Social Media Week Event Wrap Up: The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare

Feb 15

This morning we welcomed more than 100 social media and health enthusiasts to the Ogilvy Washington office for our social media week panel, The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare.

The panelists and audience discussed many facets of the same challenge: leveraging social to improve health.

A few highlights and common threads throughout the morning:

Using online interaction to foster offline action. Amy O’Connor of Eli Lilly noted that as her key driver – a much better way to define success than, for example, number of Twitter followers. On a similar note, Danielle Leach of Inspire brought up a case in which a group of women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection connected online and successfully advocated for the Mayo Clinic to create a patient pool of information on the condition.

Creating connections that aren’t likely to happen offline. Ogilvy’s Rebecca Davis emphasized the power of social media surrounding The Heart Truth campaign to bring people together. Danielle noted that people go online looking for people who are experiencing what they are experiencing.

Building community is not based on one-way brand-driven marketing. Joel Selzer of Ozmosis stressed the importance of basic two-way conversation, and Amy shared that she builds community by sharing the voice of others who you agree with rather than just the voice of the organization.


Regulation is a struggle. As one of the most highly regulated industries, we are constantly challenged to be impactful without violating FDA and other regulations or revealing patient information. Adapting engagement in order to be successful is crucial – Amy recommended talking about holistic issues, not products, so that engagement in real time is possible. Joel also endorsed the approach of taking calculated swings to foster a discussion that steers clear of adverse events and off label discussion.

Listening is essential. Rebecca highlighted the importance of listening, not only to identify potential red flags, but also so that senior executives can be educated on the existing conversation. On that note, she also mentioned the necessity for collaboration between web content developers and social media managers – if social media managers know where demand lies, an organization can streamline its content development and ensure that there will be interest.

Defining success is crucial. Amy asks herself who her target audience is and if she is reaching them. Joel aims to improve patient care and reduce costs. Rebecca brought up designating diagnostics that align with key performance indicators.

Achieving actual change in behavior remains the goal (and a challenge!). Danielle pointed out that people are connecting regardless of the stage of change that they’re in, while Rebecca touched on the importance of inspiring in people the motivation to change their behavior.


The future is about streamlining. Amy noted that bureaucracy within our organizations gets in the way, and Joel pointed out that moving beyond social media to social business that makes life easier for health care providers and other entities is where he sees the industry moving.

Like any good discussion, the crowd and panel raised as many questions as they answered. An audience member brought up the importance of prevention, and panelists acknowledged that reaching unengaged audiences is a challenge. Moderator Dana Allen-Greil asked if we’ve actually figured out how social media can improve health – something I think we’re all still refining as we go.

Thanks to everyone who attended the panel, and if you could not attend, view the tweets that made #smwhc a trending topic in DC. You can connect with our panelists at @danamuses @makegood @jbselz @LillyPad and @TeamInspire.

Utilizing Digital Channels to Reach Those “‘80s Babies”

Feb 07


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Utilizing Digital Channels to Reach Those “‘80s Babies”

No matter what we call them, we are reaching out to them more and more, especially in social media. Who are they? What are they doing online? What is the best way to reach them?

The “Social Media Doctor is In” at DHCX

Feb 06

Several members of the Ogilvy Washington team, including myself, will be heading down to Orlando next week for the Digital Health Communication Extravaganza (DHCX). We are so excited to interact with other digital health practitioners and swap best practices for using digital tools to enact behavior change.

As part of our efforts to exchange ideas and expertise, we’re sponsoring free social media consulting at our booth in the exhibit hall.  We’re calling it “Social Media Doctor is In”.   You can sign up for a free 15 minutes of social media consulting from leading Digital Strategists at Ogilvy Washington.  We’ll be providing the consulting at the Ogilvy booth in the exhibit hall.  Sign up for an appointment at http://bit.ly/socialdr and then simply swing by our booth during your appointed time.  We scheduled all our appointments during networking breaks, lunch and other free sessions at DHCX so you won’t be missing any of the great speakers and will get some one on one time with us.  I sincerely hope to see you there and that we can help you with your digital communication problem or question.

In additional to “Social Media Doctor is In”,  Ogilvy is a sponsor of the conference and has a great line up of presenters.  Rohit Bhargava will be presenting “The Past, Present, and Future Of Healthcare In 12 Inspired Tweets” in a plenary session on Friday.  Dana Allen-Greil will be presenting a poster titled ” Using Social Media to Reach and Motivate Women to Address Risk Factors for Heart Disease”.   Alex Hughes will be also be presenting a poster titled “Using Social Media Platforms to Amplify Public Health Messages”.   We hope that you will stop by these sessions and say hello to us.

What are you looking forward to most at DHCX?

