Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich

I recently came across an article called I Would Rather Be A Jazz Programmer. The article distinguishes between rockstar programmers (which are apparently what companies are looking for these days) and jazz programmers. Before I even read the content, the title got me thinking about what being a jazz marketer might mean.

Far better, I think, to be a jazz marketer, as opposed to a rockstar marketer, who may only have one or two hits that they play over and over again unchanged, even twenty years later. Sure, some people might still want to hear Men Without Hats singing "Safety Dance," but if that's all the group can do, they're not very relevant for today's listeners. Rockstars may shine brightly, but they can also crash and burn quickly when their audience decides to move on to the next big thing.

On the other hand, jazz marketers have staying power and can quickly change what they are doing to be where the audience is. Jazz marketers...
  • ...can improvise on a central theme. They may somewhat change the melody, harmonies or time signature, but the song (or brand) stays recognizable.
  • ...know the musical rules and are able to innovate within the traditional structure, as well as break the rules when necessary.
  • ...stay on their toes so that when something in the piece starts going in an unexpected direction, they can either go with the flow and make it look like that's what was supposed to happen all along, or rein it back in if needed.
  • ...incorporate influences from many different styles of music. Social marketers particularly draw on disparate fields, from marketing to medicine to anthropology to epidemiology.
  • ...let their music come from the grassroots. Rather than originating with royalty or record companies, jazz came straight from self-taught former slaves who were playing what the people wanted to hear. Jazz marketers take their cue from what resonates with the people they are trying to reach, not from what the top brass likes.
  • ...can make do with whatever musicians are available. A jazz band can be as effective with two different instruments as with ten. Jazz marketers are able to use many different types of tools, choosing the right ones to suit their audience, budget and objectives.
  • ...are too cool to worry about being cool. They are much more interested in doing what works than in what the current fashion happens to be. Both style and substance are important, but substance should win out every time.
So, as you think about what kind of marketer you want to be, try to model yourself more after Dixieland and Chick Corea than the Dixie Chicks.

[If you are more of a classical music buff, you might like this post I wrote back in February on the music of marketing.]

Photo Credit: Fixed Image

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This week on the HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog, I indulge my rich fantasy life and crown myself the Queen of Pandemic Communications. In my final post for that blog, I lay out what my ideal pandemic flu preparedness campaign would look like.

Coincidentally, today Craig wrote about how to extend Mack Collier's brand evangelist framework to social marketing. This is an approach that I have previously advocated for how to harness the energies already being directed toward pandemic preparedness by scores of well-informed citizens who have organized themselves into online communities. Craig's post helps to think through what would need to happen to create the Citizen Pandemic Preparedness Corps I propose in my post.

I just want to share a few resources for those who are interested in finding out more about how to communicate about pandemic flu:
  • The Communication Initiative has a pageful of descriptions of campaigns, how-to guides and other resources specifically about avian flu.
  • Minnesota's Code Ready website offers a customizable tool to help you put together your preparedness supplies, including the numbers of servings of each type of food you will need to have on hand for periods ranging from 3 days to one year. Many pandemic flu experts recommend having a 3-month supply of food and water for each person in your household. This website helps you figure out what that means in practical terms for a shopping list.
And, of course, lots more information at and the Flu Wiki. Now that the HHS blog is winding down, I suppose I'll have to abdicate the crown. I still do have to fill the royal storehouses though, just in case.

