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a chandler chicco publication


ISSUE 22 SPRING 2014 INSIDE THIS ISSUE A Letter from Lisa Stockman


Prescription for Change


Pass the Pitch


Life Expectancies Take an Unexpected Turn


Franchise Communications for Healthcare Companies


Life in Beta: Connecting with Today's Health-Minded Consumers



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Since 2007, Chandler Chicco Companies (CCC) has been part of inVentiv Health. inVentiv Health offers best-in-class Clinical, Commercial and Consulting services to global companies seeking to accelerate performance. With more than 12,000 healthcare professionals supporting clients in 70 countries, inVentiv Health rapidly transforms promising ideas into commercial reality.


JULIE ADRIAN Managing Director, CCC – West Author,“Prescription for Change” Credentials Julie Adrian has 20+ years of experience in the development and execution of healthcare marketing communications programs. Her experience ranges from oncology to women’s health, working on programming in all phases of the product life cycle, including everything from local and national media strategy to patient educational events. Julie carries immense expertise in employee and internal communications, as well as disease awareness education. Contact jadrian@

CHRISTIE ANBAR Managing Director, Chandler Chicco Agency – New York Author “Franchise Communications for Healthcare Companies” Credentials Christie is a healthcare communications veteran with almost 25 years of experience in PR, advocacy and marketing communications. She has been a part of several key advocacy initiatives, including the STOP Obesity Alliance for a metabolic franchise and AF Stat for a cardiovascular franchise. Christie has been an integral player at CCA since her start in 2004. Contact

KRISTIN JOHNSON Biosector 2 Author, “Pass the Pitch” Credentials Kristin’s passion for health communications was established early in her career while directing member relations for different ranks of nurses at the Wisconsin Nurses Association. She is a communications professional with more than a decade of healthcare, corporate and consumer public relations experience, working collaboratively with patients, clinicians and other client partners. She is presently adjunct faculty at NYU, advising capstone students in the public relations and corporate communications program. Contact

JEANINE O’KANE Managing Director, Biosector 2 – New York

TRACY NADEN Managing Director, Allidura Consumer

Author, “Changing Demographics of Longevity”

Author,,“Life in Beta”

Credentials Jeanine has spent more than 20 years as a business leader in the development and execution of global public relations programs. Her broad span of experience ranges from branding to physician/ consumer engagement. Jeanine has worked on a variety of products across numerous therapeutic areas, including arthritis, asthma, cardiovascular disease, central nervous system, diabetes, oncology, vaccines and women’s health. Contact

Credentials Tracy is a women’s health and millennial marketing expert with 15 years of experience building creative strategies and emotional connections between consumers and brands. She has developed strategic partnerships with A-list celebrities, blogger networks and media properties such as ABC Family, BlogHer, Glam Media, Seventeen, and SheSpeaks to bring cachet, credibility and reach to large-scale integrated campaigns. Contact

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WHAT IS PRimeCut? PRimeCut is a Chandler Chicco Companies publication designed to share our perspectives on trends affecting the industry, our thoughts on best practices and new developments at CCC. We’ve called the publication PRimeCut because we think it represents cutting-edge PR theory and application, and also one of the neighborhoods where we work and live: New York City’s dynamic Meatpacking District. We hope you enjoy it.


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Climate change. Social change. Change is dominating the headlines and our lives. I can’t think of an industry undergoing more change than healthcare. Love it or hate it, the Affordable Care Act is going to transform healthcare in this country. Recently, Steven Krein of StartUp Health spoke with us about the change afoot in healthcare. He noted that over the past few decades, every industry, with the exception of healthcare and education, has been transformed. And while healthcare reform may not be perfect, it’s change. Krein advises to “be part of it or get out of the way.” We prefer to be part of it, and this issue of PRimeCut focuses on the way change impacts the health communications world. Julie Adrian writes about change engagement and how companies must get used to not getting used to it. Jeanine O’Kane talks about the shifting demographics of longevity and Tracy Naden highlights how brands must evolve to reach today’s health-minded consumers. Kristin Johnson — in light of recent articles on PR having “devolved into getting journalists or bloggers to write about your client on the internet” — discusses the real value of PR. Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’re still passionate about having a positive impact on our clients’ businesses and patient lives around the globe.