Ogilvy Washington Social Media Week Events on healthcare and more

Feb 03

You might think that after the Super Bowl there’s nothing to look forward to until President’s Day weekend – but you would be wrong!  Washington, DC is one of 12 cities worldwide hosting Social Media Week from February 13-17 and Ogilvy Washington would love to see you at one of our events.

Image via pr2020.com

In social marketing and throughout PR, we know that social media channels allow us to reach nearly every segment of our target audience.  In the realm of health and behavior change, it’s especially crucial to have that one-on-one interaction with individuals.  Huge growth and social media adoption has taken place among health care consumers, providers, and organizations in the past year, but we have only just begun to embrace the possibilities for healthcare on social media.

On February 15 from 10-11:30am, please join thought leaders from across the health care and social media spectrums to discuss what’s next in social media for the industry.

The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare

  • Joel Selzer, Founder & CEO, Ozmosis
  • Danielle Leach, Director of Partnerships, Inspire
  • Amy O’Connor, Director, Digital Governmental Affairs, Eli Lilly
  • Dana Allen-Greil, Account Director/Digital Strategist, Ogilvy Washington
  • Rebecca Davis, Executive Vice President, Digital Influence, Ogilvy Washington.

To connect with our panelists and RSVP for the event, visit the Social Media Week website here.

If you can’t make this event (or want to come to more), Ogilvy Washington is hosting two other Social Media Week events:

On February 16 from 10-11am, Ogilvy’s Kety Esquivel and Julio Valeriano will share their expertise on reaching Hispanics in the U.S. (16% of the total population, according to the 2010 Census) through social networks, mobile technology, and content creation.  Email Julio.valeriano@ogilvy.com and visit here to RSVP.

  • Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence Digital Trivia Night

Let your knowledge (and random fact knowledge) in social media, design, development, and the Internet shine at Mackey’s on February 15 from 6-8:30pm.  If bragging rights aren’t enough, the $100 bar tab for the winning team should be ample motivation!

Visit the Social Media Week DC website or leave a comment here if you have any questions, and hope to see you at one of our events!

Tell Me a Story: A Novel and Effective Way to Promote Behavior Change

Feb 03

One of the first rules for those of us in the creative writing business is show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t tell me that the 12-year-old in your story who’s heading off to her first day at a new school is scared or nervous. Show me how she feels by making me feel it too–the rush of heat that comes to her face when she shows up in the wrong homeroom and has to get up, in front of 30 laughing strangers, and make her way back to the door. The feeling of invisibility as she stands next to the beautiful cheerleader at the adjoining locker. The absolute certainty that her lunch tray is going to slip from her shaking hands as she approaches a table in the cafeteria where all of the popular kids are sitting.

While this approach is the essence of great storytelling, it’s also a valuable tool in social marketing–one that enables you to illustrate the behavioral changes you’re striving to create as opposed to simply telling people what they should do. A little over a decade ago I worked on a team that had the opportunity to do just that in the development of a public education campaign to address the problem of bullying, particularly among “tweens” between the ages of nine and 13. The stakes for success were significant. There had been numerous high profile incidents of school violence that stemmed from bullying the year before we developed the campaign, and there was a growing certainty among experts that the problem had reached crisis proportions.

The key challenges in developing the campaign were the complexity of the messaging and the myriad goals of our client–the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS wanted to convince kids not to bully other kids . . . while convincing “bystanders” to step in and use positive peer pressure to get bullies to change their behaviors . . . while ultimately supporting the creation of school-wide cultures where bullying went from being a “rite of passage” to something that would not be condoned.

Obviously a series of Public Service Announcements wasn’t going to accomplish all of this. We had to find a way to directly engage kids on an emotional level to convince them to change their attitudes and the way they behaved toward each other. Our solution was inspired by the use of “novellas” and serial dramas, which have been a key component in social marketing efforts in Spanish-speaking and developing nations for the past four decades and more recently in U.S. efforts as well.

Created in print, radio, television and Web formats, serial dramas utilize suspenseful stories with interesting characters to capture the attention of target audiences and demonstrate the types of behaviors that will solve problems and improve lives. They’ve succeeded in bringing about significant shifts in behavior toward family planning, HIV/AIDS prevention, the education of girls, ending the abuse of women, and even the conservation of natural resources.

As described in this January 28 New York Times story about the use of soap operas to promote behavior change in developing countries, “Successful soaps tend to be smartly written, sexy and replete with plot twists and love triangles. In the best-case scenario, the show becomes popular, and viewers begin to incorporate some of the themes into their lives.” The story goes on to report that “some, though not all, have also been successful commercially and have resulted in documented changes in behavior. The long-running South African television series ‘Soul City’ has 12 million viewers and is as familiar as Coca-Cola to black South Africans. Regular viewers are almost four times as likely to use condoms than others. In Saint Lucia, the radio drama ‘Apwé Plézi’ (‘After the Pleasure’) became so popular that producers had to set up a separate helpline for people requesting information on family planning. Brazilian women with exposure to soap operas, which usually portray small families, have been found to have significantly lower fertility than others.”