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Translation from Hebrew: "Another tip and I'm in India"
  • I have mixed feelings about Israel's latest anti-drug commercial, which features an Israeli teen saying goodbye to his family in a video styled after a suicide bomber's last testament. It's certainly shocking and would grab attention, but I haven't decided whether it's in poor taste or an effective approach. I would love to know whether they tested it with teens. Its in-your-face aesthetic is nearly diametrically opposite of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy's current campaign (in which a cartoon dog tells its pot-smoking owner "You disappoint me.") In any case, it will definitely get people talking. What do you think, Israeli readers?
  • The New York Times had a fascinating slideshow with photos of people next to pictures of their online avatars. My favorite was this man boy who is hooked up to various medical devices with his very sleek and strong armored Star Wars Galaxies avatar. It's just another reminder of how freeing virtual worlds can be for people with disabilities, who can have superhuman abilities and still be no different from everyone else online.
  • Vigilante bike activists in Toronto have taken matters into their own hands, with the city two years behind schedule in installing bike lanes on busy streets. Armed with hot pink spray paint, the Other Urban Repair Squad is painting in its own ad hoc bike lanes around the city, which the city then removes. The transportation department claims it will complete 30 km of the 1,000 km bicycle network planned by the end of the year, but in the meantime why don't they just work with these activist groups to get it done quickly and efficiently?
  • Nokia and Vodafone have launched a wiki-based website for NGOs to share ideas on how to use mobile communications for social change. The site,, includes case studies and how-to's that can be expanded by other organizations over time.
  • There's a lot of social marketing going on down under in Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald ran a thoughtful story on social marketing, calling us "behavior engineers." Sounds nice and scientific - maybe I'll put that on my business card.
  • Via MarketingVox, Google just launched a public policy blog, which will cover US legislation and regulation issues related to its business. Their intention is to open a window into their policy positions and advocacy strategies to get input and ideas from their users. Andrew McLaughlin, Google's director of public policy and government affairs, says they want to do public policy advocacy "in a Googley way." It will be interesting to see whether other companies follow suit to make their lobbying activities more transparent. Or should I say "Googley"?
  • New York City will be trying a new approach to bring residents out of poverty -- bribing them. Piloting a program that has been used effectively in countries like Brazil and Mexico, poor residents will be rewarded with cash for engaging in good behaviors. For example, possible rewards include $25 for attending parent-teacher conferences, $25 per month for a child who maintains a 95 percent school attendance record, $400 for graduating high school, $100 for each family member who sees the dentist every six months and $150 a month for adults who work full time. While it makes sense to use the incentive that will best get people to act, it goes against everything I've learned as a parent about the effectiveness of bribes. If the external rewards stop coming, will people continue their positive behavior, or will the program have to go on indefinitely? And if people continue to be paid for years and years, is that okay and worth it if we get the behaviors we want from them?
  • Finally, I just wanted to share my favorite new online tool. Jott is a free service that lets you call a number from your mobile phone, leave a voice message, and have it transcribed and sent to your own or someone else's e-mail. I have it preprogrammed in my cell phone, so whenever I'm driving and suddenly remember something for my to-do list or have a flash of brilliance, I can just leave myself a message and have it waiting in my email when I return to my computer. It's a lot safer than fishing around for a pen and paper to write myself a note in the car. (Sorry, it's only in the US and Canada now.)

Photo Credit: miss pupik
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Can I tell you a secret? I hate exercise. I go through phases where I do it because I know it's good for me. Then I stop for a while and start up again months later. I just have a really hard time motivating myself.

You would think as a social marketer, I would have some special insight into what would make me want to exercise. What benefits do I value? What barriers need to be taken away to make it happen? But no, I'm just like every other shlub whom the physical activity social marketing programs are trying to get to budge from their desks. I'm the shoemaker who has no shoes.

This time, the thing that got me moving is what works with just about every mother at some point in her life -- worrying about what might happen to my family if, God forbid, I had a catastrophic health event because I didn't take care of myself well enough. (If all else fails, using maternal guilt for motivation is bringing out the big guns.)

So, I dug out my old Walkman and went for a walk last week for the first time in a couple of months. I always like to listen to the radio while I walk, but I had a hard time finding music with a good beat for walking. It was after trying to walk to 30 Seconds to Mars' song Bury Me and finding myself feeling like I was limping along to try to keep up with the 6/8 beat (a Souza march it wasn't) that I decided to get an iPod and some optimized exercise music. My deal with myself was that I could buy a used iPod on eBay if I promised to use it to exercise.

The iPod arrived today, so I loaded it up with my music and downloaded some exercise music podcasts. I found a couple of places where you can choose the workout music based on the number of beats per minute, so you can find exactly the pace that works for your stride and type of exercise (Podrunner is one source, and fitPod is another).

This evening I took the iPod and the selected 1-hour workout mix on their inaugural walk. And wow - what a difference it makes to have a beat that matches my stride. My feet just automatically keep pace with the music. But the downside of using these free downloads is that they are all centered around horrid techno music that sounds basically the same from song to song. One song had a breathy Scandinavian woman singing vapid lyrics like "express your emotions." Another song featured a deep voice saying the word "cee-crisp" over and over to the beat. Yeah, I was wondering what that meant too. At least it took my mind off of the exercise.

So the opening night of the iPod walking tour was a success. But I need to find some listenable music. Anyone have suggestions for rock-based workout compilations?

I'm not going to start exerblogging (a la fatblogging (LA Times free registration req.)), but if anyone wants to be my virtual exercise partner or share what motivates you to exercise, let me know!

Photo Credit: auntnanny

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This afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting Steven Starr, founder (and CEO turned Chairman) of In case you are not familiar with Revver, it's a video sharing site that tracks and monetizes videos and shares the ad revenue with the content creators (unlike sites like YouTube and Google Video). We were lucky to get Steven to come speak to our Entertainment Resource Professionals Association group, and it was a nice intimate setting in which to pummel Steven with our questions and pick his brain. Steven took it all with good humor, and his do-gooder ethos (apparently developed while working with Bob Marley) fit right in with our group.

If you are reading this blog, you probably already know about how the entertainment environment is shifting from being dominated by media conglorporations towards a more democratic model where anyone with a camera and some creativity can become a producer or a star. Power to the people and all that. Revver is contributing toward this shift, with a mission of empowering and rewarding creators of great content.

