SXSW Interactive: Innovating Health

Mar 15

The past week my Twitter feed was overcome with South by Southwest, and my bookmarks are overflowing with blog posts to read on new innovations, ideas, and recaps. I was excited to see what came out of SxSW after reading this preview from Bloomberg on the prominence of health: South by Southwest Geekfest Veers From Social Media to Health. While I didn’t make the trek down to Austin (some day!), I did learn a few things from following conversations (#sxswi #sxswh #SXDigiHealth #sxehealth) about health and health innovation, which seemed to be as much in the spotlight as Pinterest and Austin’s culinary scene (maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it certainly was a hot topic).

This stat from RazorFish Health kept popping up, over and over, again: The average 24 year-old will spend more time on Facebook than they will with their doctor in 20 years.

Sounds pretty crazy, right? While I’ve spent some time on Facebook in my day, it only took one hand to count the number of times I’ve even seen a doctor in the past year.  One of those times happened to be this week: When finishing my visit, my doctor, going over next steps, said she would email with my lab results and confirmed my e-mail address was correct. This is great!, I thought, no immediate follow-up appointment, no voice mail to listen to, and I would have them in an easy-to-reference place. Sure enough, my lab results came two days later via email (well, via email through a portal, but at least we’re headed in the right direction).

The only issue? I only received lab results. No explanation, no “take a look and let me know if you have questions, but everything looks great”… just me, my iPhone, some wonky lab results, and trusty Google to figure out what I was reading.

In the past few years, health technology has come along way: you can take your pulse on your iPhone, Skype with your doctor, get SMS nudges for a healthy pregnancy or smoking cessation, and the list goes on. More and more there are devices, take the FitBit or Nike Fuel, for example, that are helping people track their overall health. Needless to say, taking social and technological innovations and applying them to making health information and health care more accessible and efficient has only just started. Which is great, because speaking for best practices, when disseminating messages, it’s understood that you want to meet people where they are already getting information. For my generation, and probably many others, we’re not getting our health information from spending time at the doctor’s office like people used to. If I’m feeling lousy, admittedly, the first thing I do is Google my symptom, hoping that some Advil and rest will cure whatever the ailment may be.  The last thing I want to do is try to find a doctor’s appointment- it’s hard to get an appointment, it takes time from my already busy day, and overall, just feels like a hassle, even though I know that my cough that lingered for a month would have been solved pretty quickly had I picked up the phone and got in to see the doctor.

So, while healthcare has certainly come a long way in the past few years, as far as accessibility to information and care,  it still has a long way to go. We need to get a better handle on what we’re currently doing, and continue to innovate, think of these alternatives:

Let’s start simple: my doctor could have easily relieved my natural worst-case-scenario, over-dramatization read of the lab results by adding a quick note explaining what they meant with the lab results.  To be a bit bolder, instead of getting an e-mail to check the message on a website that I can never remember my password for, perhaps we create, and more importantly, train, doctors on how to communicate with patients through Facebook: You have a Friend Request from Dr. Doogie Howser. This gets back to meeting people where they are, instead of continuing to create new apps or technology, let’s innovate what we currently have. Facebook isn’t going away anytime soon, let’s see what else it can do. The innovation also needs to made around privacy considerations, but that’s a whole other blog post.

And as patients, let’s meet doctor’s half way, they are the experts after-all.

PS. In case you missed it, our own Ogilvy Notes was in Austin to capture all the could-not-miss content and news. Among other sessions, they checked out the Wireless Wellness: Apptastic or Just Fun and Games? session with All Things Digital’s Ina Fried and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini.

What’s the difference between social media and social marketing?

Feb 24

Last week, Ogilvy launched Social@Ogilvy, a global, cross-discipline team of social experts from across all of Ogilvy’s businesses delivering social solutions. Social media is changing our clients’ businesses and we have been quietly building the largest social media marketing communications network in the world.

This exciting news has sparked some discussion and questions about terminology: what’s the difference between social media (or “social media marketing”) and social marketing? This is not a new dialogue—confusion has been brewing ever since the breakthrough of social media and its subsequent impact on marketing, communications, and many other disciplines.

  • 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. The term “social media” was first used within the past decade.
  • Social marketing is a discipline that attempts to change awareness, attitudes, and behaviors as they are related to advancing social causes. 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. Methods include community outreach, direct mail, advertising, media relations, partnership development, events, interpersonal outreach, materials dissemination . . . and social media.


Indeed, in today’s communications environment social media has an important and critical role to play in social marketing initiatives. Good social marketing campaigns 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. For more on the potential benefits of social media to social marketing initiatives, see this blog post from Executive Vice President and Group Director Jennifer Wayman and many other posts on this blog about the intersections and application of social media to social marketing.

Quantified Self: Is self-tracking the future of behavior change?

Feb 23

Quantified Self: Is self-tracking the future of behavior change?

I sat down with Ernesto for a Q&A on the “quantified self” movement and how it might be applied to public health in the near future.

Will You Be My Valentine? Only If You Wash Your Hands

Feb 16

Valentine’s Day is over – as shown by the discounted boxes of candy, wilting flowers, and picked-over rows of red greeting cards. What’s not quite finished is the flu season.

I recently came across a Valentine’s Day-themed e-card from the American Public Health Association. The text reads: “I wanna hold your hand. But only after you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, scrub vigorously, and remember to clean the tops of your hands and under your nails. And don’t forget to rinse off the soap and dry your hands well. But THEN. Then I wanna hold your hand.”

What a clever, timely, and shareable asset that gets the message across about the importance of hand washing to prevent the spread of influenza. Keeping audiences engaged and amused is important in communications – particularly because annual messages of “wash your hands” can become redundant and easily ignored.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign features other witty e-cards, including emergency preparedness.

Which of these is your favorite? Would you actually share these with a friend through social media or email? Do you see an opportunity to communicate about other topics through similar e-cards?

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?