While novellas have been used by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to encourage people to take short term actions (such as getting vaccinated for the flu) the format is particularly well-suited to communications efforts that are multidimensional and that aim to bring about long term change in a society. As noted by William N. Ryerson, President of the Population Media Center, which has incorporated serial dramas in numerous education efforts, the programs capture the attention of target audiences with compelling storylines and characters and “allow time for the audience to form bonds with the characters and evolve their own thinking at a gradual pace in response to problems that have been well illustrated in a storyline.”

Ryerson  also notes, and supports with ample evidence in this paper that “the emotional context of a melodrama improves retention of lessons learned by the audience, in much the same way that we remember the details of where we were on September 11, 2001 much more clearly than on an ordinary day.”

Our creative team (which included people who wrote fiction in our time out of the office) had a lot of fun developing our serial drama to address bullying. Knowing that our “tweens” spend about 120 percent of their lives online, we chose “webisodes” as the platform.  Based on research, we knew middle schoolers liked animation, so we used personified animals as characters in the story. “KB,” the sweet, shy girl who was bullied in her new school, was a puppy, and “Cassandra,” her chief “mean girl” tormentor, was a cat. Thrown into the mix were a popular science teacher – characterized as a stork – who intervened when he saw the bullies in action, and two cool kids – a bunny and a monkey–who likewise intervened as peer bystanders and helped save the day.

Stop Bullying Now Webisodes screenshot

A decade later, HHS still promotes these webisodes as a public engagement tool.  To learn more about the Population Media Center’s success in using serial dramas to change behaviors related to family planning and the treatment of women, literacy and other topics, visit their website.  Get a glimpse of some excellent work being done by HMA Associates, a cultural communications firm and frequent Ogilvy Washington partner on their website.

Do you know of a public education or social marketing effort that could benefit from this novel approach to changing behavior? If so, feel free to join the discussion.

This is Not About Cancer: How do we get consumers interested in their health?

Jan 19

Cancer: Everything causes it and a cure is always further away than we hope.

Public health graduate studies led me to believe (initially) that all public health is about cancer. Though these days I try to worry less about cancer (only because there are so many professional worriers—those whose life pursuit is the cure for cancer), and more about consumer engagement and industry transparency.

The problem is, of course that one cannot be engaged, nor enlightened by quality measures if their health is irrelevant to them until they fall ill. As social marketers we need them to be aware first, and then we can nudge them into contemplating, deciding and acting—actual behavior change. To that end, we are hard at work developing innovative consumer awareness and education campaigns.

We are also hard at work building infrastructure and partnerships to ensure that thought leadership is also innovative and relevant—so our campaigns are both high impact and highly informed.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) President and CEO Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey notes, “The new public health operates out front, in the full light of day, connecting the dots, building partnerships, and creating collaborative relationships that reach far into every corner of the community.

This quote is from RWJF’s NewPublicHealth.org, a website targeting public health professionals to “spark an ongoing conversation about public health challenges, opportunities, evidence, solutions and innovations.”

It includes public health news, commentary and updates at all levels, and features veteran reporters, public health officials, noted researchers and academics, association heads and the public health leaders in the U.S. government.

I hope it realizes its potential to become the “pulse” of the public health field and moves people to act and take the professional risks necessary to create real change.

However, I confess that when I’d first heard of NewPublicHealth I thought it was going to be consumer-targeted. And I was excited about it. But for the average consumer getting excited about health means they need to relate and be entertained. There are non-traditional public health advocates, and some vilified by public health purists who are changing the face of public health.

Instead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University and CeaseFire Illinois, we could have DiscoveryHealth, Disney, YMCA and, gasp, maybe even MTV setting the stage and starting the conversation. Did you know that MTV’s “It’s Your [Sex] Life” campaign won a Peabody?

For future blog posts, I’m going to start featuring these game changers.  Let’s face it, this crew is a lot more exciting than public health leaders and researchers. Maybe even interesting enough to make consumers think of their health as more than non-cancer.

So what do you think? Who would you invite to this consumer-targeted health site? Who do you think I should feature in my next blog post?

“Wake-Up Call” Campaigns – Do They Work?