Best, Lisa Stockman


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he term “change management” has been bounced around for 10 to 15 years, but what does it mean and how does it help organizations? The approach has traditionally been to manage change, but a more proactive change engagement approach — before change happens — helps increase stakeholder adoption of the change, minimize resistance and accelerate adoption of the transition process. As the speed of business continues to increase, the demands from leadership, boards of directors and Wall Street don’t allow for a gradual adoption of change.

WITH CHANGE COMES RISK What are the risks associated with not managing change effectively?

Individual behaviors can damage an organization, including:


DISENGAGEMENT, apathy and cynicism


Project or program can have financial impacts, such as: UNREALIZED OR UNDER-REALIZED BENEFITS

UNSUSTAINED CHANGES going around the system

PROJECTS FAILING TO LAUNCH or gain traction, leading to unrecouped, sunk costs

Organizational or enterprise-wide effects can show up indirectly in bottom-line results:

HIGHER TURNOVER OF HEADCOUNT, including early retirements, estimated to cost 50– 150% of an employee’s annual salary, depending on level and role

LACK OF FOCUS on “business basics” INCREASED ABSENTEEISM, estimated to cost up to $3,600/ year per employee, according to Circadian

DOCTOR OR PATIENT ATTRITION following a product change TEAMS FAILING TO WORK CROSS-FUNCTIONALLY resulting in inefficiencies

ONE TREATMENT DOESN’T CURE ALL In healthcare, sometimes change is a matter of life and death for an organization or product. The ongoing disruption of the business of health creates an environment rife with transition and, over time, can take a toll. Organizations can show signs of “change fatigue,” the inability to absorb and embrace additional change, from ongoing disruption due to regulatory, legislative and technology/convergence changes. In a business associated with helping people lead better lives, change may not always be perceived to support this goal. Business changes designed to keep companies nimble, such as cost-cutting measures, layoffs, process changes and outsourcing, may be perceived as inconsistent with core values.



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THE STAGES OF CHANGE MODEL (FIG. 1) Healthcare change is different from other industries. Pre-contemplation

• Organizations are likely experiencing change fatigue from ongoing disruption due to regulatory, legislative, and technology or convergence changes




Relapse Action

Here’s why:


Exit and reenter at any stage

• Many of these changes, such as cost-cutting and layoffs, may be perceived as inconsistent with the core values of a healthcare company • Healthcare organizations typically have very diverse internal audiences — from PhDs to manufacturing or cafeteria workers; tailoring change approaches to help each group successfully move to a new future is critical

A CUSTOM CURE FOR A COMMON DISEASE Instead of simply “managing” a change, our experience tells us that engaging stakeholders in change is a more effective and long-lasting solution. Traditional change approaches have a finite timeline — with a start and an end. However, from the stakeholder’s perspective, any particular change at any time in a series of events is a moment in their journey. These two shifts are the basis by which we sought to create a unique approach steeped in healthcare. Building on the behavioral research of Prochaska & DiClemente, an established methodology widely used to transition patients to healthier behaviors, we’ve created a unique Dynamic Change Engagement (Fig. 2) model to help healthcare organizations make their own transformations in a healthy manner and help leaders and employees thrive through change. Unlike the traditional, finite change curve, the Prochaska & DiClemente Stages of Change model (Fig. 1) reflects the reality that people may cycle through stages many times on the way to fully adopting new behaviors. Some people may exit the process and reenter the stages of change before fully adapting to the new way. People process the stages of change at different rates. People who are ready for change may cycle through the stages of change quickly, while those who have other concerns may take more time at certain (or all) stages. Further, when leaders announce changes, they must recognize that they have already gone through some of the “processing” of change themselves, and should not expect that those receiving the new information will be at the same stage of change as they are.

