Are You Contagious? If Not, Follow these Six Steps

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Achoo!  Under the right conditions, a sneeze or cough can spread sickness far and wide.  All it takes is for one infected person on a plane or in a crowded room to pass the condition to dozens, maybe hundreds more.

Most of us understand how a virus spreads and epidemics begin.  But few use that knowledge when communicating to reach a larger audience. By making your communications more contagious, or “sticky,” you can increase their impact, longevity and spread.

Epidemics

The 1918 Influenza epidemic was the deadliest plague in history.  It killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Plague in a century.

According to The Great Influenza by John Barry, the virus had humble beginnings.  It started in isolated Haskell County, Kansas.  Soldiers on leave caught and brought it to the 60,000 men at nearby Fort Pierce. Aided troop movements, it circled the globe and killed 50-100 million people in 18 months.

Information moves even faster than disease.  Within minutes the entire world knew about the 9/11 attacks. Media helped initially, but word-of-mouth spread it around the globe in minutes.  That’s because 9/11 was the ultimate sticky message, one quickly shared by friends, family and coworkers.

Going Viral

Viral videos also show how quickly information spreads.  Unfortunately, the odds of creating a successful viral video are miniscule.  In fact, Advertising Age columnist Bob Garfield recommends you don’t even bother trying.

“Fishing for rainbow trout?  If you catch one,” he writes by way of analogy, “it’ll probably weigh 2 pounds. You will not catch a 42-pound rainbow trout.  Oh, it’s been done…and it’s conceivable somebody will hook another one. But it won’t be you. “

Fortunately, you don’t need a viral video or 9/11 to make sticky messages.  With a few simple tips, your media releases, direct mail and website will be more likely to cling.

Money magazine provides an opportunity to compare the stickiness of different messages. Five health nonprofits placed ads the magazine.  None were outrageous or “went viral.”

But the Alzheimer’s Association’s ad was better and incorporated elements of all six criteria needed to create a sticky and more memorable message.

Six Steps to Stickiness

How do you get “sticky?” Authors Chip and Dan Health offer six recommendations in Made to Stick. Elements of each can be seen in the Alzheimer’s Association ad above.

  • Simplicity – Strip your ideas to their core elements.
  • Unexpectedness – Being different captures and holds someone’s attention.
  • Concreteness – Specificity makes your message easier to process and remember.
  • Credibility – Are your spokespersons believable?
  • Emotion – Connect beyond facts and figures.
  • Stories – Are memorable and effective teaching tools.

While no guarantee (not all seven-footers play in the NBA), incorporating these elements will make your messages more contagious.  Like sneezing on a crowded airplane.

Popcorn Problem

The Center for Science in the Public Interest had a problem: How to convince the media and public about the unhealthiness of movie popcorn (37 grams of saturated fat per serving).

That’s a tall order.  Americans are inundated with messages on healthy eating.  How could CSPI break through the noise, and get noticed, with nothing more than dry fact (37 grams of fat)?

They called a called a press conference with the following message: A medium-sized movie popcorn contains more saturated fat than a bacon and egg breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and steak dinner with all the trimmings.

And just in case the reporters missed the message, each item was carefully laid out on a table for comparison.

The story contained nearly every element of stickiness.  The result? CSPI generated national media coverage and public awareness.  More importantly, their sticky message mobilized the public to demand healthier popcorn options at the movies.

Conclusion

Information spreads like a virus.  The stickier your message, the more likely you’ll create an information epidemic.

Creating “sticky” communications is not difficult. It starts with knowing your audience, what you want them to do (“call to action”) and what motivates them to act.

Then, following the Six Steps to Stickiness, you can generate communications that people will read, respond to, and pass along to their friends, co-workers and loved ones and others.

A barrier to creating stickiness is often an unwillingness to be “unexpected.”  The good news is that you don’t have to be outrageous to get noticed.

New GE Study: Word-of-Mouth Referrals Improve Traditional Marketing Efforts

Marketers have long assumed content shared by friends or other influencers carries more weight than paid placements.  Someone is more likely to visit a restaurant when referred by a friend, the thinking goes, than from a television or radio ad.

Now General Electric has some proof.

