Addressing Multiple Concurrent Chronic Conditions

May 20

In my experience working in Social Marketing at Ogilvy, we address chronic conditions on a daily basis—heart disease, kidney disease, cancer—and work to reach our target audiences to educate them on preventative measures, to better the public health of America.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing chronic conditions through a new lens.  The 2010 HeartCaring Conference yesterday hosted by Spirit Health Group® included a fascinating keynote speaker, Dr.  Anand Parekh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health.   He addressed multiple concurrent chronic conditions and the needs of people who have them.  Statistics point to the fact that if you have one chronic condition, you likely have another.  Did you know that approximately 75 million Americans have multiple chronic conditions (MCC)? 27% of all Americans have MCC? 66% of total health care spending is directed toward care of people with MCC?


The statistics are actually quite startling.  And from a social marketing perspective, audiences need streamlined messaging for health information to resonate.  If people with MCC are being bombarded with messaging about obesity, blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease all at the same time from various places, will they ever remember a simple step on how to reduce risk factors for any one of those conditions?

HHS has recognized this challenge and is taking a fresh look at the needs of people with MCC.  They are planning to launch a finalized strategic approach to MCC this summer, in conjunction with stakeholders including other public agencies, private corporations, and nonprofit organizations.  A draft of their strategic approach is currently available for commentary on the HHS Web site.  People with comments can write to so that their voices are heard regarding this new initiative.

I think that the goals of the program are strong: 1) Provide tools to individuals with MCC, 2) Maximize self-care management, 3) Foster public health systems to provide care for people with MCC, and 4) Facilitate research to fill knowledge gaps.


Social Marketing – A Global Need and Opportunity

May 20

It soon will be announced that Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide will become the title (read: lead) sponsor of The 2nd World Non-Profit & Social Marketing Conference, to be held in Dublin, Ireland, April 11-12, 2011.

The Conference will focus on exploring how strategic communications, marketing and behavior change methodologies can be applied to address vital social issues and challenges. Participants drawn from across the globe will include experts in social marketing, the behavioral sciences, strategic communications, health promotion, community engagement, policy development and advocacy.  Special effort also is being made to attract governmental officials, policy think tanks and charitable organizations.

Ogilvy is honored to be supporting this pioneering conference.  This is especially so at a time when more and more leaders in the public and private sectors across the world are recognizing the benefits of applying social marketing techniques to addressing vital social, health, safety and development issues.   Ogilvy colleagues around our global network are seeing this interest and opportunity unfold in countries and regions ranging from Ireland and the European Union, to Brazil, the Middle East, Africa, Singapore, Australia, China and the United States.

Conference organizers are soliciting submissions of proposed papers, presentations, workshops and exhibits until Friday, June 18, 2010. Each different type of presentation has different submission guidelines.  You can review guidelines here.

Please help spread the word about this groundbreaking opportunity to learn and share and to advance the science and the art of applying communications to tackling key social challenges. You can join the conference group on Facebook, and follow conference updates on Twitter and the conference blog.

For full details about the conference, visit

If You Strap a Tiny Camcorder Onto Someone’s Forehead…

May 18

I recently came across an old Financial Times review for a book about a man who – curious to see the world from his two-year-old daughter’s perspective – strapped a tiny camcorder to her forehead and let her roam free, chronicling the business of being a toddler.

Watching her footage after several days, the author marveled at things like how much time she spent inspecting her feet and looking at herself in front of the mirror.

Lately I’ve been looking at my own children and family members and friends and wondering, if we all conducted this same little experiment together, what would we learn about each other and marvel at?  What insights could we gather to help us understand each other that much more and make the business of life a little easier?

And on a larger scale, as social marketers, what if we gave tiny camcorders to the people whose lives we’re trying to change and health behaviors we’re trying to improve?  More than focus groups or in-depth interviews or even ethnographic observation, what could “a day in the life” teach us about the ex-smoker who is now a chewer, about the woman who – despite her family history – doesn’t get tested regularly for skin cancer, or about the young, otherwise healthy, professional who just learned she has to live with and manage diabetes?