We had a lively discussion about how nonprofits can jump into the world of online video, and here are some of the ideas that Steven and others offered:
  • Don't forget that online videos need to be SHORT (under 3 minutes). If you have more to say, do it with a series of episodes of 3 minutes each. Each one should advance a story, be entertaining and have some sort of "cliffhanger" at the end so that people will want to watch the next one.
  • Authenticity is key. Anything that looks like it was created by a PR agency will not be of as much interest as something made by a "real person."
  • Look for your favorite online video creators (especially those who already have a following) and contract with them to make a bunch of videos for your organization to post online. The cost per video will be a fraction of a standard PSA, and the video creators will be thrilled to get money to do what they already love and are good at. "Create your own celebrities."
  • Run a contest for the best video on your topic, with a prize of some sort.
  • Find existing content that matches up well with your message or organization and buy ads on those videos via Revver.
  • Bring in your own sponsor for your videos and get an additional 20% of the revenue, or at some point down the line, Revver may be able to match up causes with interested sponsors.
  • Ask people in your own network (e.g., your organization's members and supporters) to take your videos and put them on their websites, blogs, social networking pages and send them via email to syndicate the content as much as possible.
  • Ask people to make videos around a common theme, then use excerpts from each to make a movie. Steven gave the example of people from all over trying to get to CBGB for its final closing night making videos about their experiences, which could then be made into a longer length movie that weaves the different storylines together.
Steven is now putting the finishing touches on a documentary he's been making about water mentoring about the global water crisis (correction per Steven), called "For Love of Water." It's been a labor of love over several years, and hopefully it will be coming out soon, so watch for it.

When I came home after the meeting I was flipping through an old Far Side book I'd gotten from the library for my son (who is now discovering the joys of Larson). One of the cartoons resonated exactly with what we had just been talking about:

I then saw, while poking around in my feed reader, that Ashley Cecil had a new time-lapse video of her latest painting, which is hosted on Revver. I clicked on the ad at the end (because, as I learned today, the artists do not receive any money unless people click on the ads), which turned out to be linked to a site called What Kind of World Do You Taking off on the Five for Fighting (careful - link has audio!) song "World," the site encourages people to "tell the world what kind of world you want and raise money for charity by making and uploading a video of yourself, your friends or your family answering the question, "What Kind Of World Do You Want"." Or by watching the clips posted by others and clicking on the sponsor's ad, a donation of up to 49 cents will go to one of six selected charities. While the contest seems to be over, it's an interesting example of how a nonprofit might structure a similar contest.

For organizations that don't have a lot of money or the ability to create and run TV commercials, the opportunity that online video offers to get your message out is enormous. But remember that no matter how "worthy" your organization may be of attention, you will not get noticed unless your content is engaging and entertaining. It's a true meritocracy out there (at least as judged by the whims of the audience), so find the people who know what they are doing and join forces. Dip a toe into the water and come on in!

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Welcome to the Father's Day edition of the Tip Jar, which is dedicated to all you fathers out there, and especially my own daddy (who is off camping in Glacier National Park) and my kids' daddy (who spent the day getting showered with homemade gifts, cards and "special recipes").
  • Though at this point it's too late for this Father's Day, Joe at Selfish Giving highlighted what I think is a brilliant product -- the DadGear Diaper Vest. Dads of babies certainly don't want to be seen lugging around a purse-like diaper bag. The diaper vest is essentially a wearable diaper bag, with three pockets for wipes, bottles and diapers, a hidden pocket on the back that holds a changing pad, and smaller pockets for things like phones or keys. If this were out when my kids were babies, I would have snapped it up -- know any new parents you have to buy a gift for?
  • The World Bank has created the BuzzMonitor, "an open source application that "listens" to what people are saying about the World Bank across blogs and other sites in order to help the organization understand and engage in social media." It aggregates content across different languages and platforms and make it easier to make sense of the information. You can download it to use for your organization as well.
  • If you want to learn more about teens' and/or tweens' use of technology, or are just interested in seeing how an online focus group works, sign up for the online research webinars from C&R Research's TeensEyes division (tweens - 6/27, teens - 6/28). This live interactive query research will have a trained youth researcher moderating each session with a panel of tween or teen consumers who will be talking about the technology they're using, where they go online and what they do there. A great opportunity to be a fly on the wall.
  • A study recently published in JAMA shows the counterintuitive results that physicians trying to help patients change more than one behavioral risk factor may be more successful if they address changing several behaviors at once, rather than doing them sequentially. It seems like it would be overwhelming to have to make so many changes at once, but perhaps with more than one message the chances of at least one sticking are increased.
  • We knew that the Los Angeles Fire Department was technologically advanced, but now it seems the the LA Police Department is trying to catch up. The LAPD will be installing a system to accept video, photos and SMS messages sent from 911 callers' cellphones into the 2 million calls now handled by the emergency dispatchers. Hopefully idiots won't turn it into a nonstop lolcats photo stream (Im in ur dispatch sistem, cloggn ur lines).
  • Are there some risks we shouldn't try to prevent? The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the UK says that the normal bumps and bruises of childhood provide kids with lifelong lessons that will help them avoid more serious injuries later in life. By letting children play outside and take reasonable risks, they will learn their own limits and develop their own risk assessment skills. This common sense advice reminds me of the best book on parenting I've ever read - Wendy Mogel's The Blessing of a Skinned Knee.
And with that recommendation (and a reminder to myself that I need to reread that book), our Father's Day feature comes to an end.