In late 2011, the company compared the effectiveness of a paid advertising campaign and paid advertising campaign coupled with online-sharing.   Overall, consumers who saw the ad and received a referral from a friend were 138% more likely to view GE favorably than those who saw the ad alone.

The results of the test were originally published in the January 25th edition of Advertising Age.

“Personal referrals are far and away the most influential form of communications,” said Sparklight Communications President Joseph LaMountain.  “Yet many companies and causes fail to incorporate word-of-mouth into their marketing and communications campaigns.”

For example, organizations can raise significant levels of awareness, or funding, for an issue by asking its supporters to share  information to friends, neighbors and work colleagues.  Yet too often this valuable “human capital” is not effectively mobilized.

Two Positions Available

Sparklight Communications is seeking to fill the following two positions.  If interested, please submit a brief email message along with a copy of your resume to Joseph LaMountain at joseph.lamountain@gmail.com.

Director of Media Relations

The Director of Media Relations will be responsible for developing and implementing strategies and tactics that result in earned media coverage for clients.  This includes broadcast, print and online outlets.  The Director will be responsible for developing newsworthy story ideas, reacting and responding to existing media coverage and pitching reporters through email and telephone calls.

The ideal candidate will have 2-5 years experience with a proven track record of generating coverage and working with reporters and editors.  Agency experience, knowledge of health care and nonprofits is helpful but not required.  Salary commensurate with experience up to $60,000 per year in total compensation. Please note that while this is currently a virtual position, preference will be given to candidates from the Washington, DC metro area.

Director of Social Media

The Director of Social Media will be responsible for developing and implementing strategies and tactics that result in social media visibility and engagement.  This will include identifying the appropriate platforms on which to operate, posting relevant content to target audiences and engaging with those respective audiences.

The ideal candidate will have 2-5 years experience working on social media communications campaigns and will be familiar with relevant tools and best practices.  Agency experience, knowledge of health care and nonprofits is helpful but not required for the position.  Salary commensurate with experience up to $60,000 per year in total compensation. Please note that while this is currently a virtual position, preference will be given to candidates from the Washington, DC metro area.

Sparklight Communications was founded in 2006 and has helped dozens of organizations reach their communications and advocacy goals.  We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and nothing in this job posting or description should be construed as an offer or guarantee of employment.  If interested, please submit a brief email message along with a copy of your resume to Joseph LaMountain at joseph.lamountain@gmail.com.

Baseball Clubs Using Social to Engage Fans and Doing It Well, Very Well

Major League Baseball Embracing Twitter and Facebook – NYTimes.com.

I’m not a huge baseball fan, but this is a great piece on how the Chicago Cubs are using social media to engage their fan base, not by just offering great deals but providing content that is relevant to them. The money quote is:

“If your focus is revenue and your content reflects that, I don’t believe that’s a wise strategy,”   said Kevin Saghy, adding: “That’s not why people are there. They’re there to converse. So we’ve taken the other approach where it’s definitely a priority for us, it’s something we track, and I can say from 2010 to last year, as we got more involved and offered better content on our platforms, we quadrupled our revenue. So we’re up about 300 percent.”

“Healthcare Companies Still Don’t ‘Get’ Social Media” – But Neither Do Some Nonprofits

Great post today from Social Media Today community, detailing what pharma and Healthcare companies are missing in terms of social media. But what they don’t say is that some nonprofits are just as guilty. While many NPs have their own burgeoning online Health Communities, they often don’t take an active role in supporting and guiding that community to better health outcomes, and ultimately, better engagement and financial support.  The full text of the article is below: 

 

Social media is changing the nature of healthcare interaction, and health organizations that ignore this virtual environment may be missing opportunities to engage consumers.”

That was the very ominous and foreboding opening line from a press release announcing the findings of a report done by the Health Research Institute (HRI) at PwC US.

Anytime I see the words “engage” and “missing” I am automatically intrigued because as we all know it’s all about engagement: how to get engaged with your customers, how to stay engaged with your customers and how to ensure they stay engaged with you.

The report compared the social media activity of hospitals, pharma companies and health insurers to that of community sites and as you can see there is no comparison as community sites had 24 times more social media activity than corporate sites.

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This is very significant as the report aptly points out in that it has serious implications for “businesses looking to capitalize on social media opportunities.”