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Assess & Introduce

Engage & Build

• Understand the landscape

• Engage stakeholders

• Introduce the case for change

• Build consensus and desire for change



Deploy & Monitor

Reinforce & Reward

• Impart skills and knowledge on how to change

• Model and reward current behaviors

• Monitor results

MAINTENANCE Embed & Evolve • Embed new behaviors in culture

• Evolve as needed

The process ensures activities and communications are flexible and tailored to meet each stakeholder where they are in the Stages of Change model. Using the model as a guide, stakeholders are: • Introduced to the concepts of change • Shown the Journey Story of the change over a period of time • Communicated with continuously and through a variety of channels to help reinforce and strengthen the message • Aware of the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) and understand why they should care • A part of making the change happen

• Seeing engaged leaders and super-users demonstrating model behaviors representing the change • Presented with success stories throughout the change journey, and those successes are celebrated openly • Helping shape the new culture in which the new behaviors are part of how the business is run • Equipped to be more change-adept as new changes present themselves over time

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, especially in healthcare, organizations who successfully engage employees in the journey will be the most adaptable to change and the best poised to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the changes they face. n



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Pass the Pitch Defining the Value of PR By Kristin Johnson

I love

reading Inc. magazine and am a frequent flyer on the content rich website for its humor, insights and dialogue covering tech, business, leadership and innovation. Generally, it’s where I find ideas that inspire and people to admire through content that gives me lessons to apply professionally and personally or, at the very least, something interesting to share on Twitter.

Given my love for Inc., I was surprised to find not one, but two articles recently published online with insular perspectives of PR that disregard the collaborative and deliberate efforts of strategic communication, simplifying the discipline’s value to earned media coverage. “This Startup Could Be PR Firms’ Worst Nightmare” and “Meet the Startup That's Making PR Firms Sweat” contend that “PR is mostly pitching and dealing with inbound requests.” Perhaps the authors of these articles think that PR is an acronym for “press release.” While pitching and press certainly play a role in helping disseminate information, I argue that the authors are missing the objective of PR. PR, of course, is short for public relations. But I also believe wholeheartedly that it stands for personal relationships, which are cultivated and sustained through strategic communication. Clients come to agencies looking for ways to help their offering — be it brands, products or leadership — connect with their stakeholders, who could be part of multiple stakeholder groups: employees, customers, patients, advocates, legislators, shareholders … even your mom. This is important stuff and at the heart of it are real people. The authors, however, put “the pitch” on a pedestal and suggest that pitching is the ultimate way to help companies achieve their communication goals. They believe new companies that focus on the perfect pitch are somehow a threat to traditional agencies. I think this is very narrowminded but consider this author’s view: “Now, any PR professional worth their salt will tell you the real value of any agency is in its ‘strategic thinking’ (planning), ‘brand awareness’ (how you sound/look), ‘competitive analysis’ (who are your competitors?) and ‘social media’ (you should talk to your customers on Twitter/tweet sometimes.) But the sad truth is that PR has devolved into getting journalists or bloggers to write about your client on the internet, which has only deepened the age-old mutual hatred between reporters and the people who pitch them.”

