needs a drill sergeant barking orders and insults to motivate you to move?  Does encouragement and reassurance motivate you to say no to that piece of chocolate cake?   While everyone is admittedly different and has their own style when trying to lose weight, a recent study suggests that the real power lies in positive messaging.

An article reporting on a study published in the International Journal of Obesity stated that the most effective messages  were those that  suggested specific steps that would improve health, conveyed a sense of empowerment and left references to obesity unspoken.   In fact, messages that tried to motivate using  images of very obese individuals, and messaging suggesting overweight individuals will will become victims of self-inflicted disease, poor role models for their families and a drag on the economy were assessed as least effective.

These findings are understandable – who wants to be stigmatized negatively, especially because of their weight.  Obese or overweight individuals already endure enough stigma and ridicule from society.  To leverage that stigma and experience to try to motivate individuals doesn’t seem like it could be effective.   Still, what surprised me about this study was that simple straight forward messages like ‘eat right’, ‘be active’,  ‘be healthy’ seemed to be rated as most effective.   While there is no doubt in my mind that people would respond more positively to positive messages than negative ones… I wonder which do a better job of capturing attention.   The true impact of any campaign – will depend on whether anyone is listening.  First you have to capture attention, then you need to communicate the compelling, impactful message.  To that end I wonder if perhaps what  hasn’t been figured out yet is how to capture attention in a compelling way, without stigmatizing.    Who will  come up with a way to make those wonderfully effective positive messages actually be provocative and attention getting?  There in lies the key.

The Carrot or the Stick?

Sep 19

Ever wonder how powerful a ‘headline’ can be? I recently read an article entitled “Millions don’t have their blood pressure under control”. And all I kept thinking was ‘but how many millions DO have their blood pressure under control?’ It made me wonder what can we learn from those who DO do it right?

I know media is often looking for a hook and typically that hook takes the form of a fear-tactic. Don’t get me wrong, even in the public health sector, fear-appeal messages, when paired with important content on how to avoid the danger, can be very powerful and persuasive. But, I can’t help wonder whether in this day and age, when fear appeals are everywhere, whether we’ve grown immune to such headlines. I would find myself much more intrigued to hear what IS working for the millions who have been able to control their blood pressure. What really did work for the millions who have lost the extra weight that had put them at risk for diabetes or heart disease? What types of investment, refinancing strategies did work for the millions who didn’t lose their homes in the recent economic downturn. Those types of articles would give me hope! Isn’t that the information we are all looking for… how to improve our health, finances, quality of life?

Looking at the content of the blood pressure article, there are solid recommendations for how controlling blood pressure can be successful, but they are buried under even more alarming statistics of how many people don’t even realize they have high blood pressure, how many don’t take medicine, and how many take medicine but don’t have it under control. Is the real question ‘how bad has this health crisis become’ or should it be ‘how can it be fixed’? If it’s the latter, then would an approach that spotlights successes and helps people learn from each other work harder in helping us make positive life changes?

Do the Strong4Life childhood obesity ads really stigmatize overweight kids?

Jan 11

The question isn’t have you seen the latest childhood obesity ads from Strong4Life, but do you have an opinion to add to all of those floating around?

While there seems to be a general consensus in the dialogue about this controversial campaign, that these ads have missed the mark in being particularly effective from a behavior change standpoint, these ads have also come under fire for further stigmatizing children who are struggling with obesity or are overweight. This is where I disagree—or at least where I become confused.

Warning: Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line.

Image: Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

How do these ads further stigmatize children who are obese or overweight? These ads highlight the unfortunate plight of these children who state that they don’t like to go to school because they get picked on, or that they prefer solitary play (e.g. video games) because of the teasing of other children in other settings—or the clearly disturbed question of a young boy who asks his mother: “Mom, why am I fat?”. I’m not clear how these dramatizations are pointing fingers at these children or how they further add to the stigma associated with overweight or obesity. In fact, these ads very powerfully use the stigma these children are already facing to call attention to the issue. Perhaps that is the greatest strength of these ads—they startle us, and make us face an issue through the eyes of the children that are affected. They cut through the clutter and compel.

Where they admittedly fall short is utilizing that attention they’ve garnered to deliver a strong call to action around what can be done to help prevent overweight and obesity. A truly missed opportunity.

Do We Need to Redefine Social Marketing?

Apr 18

Flying back from the World Social Marketing Conference in Dublin last week, I had an eight hour delay in Newark that gave me A LOT of time to think through everything I was exposed to at the conference.  Between the keynotes, the seminars, the plenary sessions, and the debates, the amount of information shared was overwhelming, comprehensive, and interesting. But how to make sense of it all?  I’m not sure I have, but it certainly has got me thinking.

A strong theme that emerged across many of the sessions I attended was about how to define social marketing, as well as the related question of whether social marketing needs to redefine itself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Overcoming the Hurdle and Joining the Twitter Bandwagon

Nov 29

I don’t tweet.  I don’t Facebook. Frankly, I don’t even feel comfortable using those terms as verbs. Maybe I’m not even supposed to—is it more correct to say I don’t have a Facebook page? Still, when it comes to work, I 100% believe in  — and have seen—the value that social media offers to amplify and drive the messages we develop on behalf of our clients’ causes and issues.

I recently had the privilege to help organize a panel discussion (that Alexandra Hughes previously wrote about) about the topic of how to best use social media in the public health context, which further underscored for me the importance of this channel in motivating the attitudinal and behavioral shifts we are seeking across a variety of health related issues.  Collaborating on Ogilvy Washington and Georgetown’s recent white paper Social Media Platforms to Amplify Public Health Messaging (PDF), as well as the panel discussion, have motivated a more personal behavioral shift I hadn’t expected – namely a desire to become a more active user of social media.

After the panel discussion, I sheepishly had to admit to Susannah Fox, our online research guru and panelist representing Pew Research Center, that I had not seen her tweet about the session. I came clean that while I talk the talk for our clients, and even give presentations at conferences about the value of using social media for the purposes of engaging audiences in vital public health related topics, I personally have never joined a social network. In her brilliantly encouraging manner, Susannah simply said “ It’s never too late to start!”. And while she had me actually considering it, she tackled my other barrier—the okay, now how do I actually DO this twitter thing—by sending me an email link to a list of people to follow on twitter & why.  For those of you out there who feel similarly vexed by how to actually pursue social media for your OWN benefit and education in this space, here’s that helpful link.  See you online!