Photo Credit: NoNo Joe
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The preliminary outcomes of the HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog and leadership forum held on June 13 are starting to emerge. While my last take on the situation came at a time when it seemed the blog was acting as a lightning rod for all the frustrations with government inaction felt by flublogia, the comments that emerged from the forum are encouraging. It seems the blog and forum may have somewhat bridged the gap between these two necessary partners in pandemic preparation.

The forum was liveblogged by two tireless unnamed bloggers from Ogilvy who did an amazing job of providing summaries of each speaker and session as soon as possible, uploading pictures of the proceedings and responding to requests from commenters (including passing along a technical question for Flu Wiki's Greg Dworkin to ask of CDC head Julie Gerberding).

Several of the speakers made it clear that they have been paying attention to the goings-on at the blog, and that they are aware of the efforts of the flubies.

HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt's remarks included this mention (though I'm not sure I would call posting without responding to comments "interactions"):
We have also launched our first “blog summit” on pandemic preparedness. Many of you have participated in the summit — at If you haven’t, there’s still time. It will run for another two weeks. I have greatly enjoyed my interactions with you and thousands of other engaged individuals. I am sure you will find the open dialogue on the site very useful.
Stephanie Marshall, the Director of Communications at HHS, said:

Our online research also revealed that there is an online community of “flubies” who are informed and already preparing. And they’re on the Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog.

And Admiral John Ogwunobi, who incurred the most wrath for his blog posts, extended an olive leaf during his closing remarks:

As a noteworthy end to the Pandemic Flu Leadership Forum, Dr. Agwunobi invited others to make closing remarks. (“My handlers are shaking their heads and telling me not to do this – but I’m gonna do it!”) He encouraged Dr. Greg Dworkin of Flu Wiki to share his thoughts. The two have recently become acquainted as contributors on the HHS blog.

– our blog community will appreciate this -

Dr. Dworkin: One of the things we’ve learned today, over the past three weeks, and will continue to learn, is that there are a lot of potential recruits for this effort. . . A lot of people who are already engaged and feel strongly about this want to help.”

Dr. Agwunobi: I didn’t realize until I became an avid reader of the HHS blog that there is an army of people who are already preparing and want to help further this goal of preparedness. (I also learned you have to be completely open and honest and forthcoming in that world or they won’t treat you very nicely!)

Because one of the main criticisms by the commenters on the HHS blog had been that they didn't think that HHS was listening, having a spotlight shown on the flubie community, particularly with Greg Dworkin as their able spokesman (who was added to on the panel discussion at the last minute and included in the press conference afterward), was empowering. Kudos to whoever at HHS or Ogilvy made the decision to give him a bigger role. Here is Greg's summary of the results of the day from his perspective.

Michael Coston of Avian Flu Diary offered his take on what had come out of the summit, which was echoed in many of the comments on the HHS blog and on other forums:

While I know many were expecting more out of all of this, I think we maybe got more than we realize. We’ve got a clear clarion call from the Secretary of HHS, to go forth into our communities and spread the pandemic awareness message. We’ve been validated, at least unofficially, as being partners in the national effort to prepare for a pandemic. And our voices, for the first time, have been heard on this issue.

I suspect we may have surprised a few folks with our knowledge, our passion, and our dedication.

The reality is; no one is going to get everything they want out of this leadership summit. Many questions will go unanswered, many policy decisions will be withheld pending consultation and review, and concrete results may yet be months away. This experiment, like all experiments, was conducted without knowing in advance what the end result would be.

The HHS is mixing ingredients, looking for a catalyst that will spark a reaction among previously inert components. Praying for cold fusion in a test tube. We can be that catalyst. Regardless of how we feel about what has, or hasn’t been done to date by government agencies, we can take the lead in our communities and promote pandemic awareness. If enough of us do that, we can start a groundswell around the nation, and hopefully show the rest of the world how it is done.
Despite some early hitches in the process, and a miscommunication or two along the way, I’d have to say the Leadership Summit has advanced the ball down the field a bit. We have recruited a few more community leaders into the fold, and we have engaged in a open, and often spirited conversation with a Federal agency.

So, while there are still many detractors who feel that whatever HHS does is too little, too late, it seems that communication channels have at least been opened. HHS has developed a healthy respect for the knowledge and engagement of the flubies, who in turn are feeling like their efforts are finally being validated. Whether HHS does the right thing and works with this active community as a partner in building the necessary grassroots movement has yet to be seen, but this is a hopeful beginning.

I'll be posting more soon on the HHS blog about my thoughts on the content of the leadership forum.

UPDATE: From Greg, you know your issue has arrived when it's the subject of a Dilbert comic.