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Let me address this: Strategic thinking (planning): Nearly a decade after launching a multi-channel campaign to change the conversation around real beauty, Dove dug deeper into research to uncover that today, only 4 percent of women on the planet believe they’re beautiful. This insight led the brand, with the support of advertising, digital marketing and PR agency partners, to create Dove Real Beauty sketches. With just one compelling video, which has more than 61 million hits and nearly 16,000 comments since April 2013, Dove was able to connect the brand with global stakeholders in a powerful way that went far beyond products. This is the focus of public relations planning. It helps support personal relationships on behalf of companies, brands and leaders by saying the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, to the right stakeholders. Media is a vehicle for distribution, yes, but what meaningful content is there to distribute without thoughtful, invested planning, research and insights? Brand awareness (how you sound/look): Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Don’t believe the Oracle of Omaha? Just look at Susan G. Komen for the Cure. In early 2012, the company announced plans to stop funding Planned Parenthood for breast-screening services. Planned Parenthood, which provides many health services and is also the nation’s largest abortion provider, viewed the change in funding as an anti-abortion, political statement and responded with a social media defense that galvanized women’s advocates and vilified Komen. The backlash was so severe that in a matter of just three days, under tremendous public pressure, Komen reversed its decision. In spite of this, the news led to a significant decline in donations and event participation from which Komen has yet to fully recover. The importance of brand awareness — what your company is putting out, and more importantly, how it will be received — cannot be overemphasized and is something that PR agencies take time to manage with clients. Competitive analysis (who are your competitors?): There are few brand rivalries that, well, rival that of Apple and Microsoft, or Mac and PC respectively. In 2008, Microsoft was heating up the competition and spent a reported $300 million on its “I’m a PC” campaign. Unfortunately for Microsoft, Mac was listening and launched a series of videos blunting the appeal Microsoft was trying to create. While not everyone liked the competitive move, it was a very effective way for Mac to reach its target audience, which Microsoft was attempting to woo.

Though PR may have contributed to the strategy, this was more of an ad campaign. That said, it’s a fantastic example of the value of understanding the competitive space. Mac invested in competitive analysis. It helped the company to refine not only their target but its competitor’s target — separating the Vespa-riding, Boylan’s root beerdrinking Mac people from the Harley-riding, orange crush-drinking PC people — helping Mac determine just the right messaging. Being able to meaningfully connect with stakeholders not from a brand perspective, but from the perspective where stakeholders see themselves, is the value of competitive analysis. Social media: Yes, I get it. Everyone is talking about “the power of social media” (insert eye roll) — but it’s not just hyperbole. Social sharing — stakeholders choosing to interact with your brand — is fundamental to healthy brand relationships. It is a place of exchange for companies and consumers to dump the media middleman and get deep and real, and effect change. JetBlue was a pioneer in this space, turning to YouTube in 2007 after bad weather grounded passengers on Valentine’s Day for hours and spurred the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights. According to a case study recently published in AdWeek, “that early use of a social channel, along with JetBlue’s general openness and willingness to take responsibility, helped it soar above the media circus and resume its steady course as a consumer favorite.” The company, which was also an early adopter on Twitter, has been a leader in online brand dialogues. The company’s responsiveness creates a sense of brand humanity and consumers in turn have created an emotional relationship with the brand that results in satisfaction. Authentic public relations should not exaggerate the pitch. We can’t control media. It’s arrogant to think that journalists want to gobble up our stories exactly as we’ve packaged them, at the precise time we want them distributed. Additionally, even if a pitch is embraced and a glowing story is aired or published, broadcast and print media are experiencing ever-increasing scrutiny. Consumers are weary, since issues with proper validation and truth have recently shaken their confidence in reporting. So to the authors who think that PR pros are realizing their “worst nightmare” or will “sweat” the new pitch machines —we are sorry to report that while you’re welcome to the table, we’re not leaving it. Just as client needs are matrixed and comprehensive, public relations requires a collaborative, informed approach that has evolved beyond just pitching. n

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Y E A R S I N T H E 19 7 0 s








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Life Expectancies Take an Unexpected Turn The Gap Between Men and Women is Closing BY JEANINE O’K ANE

Throughout history, women have outlived men in almost every country on earth. Worldwide, they now live an average of four years longer. In the US, women are outliving men by five years, versus 7.8 years in the 1970s. Recent research shows the gap continuing to close as life expectancy for women rises at a slower rate than for men. A report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reveals that life expectancy for US men grew by 4.6 years between 1989 and 2009. During that same period, the predicted length of life for an American woman rose just 2.7 years. Can the slide be reversed? Experts say yes.


ack in 1800, when no one could expect to survive much past the age of 30, the difference between men’s and women’s life expectancies was probably not a big concern. As quality of life and healthcare advanced in the 20th century, women benefited more than men, and by the 1970s, the life expectancy spread in the US favored women by 7.8 years. Since then, men have been catching up, revealing a troubling new trend: while life expectancy continues to rise, it is doing so more slowly for women. If the trend in health disparities continues, say scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), males born in 2035 or later can expect to live as long as their wives.