I imagine some honest and unedited self-documentation would reveal some very real complexities that can’t be put into words, can’t be explained in a report – and can only be understood by the literal and proverbial “putting yourself in another’s shoes.”  Watching my own family and friends, I would imagine that a little raw footage would show: the chewer is overwhelmingly bored; the mole-y woman considers herself much too busy to get tested, even though she thinks about it every morning; and the young professional’s biggest fear about diabetes is giving herself insulin shots because she’s scared to death of needles.  But I don’t know.  I wonder if I had all these people over for dinner, if they’d let me strap tiny cameras onto their foreheads to find out…

Corporate Social Responsibility: From Shareholder Value to Stakeholder Responsibility?

May 17

The April 22 issue of The Economist featured a timely article on how business leaders and economists are rethinking the wisdom of maximizing shareholder value (i.e., quarterly increases in share price) over the needs and interests of other corporate stakeholders (e.g., customers, employees, suppliers, and society at large).

Some influential economists have raised the call for a new consumer-centric focus. Others are demanding a renewed focus on employees.

There are strategic merits to both approaches. Over the past decade, the emergence of social media has given consumers unprecedented authority to shape the reputation and value of companies and their brands. And happy, productive, and empowered employees play an essential role as brand ambassadors and as the creators of new products and services.

But The Economist suggests that a more comprehensive and strategic approach – reminiscent of Porter and Kramer’s landmark 2006 Harvard Business Review essay on corporate social responsibility (note: reprint purchase required to access full article on – is what’s necessary for companies to stay competitive over the long term.

Rather than a tactical focus on the short-term interests of shareholders, customers, or employees, the article suggests that a long-term strategic focus that aligns a company’s business objectives to meet the needs of its most important constituencies is the key to long-term sustainability. The Economist calls this “ecological” approach “stakeholder responsibility.”

The Economist suggests that companies that focus on quarterly returns risk losing sight of the broad range of stakeholders who ultimately influence and define their success. By driving shareholder value at the risk of product or service quality – or at the risk of alienating key staff, suppliers, and distributors – companies can quickly lose the magic recipe that made them successful and profitable in the first place.

So what lessons can companies learn in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008?

1. Businesses need to remind themselves that maximizing shareholder value is ultimately a tactic, not a comprehensive business strategy.

2. The best way to maximize shareholder value over time (i.e., beyond the next quarter) is to ensure that businesses invest in growing the key relationships that are critical to strengthening and sustaining their competitive advantage. This includes critical investments in product innovation to meet the evolving needs of consumers, investments human capital development to ensure a healthy pipeline of employees who possess the skills required to produce innovation, and forward-thinking investments in the supply and distribution chains that connect companies to the world around them.

3. This “long view” approach requires a renewed focus on the downstream implications of business strategy – i.e., on understanding that business success is a marathon, not a sprint. And this approach demands a thorough understanding of the social impact of a company’s value chain, and an appreciation for how a company can enhance its competitive advantage by investing in that value chain.

Has the Medical News Beat Flatlined?

May 13

Newsrooms across the country have seen 20-25% reductions in their staffs over the last decade and that has meant in many cases the elimination of the health and medical beat reporters. So what’s happening to those journalists who use to cover our social marketing stories?

Going to the recent annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) in Chicago provided some clues. And while I have attended many of these since the organization’s inception in 1997, this year was different.

“John Smith and I’m a freelancer, my question is…”

“I’m Jane Johnson and I’m an independent journalist and I’d like to know…”

This was the familiar refrain during the Q&A section of all the presentations. In the past, the attendees from mainstream or legacy media dominated.

Now, Len Bruzzese, the director of AHCJ, says nearly a third (30%) of the membership identifies as freelance. This is up from 25% last year and 21% the year before. He cites as possible causes the “layoffs, early retirement, or buyouts” rampant in the industry over the last three years.