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My blog friend, fellow introvert, baseball coach and real estate agent Derek Burress recently did an interview with me on his website. It's a wide-ranging discussion on everything from Berkeley to blogging, social marketing to smokeless tobacco, religion to real estate. It's kind of long, but it was fun to give my two cents on things I don't usually write about. Read it if you've always wondered where the name "Spare Change" came from.

Photo Credit: kelly-bell
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Watching the goings-on this week at the HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog and the impassioned "behind the scenes" discussions at a couple of pandemic flu message boards (PFI Forum & Flu Wiki Forum) brought to mind the analogy of how residents of Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area think about each others' cities. In my experience living in both regions, I've found that people in the Bay Area are somewhat disdainful of LA and feel an intense rivalry with their southern neighbor, while Angelenos don't give much thought to anywhere north of Santa Barbara. Substitute HHS as the clueless colossus, and the "flubies" (concerned citizens that have been thinking about and preparing for pandemic flu for a long time) as the hypersensitive underdogs.

When the HHS blog began, there was hope on both sides that the process would result in public participation and dialogue about pandemic flu issues. HHS has gotten that in spades, but it might not have been in the form they envisioned. Each of the blog posts by the various government and other sector participants has garnered vast numbers of comments (as many as 152 on a single post, though most are getting somewhere between 20-50). Sounds like a lot of public participation, doesn't it? It turns out that the vast majority of the commenters are flubies, many of whom are slicing and dicing the blog posts based on their own extensive knowledge of the issues and what they think is necessary for the country to be prepared if a pandemic strikes. They are well-informed and have obviously thought through the key points they want the government to take into account as it sets its pandemic flu policy.

The main point that the flubies are trying to push is that the current government recommendation of stockpiling a 2-week supply of food, water and medical supplies is woefully inadequate based on current knowledge of how infection cycles and supply chain disruptions will likely happen, and should be closer to 8 to 12 weeks worth of supplies. They feel that HHS is downplaying the need to prepare and not taking worst case scenarios into account.

When the HHS blog was announced, many were cautiously optimistic that they now had a seat at the table, and that they would actually be engaging in a conversation with the policymakers. But when HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt did not respond to the comments on his posts, some took it as a sign that he was not listening. And when some moderated comments either did not show up on the blog or took a long time in appearing, elaborate theories as to which words or topics were being censored started coming out. Some tried to read between the lines of others' comments, wondering if they were HHS plants who were testing how much the flubies knew and how they would react to various communication approaches.

The proverbial straw came in Week 3, when Admiral John O. Agwunobi, the Assistant Secretary for Health at the HHS wrote a blog post reiterating the government's recommendations for stockpiling that came across to many as patronizing and dismissive. The poor guy didn't know what hit him, as enraged flubies unleashed their anger, sarcasm and finely reasoned arguments in the comments. Amongst themselves in their own forums, the attacks were even harsher. (Fla_Medic has a good summary of the situation on the Flu Wiki.) Admiral Agunobi later wrote a second post sharing his surprise that his words had sparked such a strong response, and he backpedaled somewhat.

I have a feeling that HHS is getting more than it bargained for with this blog, and the question is what they will be doing with all of these comments. Will they stick with a predetermined set of recommendations, or will they take the valuable input of people who have thought through in painful detail what they need to do to protect their families and communities if and when a pandemic strikes? Tomorrow (June 13) is the HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Forum, where they will be discussing policy recommendations, and it will be interesting to see the direction the conversation takes. Greg Dworkin, who runs the Flu Wiki and its forum, will be speaking at the event and presenting the flubie community's concerns. The Forum is supposed to be liveblogged, though I don't know who will be doing that on site.

While I wasn't invited to come to DC to participate in person, my contribution to the HHS blog this week came out of my dismay at the fact that these true community leaders have been mostly ignored, when they are the best natural resource the government has in spreading the word at the local level. I'm advocating a dual-pronged approach to building public awareness by combining a government-led education campaign with a program cultivating and supporting the grassroots activists through the social marketing equivalent of a "brand ambassador" or "customer evangelist" program. My strategy seemed to resonate with the flubie community. The worst thing HHS could do would be to ignore, or worse, alienate this network of people who feel passionately about the issue. Read the post and let me know what you think about my recommendations, either here or there.