The report also includes findings from an HRI social media survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers and 124 members of the eHealth Initiative and include the following results:

  • One-third of consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans.
  • Four in 10 consumers say they have used social media to find health-related consumer reviews (e.g. of treatments or physicians); one in three have sought information related to other patients’ experiences with their disease; one in four have “posted” about their health experience; and one in five have joined a health forum or community.
  • When asked how information found through social media would affect their health decisions, 45 percent of consumers said it would affect their decision to get a second opinion; 41 percent said it would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility; 34 percent said it would affect their decision about taking a certain medication; and 32 percent said it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan.
  • While 72 percent of consumers said they would appreciate assistance in scheduling doctor appointments through social media channels, nearly half said they would expect a response within a few hours.
  • As is the case more broadly, young adults are leading the social media healthcare charge. More than 80 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 said they were likely to share health information through social media channels and nearly 90 percent said they would trust information they found there. By comparison, less than half (45 percent) of individuals between the ages of 45 and 64 said they were likely to share health information via social media

What Does It All Mean?

Well I am glad you asked…

What it all means, as the chart below demonstrates so well, is there is a golden opportunity for the hospitals, pharma companies and health insurers of the world to engage with their customers and prospects.

I realize the hospitals, pharma companies and health insurers of the world are very reticent to engage via social media for fear of all the rules and regulations that govern their every move but… at the very least you can engage people at a high level, yes?

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Sources: PR NewswireHealth Research Institute at PwC

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review, Steve Olenskiis a freelance writer/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via email,TwitterLinkedIn or his website.

Word-of-Mouth is Most Trusted Media Source

There’s a new restaurant in town.  What will convince you to try it: A newspaper ad or a friend’s recommendation?

The recommendation wins hands down, every time.  That’s because a recommendation from a friend is a far more trusted source of information than a paid advertisement.

We know that intuitively, but a new report from Nielsen finds that consumers trust in word-of-mouth appeals has increased dramatically: 18% since 2007.  By comparison, consumers trust in paid television and radio advertising has fallen by 25% or more.

According to Nielsen, “92% percent of consumers around the world say they trust…word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”  What puzzles me is why more groups and business don’t jump on this bandwagon and get their people talking!

The Amputee Coalition is an organization using word-of-mouth to raise awareness.  During April, the group has recruited hundreds of companies, medical professionals and individuals to distribute educational materials in their community.  The group is hoping to distribute 1 million cards and generate just as many conversations.

A campaign like this also keeps members engaged with the organization.  All-too-often the only time someone hears from a group is when they’re looking for a handout.  Studies show that the more a volunteer is engaged with a group’s mission, the more money they will give to that group.  Talk about a no-brainer!

2011 Sparklight Successes (continued)

Client Rob Dugger and former Rep. Glenn Nye on CBS Early Show

A few weeks ago, we shared five of our top client successes in 2011.  We’re now happy to share the second half of the list.

5. Generated National Media Coverage - Several clients wanted to increase their presence in the national media this year.  By creating sustained relationships with a targeted group of national reporters, Sparklight gained top tier coverage for its clients. Epilepsy Foundation – Wall Street Journal Digital, CBS Early Show, ABC News.com, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, and NPR.   Hanover Investment Group – Bloomberg Radio, Reuters, CNBC, FOX Business News, and CBS The Early Show with Rebecca Jarvis

4.  Grew by 500% -   Using a combination of message building across all communications channels including social media, web content, and Google Ad Words, the Epilepsy Foundation succeeded in having five times more people take the online “Get Seizure Smart” quiz in 2011 than in 2010.

3.   Secured Google Grant Funding - After securing a $10,000 Google Nonprofit grant for the Epilepsy Foundation in Spring of 2011, Sparklight project managed and created no less than 60 ad groups that moved the needle for the Epilepsy Foundation to its new coveted position at #2.

2.  Quadrupled Online Followers -  Social media is now one of the best engagement tools for the Foundation with Facebook now its third largest referrer to the main website, quadrupling the number of followers on both Twitter and Facebook, and increasing engagement 600%

1. Better Online Performance – Sparklight worked with Winners Lacrosse, Hanover Investment Group, and  Epilepsy Foundation’s National Walk for Epilepsy   to create a better visual and user experience for each of these clients web properties.

 

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