Among this group is Carol Ann Campbell formerly from The Star-Ledger and Susan Brink previously with the Los Angeles Times. Now Campbell does freelance through the and Brink gets writing gigs through The Journalism Workshop.

And there are hundreds more like them. But while they might have lost their day to day schedule, a steady paycheck and a distinguished masthead to write under these top notch, award winning reporters – seasoned and experienced on the health and medical beat – are still at it, writing and getting published for a variety of news outlets.

So bully for them – right?

Yes, good for them and good for us too because we all benefit from having talented well-informed professionals covering our issues. But – and there’s always a “but” – this dramatic change in the news profession does make our jobs much more difficult and we too must change in response.

Relationships are now more important than ever. Keeping in touch and up to date on your favorite reporter will require diligence and persistence. Knowing what they are writing and for whom they are writing it will take more effort and some skill.

Here are a few ideas on how we must change in response to the changes in the news business:

– Don’t’ rely on databanks and search software such as Cision, Factiva, and Vocus because it’s hard for them to keep pace. Freelancers and independents are moving targets many with multiple email addresses that they may or may not check on a regular basis. 

– Consume as much news as possible across all platforms – print, broadcast, Internet – because the best freelancers are writing for them all and you’ll need to know how to “pitch” them story for each medium. 

– Create your own system or mechanism for following key reporters and writers. Check in with them on a regular basis, let them know you still follow their work and keep informed about your work. If they are busy, they will tell you. If they aren’t they might appreciate a good lead on a story they can then write and “sell.” 

– Distinguish between long lead and harder news stories. (1) The long leads will take even more time to develop when you are working with freelancers. They will need more time to pitch the story to multiple outlets until they get interest. (2) Hard news is still being covered by staff reporters. Most will be general assignment reporters with less background and less experienced. Be prepared to do some educating. 

While the health and medical beat might have flatlined in many newsrooms, there are still many experienced and knowledgeable beat reporters alive and well outside the newsroom looking for good stories to write and to pitch for publication. The trick is finding and following them.


Smokefree Women

May 12

The National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree Women initiative launched an interesting project this week.  It’s called “Celebrating Smokefree Voices,” and it’s a YouTube video contest, to capture women’s quitting experiences and reasons for quitting smoking, as well as to motivate friends and family members to encourage a woman they love to quit.

There are three things, in particular, that I like about this approach:

First, it a fun way to engage an audience and invite them to participate in the initiative.  Behavioral science theories and models, particularly the Stages of Change Model and the Precaution Adoption Process Model, point to such engagement as a successful approach to enhancing attitudinal and behavior change by helping to personalize the risks and benefits and promoting active decision-making, respectively.  Likewise, by engaging friends and family members in encouraging women to quit smoking, the initiative helps to shape the subjective norm that “people who are important to me disapprove of my smoking and want me to quit” – an important construct in both the Theory of Planned Behavior and the Theory of Reasoned Action.

Second, it features the voices of real people dealing with real struggles in their quest to quit smoking, but by focusing on celebrating being smokefree, it emphasizes the benefits of quitting.  Time and again, consumer research that I have been involved with – particularly in the women’s health field – reveals that showcasing such “real stories” is a powerful way to connect with audiences, build relevance, and enhance empowerment.

Third, it leverages the power of social media to support women in their quit attempt.  The video contest itself utilizes a powerful social media platform, YouTube, to capture attention and begin to engage women and their loved ones.  Then, to enter the contest, one must visit the Smokefree Women Website where there are a number of interactive and sharable tools, such as the Facebook Page and Smokefree Quit Tracker Application, the Twitter handle, monthly quizzes and polls, e-cards, and other quit support tools.

I’m eager to watch the winning video entries on July 2, 2010 and to follow the progress of this initiative.

Local Government…They’re Developing An App for That!

May 10

We’ve all seen the Apple commercials showcasing the seemingly endless amount of iPhone apps for everything from getting your news, to remembering where you parked your car. And it really seems like there is almost always “an app for that.” Recently I ran across a great program that’s helping to give local governments that same luxury.