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After searching the social marketing universe far and wide, here is this week's Tip Jar...
  • The George Washington University School of Public Health & Health Services has just published its first issue of Cases in Public Health Communication & Marketing. This online journal is edited by graduate students, and grad students are also the lead authors of the peer-reviewed cases (in partnership with practitioners and their academic advisors). The journal also features commissioned and sponsored cases (not peer-reviewed). A sampler of some of the many cases in this issue include the campaign launch of Donate Life California (an online organ donor registry), using targeted health messages in a state colorectal cancer screening program, process evaluation in the "Be Under Your Own Influence" media campaign and the birth of the "truth" campaign.
  • John Brian at Beaconfire gives some advice on how to use the Facebook Causes application to make your organization stand out from all the other causes on Facebook.
  • How do you help someone wrap their mind around a huge number like the 106,000 aluminum cans that are used in the US every 30 seconds or the 8 million trees harvested in the US each month to make the paper for mail order catalogs? Artist Chris Jordan has created a series of large-scale "statistical art" prints that depict these numbers literally, such as a reproduction of Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte comprised of 106,000 cans of Pepsi, Coke, Orange Crush, V-8 and other drinks. It's a visual form of what media advocates have termed "creative epidemiology." (via PSFK)
  • Chris Weber, a PhD student at Stony Brook University, is asking for your help in his dissertation research. He says, "Increasingly, Americans are turning to the web for news about politics. This is a survey about online news coverage of the immigration issue. We are interested in your thoughts on this important political controversy. If you decide to participate in our survey, you will start off by answering a few questions about yourself and your political attitudes. Then you will watch a short news clip of an immigration story. After the clip, we will ask you some questions about your position on immigration policy. In total, the survey should take about 15 minutes to complete. The survey is completely anonymous and you can skip any questions you do not wish to answer." Take the survey here: If you have any questions, contact Chris Weber at
  • SAT prep giant Kaplan has joined forces with TOKYOPOP to teach vocabulary to high school students in a manga format. From the release: "This series is the newest trend in teen reading and the fastest growing segment in the publishing industry. Appealing to teens interested in a good read filled with exciting plots, the manga platform represents a fun method of vocabulary review, allowing the reader to decipher the context of the word not only from the surrounding text on the page and the definitions in the margins, but also from the graphic element of the story." Great idea - now how about some health manga? (via Ypulse)
  • Seth Godin has some ideas for updating the way we elect presidents to fit with our 21st century technology. For example, he suggests six-hour long debates once a week, with the highlights sliced up and disseminated through online and offline channels; voting by ranking all the candidates, which leads to better results; voting at ATM machines; and other ideas that would make the process more interesting and convenient.
  • In Jordan, where weddings are often celebrated with gunfire into the air (yep, real "shotgun weddings"), the law of gravity usually prevails and sometimes results in deaths and injuries of celebrants. A man named Ali Zenat (WSJ subscription required) is working hard to convince family and friends of the bride and groom to forgo the celebratory gunfire. He persuaded printers to include a line in wedding invitations that says "gunfire is forbidden" or "our wedding will be more beautiful without gunfire." (I think Miss Manners would approve.) Mr. Zenat has distributed posters featuring a young woman who walked into a wedding and left as a paraplegic. He also persuaded about 10,000 influential individuals, including the ranking members of big clans, to sign a pledge to stop this practice. Slowly, he seems to be making progress.
  • Another example of an individual taking on an established cultural custom and prevailing is Cyril Ebie, a young Cameroonian who stood up to his parents and village elders to speak out against the practice of female genital mutilation. Although his two older sisters had already undergone the procedure, when he heard it condemned on a national radio debate, he tried to convince his parents that his younger sister should not have it done. He fled with his sister to a nearby city, and his protest set off a series of events that led to his village putting a stop to the practice. He just won the BBC World Service's Outlook program's Stand Up for Your Rights competition. One person can make a big difference.
  • On the other hand, here's someone who was supposedly making a difference but ended up being part of the problem rather than the solution. Hector Marroquin, who is the founder of the gang-intervention group No Guns, was arrested for selling silencers and weapons to an undercover ATF agent. He had received $1.5 million from the City of Los Angeles for a program to keep youth out of gangs. Marroquin is an alleged associate of the prison-based Mexican Mafia, and police searches of his businesses recovered gang photos and journals. His son, who also worked for No Guns, is an admitted gang member who has been indicted on charges of home invasion robbery. Um... maybe they were just helping the youth dispose of their guns and gang paraphernalia?
  • Text messages on mobile phones can be a good way to warn people of an impending hazard and to coordinate disaster response. But just as inaccurate email messages about cancer-causing antiperspirant can propagate quickly from person to person, not all text messages can be trusted. In Indonesia, a hoax text message warning of an tsunami was widely circulated and resulted in thousands of people fleeing their homes in panic, though the warning had no basis in fact. Looks like we need an SMS-Snopes.

Photo Credit: samk

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Growing up in Los Angeles, we got used to going through droughts and being careful about our water consumption. When it was really bad, we had to turn off the shower water while lathering up, put bricks in the toilet tank to use less water, and endure the terrible inconvenience of restaurants not bringing a glass of water unless requested. Record low rainfall (the same this year as the annual equivalent of Death Valley's) and low snowpack on the mountains from which we get our water, combined with predicted high temperatures this summer, means that we're gearing up again for drought measures.

Sounds pretty dire, huh? But this time it doesn't feel so hard to deal with. Our Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, just issued a call to Angelenos to reduce our water use by 10 percent. Not a major lifestyle change, but simply cutting 10 percent from what you would normally use. That sounds pretty reasonable and doable. It just means moving a little faster in the shower or skipping one day a week, watering the lawn every three days instead of two, combining smaller loads of laundry together, not leaving the hose running while you wash the car. The specificity of the request makes it easy to think of ways to implement it.