A PREVENTABLE PAT TERN While scientists are unsure why women live longer in the first place, the reasons for their recently declining mortality are becoming clearer. IHME found female life expectancy in the US falling behind due largely to preventable and/ or manageable conditions, such as

cardiovascular disease, smokingre l ate d a i l m e nts, o b e s i t y, h i g h cholesterol and high blood pressure. At the same time women have allowed their health to decline, men have become more vigilant—smoking less, seeking treatment for heart disease and working in less dangerous jobs than in the past—thus narrowing the gap even further. Ironically, women make approximately 80% of all healthcare decisions for their families and, even though as a group they are becoming less healthy, they typically take on caregiving duties when a family member becomes ill. A closer look at leading health risks for women helps explain their impact on life expectancy and suggests possible actions to help female life expectancy keep pace. CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE is the number one cause of death among women in the U.S. An American Heart Association spokesperson attributes the problem in part to the medical community, saying doctors don’t encourage women to take medication to prevent heart disease as strongly

as they do men. She also contends doctors don’t treat women’s symptoms as aggressively, even though heart disease strikes more women than men and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Lack of awareness and education about risk factors for women are also to blame, says an IHME spokesperson. SMOKING, the most preventable cause of early death in America, is another contributor to the narrowing gap in life expectancy between women and men. Despite almost 50 years of warnings about the adverse health effects of smoking, rates of death related to lung cancer are still increasing among female smokers in the US. Interestingly, rates of death among American men who smoke actually stabilized in the 1980s. According to a 2008 American Lung Association report, 18.3% of women in the US smoked, compared to 23.1% of men. This percentage difference continues to decrease and today, women share a much larger burden of smoking-related diseases. On average, women who smoke die 14.5 years sooner than nonsmokers.

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Once again, many believe education and awareness of the health hazards caused by smoking are keys to stemming the life expectancy tide. Some say clinicians should do more to encourage people to quit at any age, which has been shown to be beneficial almost immediately as well as over time. It is also believed the risks of smoking should be more widely communicated. More women die from lung cancer than breast cancer, yet there are no high-profile marketing campaigns or foundations to raise public awareness or stimulate action. OBESITY is the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. It has nearly doubled worldwide since 1980, and in 2008, more than 200 million men and almost 300 million women were obese. In the US, more than one-third of adults were obese in 2011–2012, with no difference in prevalence between men and women, except among non-Hispanic black adults, where 56.6% of women were obese compared with 37.1% of men. The effect of obesity on life expectancy has been a recent topic of debate. A 2013 study by the American Journal of Public Health showed 18.2% of all deaths among adults in the US from 1986 through 2006 were related to overweight and obesity, much higher than previous estimates. For women, being overweight or obese can bring with it a range of health risks, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease and some kinds of cancer. While the causes of the rapid increase in obesity are also up for debate, it is generally agreed that sedentary lifestyles, low educational attainment, family history of obesity and poor dietary choices are contributing factors. Prevention is essential and requires education and positive change in all parts of society, including governments, schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations, neighborhoods and families.

AN INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON The disparity in life expectancy between women and men is not exclusive to the United States. A report from Statistics Canada, for example, showed the life expectancy of Canadian male babies born between 2005 and 2007 averaged 78.3 years, up almost three years from a decade earlier. In contrast, the average for Canadian women rose less than two years and is now 83. Once outliving men by six years, female Canadians can now expect to celebrate an average of 4.7 more birthdays. The average life expectancy for Dutch women is also increasing less rapidly than men’s. From 2000 to 2011, Statistics Netherlands reported that male life expectancy increased by at least 3.6 years, while the increase for women was 2.3 years in the same period. Similar trends have been reported in Australia and England.

...18.2% of all deaths among adults in the US from 1986 through 2006 were related to overweight and obesity... HOW TO CHANGE EXPECTATIONS With all the resources available, there is no reason preventable causes of death should hamper life expectancies in America or other developed countries. Here are a few ways the healthcare industry can influence life expectancies in the US and abroad:

1 2 3 4

Develop and advocate for availability of treatments to cure and/or manage the top killers of women, including cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and stroke. Invest in programs to educate the community about the importance of managing chronic and acute conditions. Encourage and help healthcare providers to communicate health risks and disease prevention measures to their patients. Develop educational programs for younger generations to raise awareness of preventable diseases and health risks that lead to shortened life expectancy.

Reversing the slowing of the rate of life expectancy improvement for women will require efforts on several fronts, but it is a worthwhile and achievable goal. n

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Franchise Communications for Healthcare Companies: What Is It Good For? ( A B S O L U T E LY E V E R Y T H I N G) BY CHRISTIE ANBAR


e all know the drill. Often sparked by new company leadership or yearly brand planning, a mandate gets issued to internal teams and their agencies to tell the “franchise story.” Heartened by this interest to think beyond the individual brands, communications teams go off to brainstorm and develop concepts and plans. But then, despite stirring genuine excitement in the organizational leadership, the concepts get trimmed significantly or eliminated completely due to budget cuts, and the big ideas never see the light of day.

The relationships built in the process of doing these types of programs can be invaluable to the individual brands as well as for the overall corporate reputation. In the current environment, where sales representatives are increasingly blocked from institutions, franchise programs can create a different kind of access to healthcare professionals. And finally, franchise communications can be seen as powerful market development activities that will ultimately benefit the individual brands.


Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No. A level down from corporate communications, franchise communications in healthcare The benefits derived from franchise communications directly usually focus on either a portfolio of Rx products or devices in correlate with the scope and quality of the initiatives. In its a therapeutic category or a separate division. Funding usually simplest form, franchise communications are the umbrella story comes from the biggest brand(s) in the that gets woven into all product or corporate franchise, but sometimes the product communications the company does. The or corporate communications team has effort is critical, because to be powerful the IN ITS SIMPLEST budget to contribute. So when there are story must be authentic to the franchise and FORM, FRANCHISE budget pressures (and really, when are relevant to the stakeholders to whom you will COMMUNICATIONS IS there not budget pressures?), the tactics be speaking—and developing it takes time. that can measurably impact brand sales in THE UMBRELLA STORY Channels to deliver that story can vary widely— the nearer term become the top priorities. THAT GETS WOVEN from boilerplate language in a press release to Communications initiatives at the franchise large educational initiatives that bring the story to INTO ALL PRODUCT level don’t generally fit into that category, life, such as healthcare provider training programs which is often why they don’t advance or OR CORPORATE in a specific disease state, forums and summits are limited to internal communications COMMUNICATIONS THE for patients or even big public health initiatives. (intranet, newsletter articles, etc). In addition, return on the investment in franchise communications is not always neatly defined or easily measured.


It is true that it is more challenging to calculate the short-term impact of franchise-level efforts on individual products, especially brands that are well-differentiated and/or leaders. But franchise communications are about more than immediate sales. When change is afoot or times get rough—such as when a pipeline product fails or a marketed product stumbles—the true value of franchise communications becomes readily apparent.

OFTEN OVERLOOKED BENEFITS OF FRANCHISE COMMUNICATIONS Telling a consistent and powerful franchise story, using a variety of channels, can provide significant internal and external value to both individual brands and the company overall. For employees, franchise level programs help people see how what they do connects to a bigger effort, which can be very motivating and may enhance employee knowledge and productivity. Externally, franchise level communications demonstrate an expertise in a therapeutic area and a commitment to a specific patient population.