Code for America, founded by Jennifer Pahlka and Leonard Lin, brings together web developers and city officials to identify and develop web-based solutions to become more efficient, transparent, and participatory. Back in February, Code for America asked cities from around the country to submit their request for applications – apps they wanted or needed to solve problems and engage citizens, specifically, apps that promote transparency, participation, and efficiency. Following a review of all the submissions, the selected ideas would be build by Code for America fellows in 2011.

Earlier this month, Code for America announced the first five cities that will be able to take advantage of this great idea. Boston, Boulder, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Seattle will all receive free web and/or mobile apps to help administer government and serve their citizens. While they have not announced what the selected projects are (as far as I can tell), below are a couple of my favorite ideas out of the applications that were proposed:

– A virtual resource center for businesses that provides for real-time tracking of all interactions with the city, including licensing, permitting and incentives.

– A civic portal to help community groups post projects, allow citizens to search for volunteer opportunities, and connect planning and city council decisions to neighborhoods

The applications are expected to launch September of 2011, and Code for America will be documenting the process and blogging about it on their site. I’m looking forward to tracking their progress to see what they come up with, and hopefully see how we as social marketers can learn from their experiences.

Cases in Public Health Communication & Marketing

May 05

The George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services publishes peer-reviewed case studies from the fields of public health communication and social marketing at  One of the newest entries, “Using Social Media to Reach Women with The Heart Truth® – 2009 Update,” provides an overview of how social media has been employed for the last several years to raise women’s awareness about their risk for heart disease and advance the campaign’s brand (The Red Dress®). Below is an abstract.

“The power of social media to effect change is becoming recognized by social marketers and health educators as an important strategy, and campaigns are increasingly using social media strategies to expand the reach to their target audiences.  In 2002, when the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute launched The Heart Truth® – the first federally-sponsored national campaign aimed at increasing awareness among women about their risk of heart disease – many of today’s social media hardly existed.  At the outset, the campaign team developed and tested a women’s heart disease brand – The Red Dress® – and sought to promote it through a wide variety of means, including the internet marketing approaches that were current at that time.  The online approaches supported the three main campaign implementation strategies: partnership development, media relations, and community action.  As the campaign matured and new media approaches evolved, the campaign increasingly promoted its products, messages, and events through social media channels and Internet marketing techniques, including e-mail promotions, blogs targeted to women, Facebook, Twitter, public service banner advertisements, and outreach to online mainstream news sites.  The social media effort began as a small pilot project in 2007, and was expanded in subsequent years based on lessons learned.  This article describes the approaches used and the results achieved, and discusses the advantages and limitations of social media in the context of the larger campaign.  With a combined impact of many millions of additional audience impressions through social media, the campaign team concluded that these channels provide an effective, low-cost means of further extending the reach of launched The Heart Truth® to its core audience and beyond.”

You can read the full case here.

An Identity Crisis for Social Marketing

Apr 30

The explosion of social media as a critical communications channel has spawned a terminology problem which, if unchecked, could foster a long-term identity crisis for social marketers.  Over the past few years, a number of terms have been created to describe the practice of marketing a message or product through social media.  These terms include: social media optimization, social media marketing, social network marketing and—most concerning—social marketing.

In reality, social marketing is much broader than simply marketing through social media.  It is an established and proven discipline that relies on many different inputs and outputs to change awareness, attitudes, and behaviors.  Social marketing’s focus on advancing social causes is what makes the discipline unique.  Since its introduction in 1971, social marketing has been used to address many of the world’s most pressing issues, from public health to public safety to environmentalism.

By contrast, “marketing through social media involves having conversations and creating engagement online through a variety of social media tools, such as blogs, wikis, online communities, community websites, video, photos, and social networking platforms.

Despite these differences there are an increasing number of pundits who incorrectly use the term “social marketing” to describe a very narrow set of social media outreach tactics.  This terminology war began in earnest a few years ago when one company named its social media offering “social marketing,” and the social marketing community voiced strong objections at the time.  However, the marketplace confusion not only still lingers, it appears to be picking up steam.  These efforts are eroding the brand equity of the 30+ year-old discipline of social marketing.