If the Mayor had just said "Use less water," it would make me feel like whatever I did would not be enough. I could always use less water than the amount of my current consumption. But a reduction of 10 percent is concrete and achievable. It doesn't evoke bad memories of putting buckets in the shower to catch the runoff for watering plants.

In your programs, are you asking people to give 'til it hurts and then give some more? Or are you reasonable in your request, asking people to make small changes (at least at first) that will add up over time? Be concrete in your messages rather than exhorting people to a vague call to action.

After a while, people will get used to the "new normal" and you can then work on another small step. You'd have a hard time finding a Los Angeles native over a certain age who keeps the faucet running while brushing his teeth. Now I just need to find a location other than the shower to do my daydreaming.

If you want to join me, here are 100 water-saving tips for different regions of the country.

Photo Credit: diedm

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My favorite Israeli blogger Jameel shared a letter and certificate that his young daughter received after cutting off her long hair and donating it to an organization called Zichron Menachem - The Israeli Association for the Support and Assistance of Children with Cancer and their Families. The organization provides wigs to children undergoing chemotherapy who have lost their hair (similar to Locks of Love here in the US).

Soon after she sent in her donation, she received this letter back (translated from the Hebrew):

Dear [name],

Yes, yes, I mean you. You, who faithfully grew your hair for a long time and then cut it short (and sometimes, even shorter than you would have liked), just so your hair would meet the criteria of Zichron Menachem, just so you could donate it to sick children. You just wanted to aid children that were in a bad way.

When their hair started to fall out, in a bad way.

That is the first actual sign which proves to them that they are sick -- with the terrible disease known as cancer, and breaks them emotionally.

And not only that, but when they suddenly see large faces looking back at them in the mirror. Too large. Missing too much. And at that critical moment, what is missing has a tremendous impact.

That is the point where they meet your hair. Your noble act returns their faces to them. Their self respect. Their self-confidence that everything "will be ok" and "I'm still myself despite everything."

Your valiance is noble!

I want to thank you for your partnership with Zichron Menachem -- for helping make a very difficult time, a bit easier. And I want you to know that how successful your effort is, every time I see a bashful smile from those mirrors, trying to love what they see. And they succeed.

There are other ways to contribute to Zichron Menachem. Visit our internet site:


Efrat Luxenberg
Public Relations

What kid (or adult, for that matter) wouldn't be beaming after reading that letter? Who wouldn't be pulling out the ruler to see how long it might be until her hair grew enough to send in another donation?

The letter is so effective for several reasons. It lets donors emotionally experience the impact of their donation with vivid details and a compelling story. It shows that the organization understands the sacrifice the donor made with their investment of time and effort in growing the hair, and then the potentially traumatic step of cutting it off. And a little flattery will get you pretty far, when it is sincere and well-deserved.

Kudos to Zichron Menachem for its marketing savvy, and yasher koach (loosely translated as "more power to you" or "way to go!") to Jameel's daughter for deciding on her own to participate in this worthy program.

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My colleague Melissa Havard just sent me this note that I'm posting with her permission, in case any you who work for or with nonprofits is able to take advantage of this great opportunity:
Please let me know if you work with any non profits who might be interested in getting some amazing exposure. Feel free to forward to colleagues. NOTE: this is not a “Pay for the production costs scam”…it’s for real.

Profiles in Caring (501c3) is a half hour professionally produced television program highlighting amazing non profits who make profound differences in the lives of others. Their focus is on the mid to small non profit organization, that make great impact with minimum staff and dollars. The stories are mini documentaries, with a personal “behind the scenes” emphasis that reveals the essence of the organization and the people involved.

THEY ARE REQUESTING SUBMISSIONS FOR FALL PROGRAMMING. It's a simple application process online, period. I’m encouraging my friends and colleagues to help get the word out! They are interested in US and International organizations.

PIC currently broadcasts nationally and internationally on the following outlets:

American Life TV
The Altitude Network
America One TV
Voice of America
Comcast on Demand
KJZZ TV Salt Lake City
KHIZ TV Los Angeles
WHBG TV Harrisburg
The STARFISH Network (dish TV)

There are several benefits to filling out an application for submission. If selected,

(1) Profiles in Caring pays ALL production costs. There may be minor travel (coach) expense for cameraman’s travel , but if that presents a problem, sometimes even this minimal charge is covered. *PIC is structured/funded so that the service they provide is producing the program with little or no cost to organization selected. No bait and switch. This is a really great, cool organization.

(2) The programming can lead to increased visibility and donations.

(3) The non profit can keep the 30 minute documentary and use without restriction however they want (fundraising, b roll for news /media, video streaming on web, cross promotion and branding, board presentations)

(4) PIC simply asks for a link on website site, either prior to or when video is aired.