Budget pressures are never going to go away, so the risk of big franchise initiatives being cut will always be there. However, as communications professionals, we can help healthcare organizations think and act beyond the individual brands and realize the benefits. It starts with prioritizing the story development and not waiting to be asked for the big idea. Put it in the yearly plan and then push to keep it because the investment is exponentially smaller than the benefit. Once it is developed, make sure the telling of the story doesn’t get relegated to internal communications only. The story will be much more powerful—even to employees—if it is told to internal and external stakeholders. Start modestly, review brand plans and identify ways to incorporate the story into existing plans to optimize the investment. Continue to brainstorm and present big ideas, because one day the halo of strong franchise communications may make a world of difference for individual brands. n

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Connecting with Today’s Health-Minded Consumers By Tracy Naden


ver the last 20 years, Americans have begun to think about health in new ways. Instead of filling prescriptions to fix problems that have already been diagnosed, more and more individuals—especially Gen Y/Millennials and the younger cohort behind them—put a priority on staying well, and link health to their personal lifestyle preferences and values. For example, they might say milk should be free of hormones due to both contaminants and concerns of animal cruelty. Online activists also influence consumers’ brand perspectives on further-removed issues, such as labor relations, factory safety, environmental harms and other flash points. In short, some of the most prized consumers of nutrition products these days bring extraordinarily complex expectations to the products they purchase. For brand marketers, this cultural shift I’m describing calls for a sophisticated response—something more than crafting a more persuasive message about cage-free chickens and shade-grown coffee. Companies that want the loyalty of today’s health-conscious consumers need to understand the social and economic forces that motivate them. They also must understand that these consumers are living “life in beta.” What does that mean? The word beta jumped from the world of software testing to common vernacular in the early 1980s, when millions of consumers were first exposed to successive releases of programs running personal computers. Today, iterative technology is a business strategy, and the sensation of continuous adaption is applicable all along the health continuum—at home, in the office, in social environments, and at entertainment and leisure venues. In an ideal world, there would be lots of time to mull important health-related decisions, grounding them in careful research. In today’s fast-paced world, good luck with that. Each of us is making decisions on the fly, juggling options about health plans, primary care doctors and specialists, medications, specialty diets, DIY health-monitoring apps and dozens of other matters. There are wrong turns, pitfalls and poor choices—as well as many surprises on the upside.

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This is life in beta. It’s enough of a shock for health consumers, and it can be just as challenging for marketers trying to sell products. That’s because the target of every message and every campaign is in a state of constant recalibration. Whether you are trying to market JawBone, a Soul Cycle class or the latest juice cleanse, your audience is encountering your message from a more complex stance than prior generations might have done. They’re suffering from information overload, striving to stay abreast of product features and concepts nobody ever imagined and, at the same time, trying to reconcile purchasing and health choices against a whole set of ethical and social concerns, as mentioned earlier.

This innovation is not just occurring in the healthcare space. Traditional consumer product companies are reimagining and reinventing themselves to be relevant to this health-minded consumer. Consider, for example, the Ford Motor Company. It has developed technology allowing people with diabetes, allergies and asthma to monitor their conditions on road trips from their dashboard as they would their mileage. The fashion industry is following suit with the marketing of “smart clothes.” What started out as a trend for professional athletes now has practical, real-life application. With more moms worried about the longterm brain effects of high-impact high school sports, Reebok has introduced Checklight, a skull cap that uses electrical sensors to measure the severity of hits to the head.


Beyond tools and products designed to aid consumers on their journey to take better care of themselves, consumers are also using technology to uncover how brands are contributing to their personal health and well-being. They no longer just want companies to be transparent; they want brands to be responsive to their concerns and desires. Companies must realize that this level of accountability and transparency is no longer a choice. To consumers, it’s a given, if a brand wants to gain their loyalty.

