Archive for March, 2010

When Awareness Isn’t Enough, Create A Movement

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Last year, I wrote an article for Pharmaceutical Executive with Chip Walker, a former colleague at a PR firm who now heads the strategy practice at Strawberry Frog, an ad agency we’re partnering with on a healthy aging initiative. The article advanced the idea that “awareness” PR efforts, typically unbranded campaigns designed to inform consumers about a disease or condition, are not enough to cut through the information clutter in today’s competitive, crowded, skeptical market, and harder for brand managers to justify given the demands on their budgets. We proposed a new approach with a more robust deliverable: an effort that reached well beyond awareness to activate the target audience, not just broadcast to it. We called this, “Creating a Movement.”

The bar is even higher today for ROI, and getting more value out of PR dollars is as important as ever. For many, increased awareness is not a sufficient endgame.

We defined a “movement” as the mobilization of a target audience for a purpose or goal they relate to, care for and actually want to do something about. A movement has authenticity, makes a powerful connection with its audience and inspires action. A movement approach shifts attitudes and motivates behavior by going beyond “health” and tapping into something deeper in consumers’ lives, thus providing a bigger platform on which to engage them. Movement strategy, vocabulary and platforms can all be employed through communications efforts tools to enhance patients’ and consumers’ feelings of authenticity about a campaign’s messages and a closer alliance with the brand, the disease, the cause, and the sponsor. Awareness evolved.

Movements are, of course, not the answer for all communications brand challenges. But if your target audiences are disenfranchised, apathetic, undecided, or frustrated with existing choices, another approach may be worth considering:

  • Identify which consumers are the activists and drivers of your movement. The easiest way to answer this is to identify a group that has both a strong business value to your brand (e.g., at-risk populations with a need for your brand) and a discontent with one or more parts of the current discussion or activities taking place within the disease state.
  • Consider your “basis for participation.” This is the genesis for your movement. What outcome do both you and your “Activist Base” want to achieve? What is your difference making purpose in the world? Why would people want to participate in your brand/program’s effort to achieve this change?
  • Mobilize your activist base. Key to this is have a simple, central message (e.g., “get tested now” or “know your X levels (HBP, cholesterol, triglycerides, liver enzymes), “wear this bracelet” (as in the LiveStrong campaign), “expect more (control, results, cure, improved lifestyle) from your treatment” that is easy to remember, pass on and replicate. Keep in mind your aim isn’t just to expose your Activist Base to information and stories you can place in the media. THEY ARE YOUR MEDIA.
  • Spread your message. This means providing the tools that not only tell the story but allow the audience to independently pass on the message to others. The endgame is to build participation and message pass-along, not just awareness and knowledge

Movements ladder up communications efforts from awareness to activation, delivering more value for the same spend. The nature of movements often make them valuable companions to DTC campaigns and the ideal platforms for partnerships with third party organizations.

On the Eighth Day

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

After The RunAfter seven years in our own business and more than 50 years combined in public relations on both the corporate and agency sides, the jacobstahl principals have made the great decision to become joiners.

As my mother would say, we’re not from the joiners. After working in large, multinational public relations agencies since the early 1980s, starting our own business meant blazing our own trail and in so doing, consistently providing the kind of thinking, expertise and service we have always felt paying clients deserved. As seasoned communications professionals, we wanted to create our own set of best practices and leave behind the compromises of agency life. Playing by our own rules meant, among other benefits, having and taking the time to really learn and live the brands we were privileged to work on, and partnering with others we knew well and respected.

We’d seen the blogs posted by our colleagues at larger public relations agencies and even followed some for a while before abandoning them for blogs written by those in other areas of communications finding them of more interest, more relevant to our day-to-day working life and less self-promotional. One blog we enjoy is Larry Woodard’s from Vigilante Advertising posted on ABCNews. It’s always current, covers a range of communications issues, easy to read, isn’t just a segue to a Vigilante offering and usually contains a nugget that is worth sharing with a client. In short, a blog worth reading. If jacobstahl posted a blog, it would have to meet the same criteria or it just wasn’t worth doing.

So we waited and resisted the blog bandwagon. After all, we won’t be reporting from the World Economic Forum in Davos or from the last gathering of biotech glitterati in Silicon Valley. Our musings will mostly be from the waiting area at Penn Station and various other stations along the pharma corridor on the Acela line, gate seating in LaGuardia and airports in hub cities of American Airlines, and from our venerable offices in a non-descript building in NYC where the inspiration begins. Exotic power locations will just have to be sacrificed for thought-provoking and meaningful content.

Why have we decided to join the blogosphere now? The answer is simple and very personal. We have something to say and the time just feels right. Not very scientific, I’m afraid, but hopefully we will have called this right. In the turbulent environment of the last few years, healthcare marketers –some of whom we call our clients– have been under significant pressure to deliver bigger results from smaller budgets. What is the role of PR in this scenario? How should the practice evolve to deliver harder results and when should we push back and stand by the solids PR has always offered? What does PR success look like now? Have traditional “awareness” programs gone down the memory hole? How do corporate PR teams adjust – and direct their agencies accordingly—to the changing needs of their internal brand clients? What’s the operating definition of “patient and consumer education” when ROI is measured in sales ratios and lead generation? These and other questions warrant attention.

We are also committed to delivering a perspective here that is decidedly un-pharma-geek. Jeremy spent years on the consumer side working with major multi-national companies, many of which didn’t need TARP money. This has given him permission to advise our health care clients to look beyond what they see for ideas about building patient loyalty to their brands, and offer wackier answers to client meeting ice-breaker questions like, “If the brand was an animal, celebrity, reality show host, car, what would it be?”

Finally, and this is only meaningful for those who know us, our blog will occasionally offer a window into how working with your spouse is not only possible, it’s really OK.

Welcome to After the Run. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned.