When Awareness Isn’t Enough, Create A Movement

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.

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