More than ever, consumers have the power to track and manage their health without the help of a doctor. In 2013, mHealth companies generated $6.2 billion in revenue, and this number is expected to more than triple over the next five years, according to Dublinbased market research firm Research and Markets. The Apple App store alone is fueling the Do-it-Yourself health trend with nearly 10,000 apps focused on fitness, weight loss, stress relief and medication.

While it may seem at odds, technology today is actually driving a more emotional evaluation of products prior to purchase. Consumers are no longer just looking at whether a

brand has more Omega 3s or is BPA free. They are asking themselves, “what difference is this product really making in my life, or in my family’s life?” To market effectively to healthsavvy consumers, we must gain a better understanding of consumers’ elevated expectations of brands, as well as the demographic and cultural nuances of how our current health perceptions were formed.

“LIFE IN BETA”: A UNIVERSAL TREND, BUT NOT A ONE-SIZEFITS-ALL APPROACH While “life in beta” is a universal trend, there are generational shifts that shape consumers’ health behaviors and attitudes toward health and wellness. Of course there are always exceptions, but understanding cultural insights can provide a macro view of how marketing strategies should be tailored to ensure they resonate across audiences. For instance, boomers tend to be left-brained thinkers, idealistic and conforming. This means they are more likely to still seek the advice of medical professionals and take the doctors’ word as gospel. They may purchase technology to monitor health, such as a blood pressure tracker, but typically at the recommendation of a doctor. Gen Xers are different. This generation is more likely to rebel against the medical norm as they are more open

to trying new things compared to their conforming parents. Gen Xers were among the first to embrace alternative medicines and all-natural remedies— and East meets West traditions went from extreme to mainstream quickly. Unlike their Boomer parents, Gen Xers tend to view technology as less of a purchase and more of a vehicle to discover new ways of thinking and to unlock new experiences. The most sought-after generation of all? Millennials—the largest generation with the greatest combined purchasing power in history—gravitate to a crowdsourcing approach before making major decisions about health topics. First, they may talk about what’s ailing them to family and friends, research their options and talk to their friends again, before deciding which type of health expert to visit or medication to take. They have also given rebirth to the DIY culture—making them more open to trying and trusting upstart brands with a strong health benefit versus big multinationals. This is most evident in the food industry, where brands like Ella’s Kitchen and Amy’s Kitchen have taken hold and thrived among Millennials.

CONCLUSIONS Considering that the advancement of technology is only going to get faster, “life in beta” will continue to be the norm rather than the exception. What does this mean for our communication strategies today? Following are five rules of the road. BE ACCOUNTABLE If a consumer asks you what your brand stands for, do you have an answer? If not, set out to determine your brand’s essence. Ask questions like “What

are we doing to make the lives of our consumers better?” and “What do our consumers care about most and how do we support their causes?” UNLEARN THE “SET AND FORGET” APPROACH The days of developing an annual program are gone. To keep pace with consumers living life in continual flux, be equipped to engage in dialogue on demand. Technology is constantly evolving and communication strategies need to be just as nimble to adapt to this ever-changing “life in beta” environment. BE TRANSPARENT AND DIRECT Continue to evaluate online conversations about your brand and compare the language to your brand content. Pretend you are delivering your message to your neighbor. Be real, listen closely, but be ready to react on the fly. BE EMOTIONAL AND FUNCTIONAL Focus on both the emotional and functional areas of the brand promise to drive loyalty. Create experiences where winning is a shared, relevant experience for the brand and for consumers’ daily lives. Continue to reinforce that win-win feeling during all key touch points of the consumer journey. “LIFE IN BETA” IS NOT ONE SIZE FITS ALL While consumers continue to reinvent how they think about their health, keep in mind that their perspectives are different based on individual demographic and generational mindsets. n


PrimeCut: Issue 22  

This issue of PRimeCut covers how constant change has affected health communications. We revisit the traditional values of PR, introduce a D...

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