Learning from the Pros?

by Rick Austin August 23, 2012 12:42 PM

No knowledge translation today, just rumination on a weird billboard.

On the Eastex Freeway just outside of Houston is a huge billboard (we have lots of them in Houston) for Coca-Cola. The image is of a female boxer, and the ad was put up during the Olympics, so I imagine it was an homage to the first-ever Olympic female boxers.

The further we get from the Olympics, the weirder the ad looks. The headline reads “Nunca Luchas Sola,” which translates to “You Never Fight Alone.”

As a world-class athlete, that’s true, you never fight alone. You have your teammates, your coach, your family, your God. Apparently, in this case, you also have a frosty bottle of Coke.

Now, I understand image advertising. I mean, who doesn’t get all misty when they hear Bob Seger sing “Like a Rock” for Chevy trucks. I’ve never bought a Chevy truck, but that’s not the point. The point is that I like Coke, I like the Olympics, I’m impressed by the power and poise of female boxers, and I see no connection between Coca-Cola and the sentiment “You Never Fight Alone.”

As social marketers and health communicators, we’re supposed to learn from the pros. Hmmm.

Open Happiness, baby.


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Is Pink the Color of Confusion?

by Rick Austin April 13, 2011 02:22 PM

A few months ago, my colleague Shannon blogged about the seeming overkill on breast cancer awareness. We’ve had “Save the Ta-Tas,” “Race for the Cure,” and pink shoes, wristbands, and chinstraps on NFL football players.


Now, courtesy of Futurity, comes an article asserting that the long-term effects of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) have been measurably positive. The research, published originally in the Journal of Health Economics, contends that prior to NBCAM, breast cancer was rarely discussed, only coming to the surface in the wake of public crises, like the diagnoses of Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan. Now, some 20 years after widespread recognition of NBCAM as a regular event, diagnoses are spread out over the entire calendar year, with no noticeable spiking. The authors say that this indicates that breast cancer screening has now become a more normal part of the conversation. Read the original research to see how they did an ex post analysis of many years of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) statistics to obtain their results.


So here’s my question for you: Awareness-schmawareness, or valuable long-term public health tool? Scratch a social marketer, and they’ll tell you that awareness campaigns are mostly cop-outs, that what we should be shooting for is action. It could be that NBCAM has achieved that goal. What do you think?


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Social Networks and Critical Thinking

by Rick Austin March 2, 2011 02:03 PM

Today, Craig Lefebvre points to a new report about the accuracy and safety of patient health social networking sites.


While the reported sample is somewhat small, it still illustrates some distressing facts about misinformation and privacy issues.


The misinformation issue leads me back to something I’ve blathered about here on the KT blog a couple of times. It appears to me that our collective default setting for difficult information is “don’t think about it.” This disinclination toward critical thinking is reinforced when you are interacting in the trusted environment of a social networking site.


Here are people who share your health challenge, with whom you may have been talking for months or years. Why would you question the opinion of someone you like and trust? As the journal article points out, both moderated and un-moderated sites are prone to letting unsupported recommendations circulate.


These types of sites are obviously filling an important need, as their rapid growth attests. Seems to me that promoting critical thinking for self-protection would be a valid social marketing goal.


Thanks to Craig and Health Veda for the outstanding graphic.

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How I Tried to Stay Sane and Lost My Sanity

by Rick Austin November 5, 2010 02:47 PM

My man Cameron Norman has come through again with an excellent post about maintaining the sanity in health communication, entwined, of course, with the recently held Rally to Restore Sanity. As usual, he makes some excellent observations, keying on Jon Stewart's remark, “If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”


Social marketers, in competition with Big Pharma, Big Health Care, and Big Consumer Products, are looking for new ways to ramp up the volume and intensity of their health communication, hoping to cut through the clutter and garner some attention.


Cameron suggests that there might be another way. Without saying “social media,” he describes trust and relationship networks that: “…are far more robust and adaptive to complex conditions than the straightforward thrust of traditional simple marketing strategies.” This describes Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all of the other social media networks, as well as the burgeoning online communities for patients seeking support and people seeking health and medical information they can trust. Some, like Patients Like Me and Inspire, are explicitly for-profit, with varying economic models. Others, like ACOR and My Daily Strength, remain not-for-profit.


A danger, particularly with the for-profit support communities, is addressed by KevinMD: “…Consumers on some health sites may not fully understand that they could be subject to marketing or marketing research… patients have to be aware of the balance between sharing their experiences with other patients and being used for profit.”


Here is where my insanity starts to ramp up. These large online communities are useful, supportive, and most of them are well-moderated, with carefully curated health information. The personal connection is vital to a patient with a serious health challenge, but that feeling of trust and support created in an online patient community can lead to some large-scale transmission of misinformation. I’ve blogged previously about the scarcity of critical thinking skills, and when you combine that with the natural desire to trust your friends (even your anonymous friends in the online patient community), truth can become truthiness. That “trust network” that Cameron talks about is a double-edged sword.


I’d be interested in hearing from any social marketing-oriented readers about how they capitalize on “trust networks” without creating long-term distrust.


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Social Marketing? Really?

by Rick Austin October 13, 2010 03:52 PM

Systems and social sciences geek (I use geek as a compliment) Cameron Norman has recently turned his all-seeing gaze back to knowledge translation and social marketing, and, as usual, he has some pithy and interesting observations to make. However, I have a couple of quibbles.


In his blog post, Social Marketing/Social Media Blowback, Cameron bemoans the fact that much knowledge translation activity is being attempted by researchers and administrators with little background or feel for the practical, real-world skills that are required:


“The problem is that most of what passes for social marketing in the health sector is not done by marketers, or even those skilled in health communications, but rather everyday researchers, clinicians and administrators. Certainly there are many large organizations where such skilled professionals do reside, but in the decentralized web of social media, those are drops in the bucket of content.


The result is that many well-intentioned messages get poorly developed and distributed, creating something akin to blowback, a hostile and aggressive form of resistance to the message. I’ve just been witnessing such a case of this with a an organization seeking to promote social innovation that is getting messages sent by people on its online mailing list asking to be removed from it. One of the big reasons for these messages is that these people were never asked to be put on the mailing list in the first place.”


Cameron, let’s say you and 2,000 of your colleagues at the University of Toronto, McMaster, and Dalhousie receive a hypothetical blast e-mail imploring you to make a contribution to a fund for autism awareness. That’s not social marketing, and I wouldn’t tar social marketing with that brush. As the definition you quote earlier in the post says:


“…[Social marketing’s] practical roots stem from disciplines such as advertising, public relations and market research, as well as to the work and experience of social activists, advocacy groups and community organizers.”


The very first question a social marketer asks is “who is the audience?” Someone who’s annoying you with untargeted blast e-mails very likely is an “everyday researcher, clinician or administrator,” and what they’re doing certainly isn’t social marketing.


As you’re no doubt aware, Cameron, a colleague of yours at Dalla Lana has created an excellent resource for those self same researchers, clinicians and administrators to start developing an appreciation for the benefits of knowledge translation and social marketing. Melanie Barwick conducts Scientist Knowledge Translation Training a couple of times a year, and it’s standing-room-only every time she runs it.


You’re right to call on your colleagues to develop KT/marketing/communication know-how. Unfortunately, many of them are right at the baseline of asking “why would I even want to do anything other than publish my paper?” Social marketing is not even on their radar.


By the way, was I not supposed to send money to that Nigerian finance minister?


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