Jan 12

In recent weeks, there have been a number of hard-hitting anti-obesity campaigns making headlines. As Trish Taylor described earlier this week, Georgia’s “Strong4Life” anti-childhood obesity campaign, introduced by the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, uses short ads, billboards, and TV spots depicting an obese child and statements including “fat kids become fat adults,” and “it’s hard to be a little girl when you’re not” to urge Georgia to “stop sugar coating the problem.” The campaign was selected for its shock value after research revealed that despite Georgia ranking second nationally for overweight and obese children, 50 percent of the people surveyed did not recognize childhood obesity as a problem and 75 percent of parents with overweight or obese children did not see their children as having a weigh issue. The campaign is planned as a $50 million project over five years, with three phases.

In addition, New York City launched subway ads this week, one of which features a diabetic man whose leg was amputated due to complications with the disease alongside of growing portions of soda and the statements, “Cut your portions. Cut your risk.” and “Portions have Grown. So has type 2 diabetes, which can lead to amputations.” By highlighting growing portion sizes and their potentially devastating consequences, the New York Health Department hopes to urge New Yorkers to be more aware of the quantity of their food and beverage choices. The campaign ads direct those interested to call 311 to receive a “Healthy Eating Packet.”

via New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Both campaigns have been heavily criticized in the media and by health professionals for their hard-hitting approach to raising awareness about obesity because of their failure to follow through on actionable messages and resources. In light of the ongoing dialogue about these campaigns, and our fear that campaigns such as these might deter future thought-provoking, arresting, and actionable public health campaigns, Trish and I have been discussing the value and effectiveness of “wake up call” campaigns. Here is our point of view. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

To Blog or to Tweet, that is the question…

Jan 06

My apologies to Shakespeare, but the recent The Year in News 2011 put out by The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) is helping me answer that question. PEJ has been putting out their analysis for five years and it is an excellent tool to help us media relations professions better understand what’s hot and what’s not in news and therefore appropriately tailor our pitches. Despite the herd mentally usually ascribed to media scribes, PEJ does point to differences, albeit subtle.

Here are my takeaways:

If you got a hard news story, pitch it to CBS over NBC or ABC. Conversely, if you have a lifestyle, celebrity to sports angle, first pitch ABC, then NBC before you bug CBS with it. That goes for morning shows or their evening newscasts. ABC was particularly keen on celebrities last year.

With international stories, your best bet is the NewsHour on PBS. On average, 39% of the NewsHour show was devoted to foreign events and U.S. foreign policy, compared with 28% in the media sample generally, according to PEJ’s report. Read the rest of this entry »

The Role of Optimism in Social Marketing

Jan 05

When I arrived home for the holidays, I rifled through my bookcase looking for a good read.  I stumbled upon a book I had purchased for a psychology class in college, “Learned Optimism,” by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

A professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the American Psychological Association, Seligman describes a number of scientific experiments and groundbreaking theories in this book.  But there were two ideas that resonated with me, and that I believe can be applied to the work we do in social marketing:

1. Optimism is integral to overcoming barriers to success.

Seligman posits that how an individual thinks about and explains an event (one’s explanatory style) strongly influences his reaction to that event. Seligman explains that while a pessimistic explanatory style can produce depression in response to everyday setbacks, an optimistic explanatory style can produce resilience in the face of tragedy. While this may sound obvious to cognitive behavioral therapists, even they may be surprised by how strongly optimism correlates with overcoming adversity and barriers to success.

By examining how individuals think about and explain good and bad events, Seligman was able to:

  • Help insurance companies recruit persistent salespeople who could outsell their peers;
  • Assist coaches in identifying baseball players who could perform under late-inning pressure; and
  • Predict Senate seat winners with unprecedented accuracy.

What did winning salespeople, baseball players, and Senate candidates all have in common? They were all optimists.

2. Optimism can be learned.

Even those who instinctively lean towards pessimistic explanatory styles can learn to be optimists. Seligman offers a host of tactics to help individuals think about obstacles differently, empowering them to react to stumbling blocks in life more positively and bounce back from larger obstacles more quickly than before. One technique Seligman recommends is that pessimists learn to argue with themselves, offering evidence that disputes negative beliefs that lead to negative actions. For example, if Jane believes that she is a failure because she had one cigarette after pledging to quit, she can contradict this belief by reminding herself of the many ways in which she is a success—she was just promoted at her job, has a great relationship with her kids, and is happily married.  By thinking about herself in this new and different way, Jane is more likely to reinvigorate her commitment to quitting than give into temptation the next time she craves a cigarette.

What are the implications for social marketers?

I believe that optimism can play a powerful role in driving behavior change.  When designing interventions, we often think about how to mitigate barriers to action, like cost, inconvenience, and accessibility.  But could pessimism be a barrier that has slipped under our radar? Can we leverage optimism where it exists and foster it where it doesn’t? What implications do you think this has for the way we target audiences, identify influencers, develop messaging, or create materials?