Effective social marketing initiatives start with a solid understanding of the intended audience and employ many strategies to surround that audience with motivational messages that support and foster changes in attitudes and behaviors.  Methods include policy and environmental change initiatives, community outreach, direct mail, advertising, media relations, partnership development, events, interpersonal outreach, and materials dissemination, among others.

Today, all good social marketing campaigns also contain social media tactics that are based—as the rest of the campaign elements are—on research-derived insights into the campaign’s intended audience.  Indeed, social media has an important and critical role to play in social marketing initiatives.  Among the chief benefits:

Interaction:  Social marketing and behavior change theories posit that if you can find ways to engage the intended audience in an interactive way with your message(s), you have a much greater chance of fostering recall and consideration of the attitude or behavior you are “selling.”  Social media outreach offers this interaction in spades.  From inviting the audience to contribute to content on a Web site to prompting blogging to fostering the sharing of ideas, images and videos through social networks, the possibilities for interaction via social media are endless.

Word of Mouth:  The most successful social marketing initiatives generate tremendous word of mouth publicity, or buzz, to spread messages and engage audiences.  Because of the interpersonal nature of word of mouth communication, it is believed that information communicated in this way has an added layer of credibility because the receiver of word-of-mouth communication tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive.  Social media activities, including viral marketing, can be a very cost-effective and quick way to generate this buzz and propel a social marketing initiative more swiftly to the “tipping point.”

Audience Reach:  While access to the Internet is still not ubiquitous, it is steadily growing among all segments of the population, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or income level.  This is especially true among tweens, teens and young adults, many of whom are “online” so constantly that they don’t even distinguish a difference between being “offline” or “online.”  Mid-life and older adults are also venturing into social networking at an increasing rate, often to connect with old friends or with their children and grandchildren.  At a time when consumption of many other communications channels is declining (e.g., newspapers), social media has a unique role to play in reaching audiences directly and in the places in which they already are spending large chunks of time.

For sure, social media has an important place in social marketing.  But marketing through social media is not social marketing.  It’s time for social marketers to take an even more active stance to claim back the term that for nearly four decades has stood for a research-based and audience-driven approach to advancing social issues.

Getting Smart on Gov2.0…Fast!

Apr 30

This past Wednesday, Microsoft announced the launch of a new site that can help you connect with your local and state government online. The site, Gov2Social, lets you find state and local government officials using social media by search for your city, your state, your county, or a government official. The site also allows government agencies and officials to add their social media efforts to the database.

The site is a great way to get smart quick about who is utilizing social media in your area. Gov2Social adds itself to a long list of sites, communities, and blogs that keep me up to date on the expanding adoption of social media in government – both local and federal. Here are some of the sites I check on a regular basis to stay smart on Gov 2.0.

OpenGov Dashboard – Associated with the White House’s Open Government Initiative, the Dashboard tracks agency progress on the deliverables set out in the Directive, including each agency’s Open Government Plan.

GovLoop – GovLoop is a social network for the government community to connect and share information. Members include government employees from federal, state, and local government, and students and individuals interested in government service as well as government contractors.

HHS Center for New Media – Need to find out the most recent news on how HHS is using social media? What their policies are? hhsCNM is the place to go.

GovFresh – GovFresh features content on Gov 2.0, open gov news, guides, TV, tech, people and official U.S. government feeds, all in one place. It also includes GovFreshTV and MilFresh, a site focused on military topics.

GovTwit – This website hosts the world’s largest list of government agencies on Twitter, tracking state/local, federal, contractors, media, academics, non-profits… and even governments outside of the US!

Facebook for Government – This is a great one-stop shop if you are looking to find out how government agencies are using Facebook. In has information about how Government can best use Facebook, as well as a nice collection of government facebook pages. Government Blogs List – Here you can find a directory of all federal government blogs.

This list is by no means comprehensive, and I’m always on the lookout for more ways to stay up to date. Where do you go to get the scoop on Gov 2.0?