(5) In addition to producing the video, there is an Ambassadors in Caring 10K grant available for qualified and selected applicants. Profiles awards (4) of these each year.

Profiles in Caring is a non-religious, not-for-profit enterprise, an initiative of DreamWeaver Medical Foundation, a 501(3)(c) organization.
For more information, contact Melissa Havard,

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Here are this week's odds and ends:
  • When CBS's New York office was bombarded with tens of thousands of pounds of nuts sent to them by fans upset about its cancellation of the TV series Jericho a couple of weeks ago, the network redeemed itself by donating the peanuts to City Harvest, a hunger relief program and State Island Project Homefront, an organization that sends care packages to U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are still 6,388 pounds of nuts sent to the LA office that are unaccounted for. Guess the staff there is nuts for nuts. Kudos also to NutsOnline, the company that is coordinating the nutty assault, for collecting donations and giving a percentage of the nut orders of over $13,500 so far for the Greensburg, Kansas Rebuilding Fund. Jericho is set in Kansas, and during the same week the season finale aired, a tornado hit Greensburg and destroyed 95% of the town. Lots of good is coming out of the series cancellation; hopefully the show's fans will end up having a reason to be happy as well.
  • Dutch smokers who are thinking about quitting can send an approximation of their smoker's cough to their friends via email with a note announcing their intention to quit (and nonsmokers can send a hint-hint note to their friends who smoke). A clever way to use social pressure to get it to stick in this promotion for Pfizer's smoking cessation medicine Champix. The site is in Dutch, but the language is similar enough to English that I was able to figure out what the words meant (een paffer = a smoker (puffer), and among the cough qualities you could choose from were "droog" (dry) or "slijmerig" (slimy?)).
  • Staying in the same part of the world, Danish PhD student Malene Charlotte Larsen lists 25 different perspectives that people take on online social networking, such as the consumer perspective, the youth perspective, the friendship perspective, the identity perspective, the body and sex perspective and more. It's a very interesting way to look at the how people could see the same tool from different angles. (via Alison Byrne Fields)
  • Ad Age is looking at who is blogging and has a great graphic summary of blogosphere demographics (pdf). Some interesting stats include that 19% of kids age 12-17 have created blogs and 38% read them; 54% of bloggers are younger than 30; and 59% of blog readers floss their teeth daily (a social marketing opportunity to reach the other 41%!). Bloggers are also more racially diverse that the general online population, where 60% of bloggers are white (vs. 74% of all internet users).
  • Roger von Oech shares what designers can do when they put their talent toward solving life and death problems rather than luxury cars, soda cans and cell phones. An exhibit called Design for the Other 90% at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum displays inventions like a circular jerry can that holds 20 gallons of water and rolls so easily that a child can pull it behind her, and the Lifestraw, which contains a drinking filter that kills bacteria as water is sucked through it. Think of what amazing strides we could make if the world's best designers gave some thought to addressing the needs of the poorest instead of the richest.
  • Supply and no demand... Algeria has 10 million condoms to give away to its citizens, but nobody wants them. The government is working with imams to preach about the HIV virus and the risks of unprotected sex, but a combination of misconceptions and negative attitudes is keeping people from choosing to use condoms. Any Algerian social marketers out there?
  • According to MarketingVox, a new "exergaming" gym will offer over 20 videogames and other equipment to get kids moving while having fun. If I were looking for a franchise to open, this would be it -- what a great concept.
  • Speaking of exercise, I was flabbergasted when I figured out that this product was for real. Are people really paying $60 for a "ropeless jump rope" (two handles with little attached balls that twirl around when you swing them)? Apparently people who have problems jumping over a real rope have not figured out that you can swing your arms around and jump up and down for free (Look! I can even do it backwards and on one foot!). Do they really need to hold something that makes a fake swishing sound to keep their rhythm? Am I missing something here?
  • And finally, in how many ways is the situation shown in this video just wrong? It's the Lindsay Lohanization process. No need to wonder why some young women have body image problems and look for the meaning of life in shopping, partying and drugs. The news bulletin that goes across the screen toward the end of the clip is priceless.

Photo Credit: beatnikside

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This afternoon I attended a bridal shower for my daughter's beloved kindergarten teacher, thrown by the moms of the class. In addition to the requisite food and games, one mom led what I found to be a moving and meaningful activity. She had brought a clear glass vase with a "lucky bamboo" plant inside. She gave each person a smooth dark stone and passed around a silver permanent marker. We were instructed to write a single word on the stone, which would serve as a piece of advice or "word of wisdom" for her coming marriage. Each person then explained why she wrote that word, and put the stone into the vase so the word could be seen through the glass. As the roots of the bamboo plant grow and wrap around the stones, so too will her marriage be putting down its roots with those concepts as its foundation.

Some of the words people wrote included "love," "cherish," "communication," "laugh," "blessings," "compromise" and "fun." One person broke the rules and wrote two words -- "sex" and "food" -- reflecting the advice her own mom had given her when she got married, that all it takes to make a man happy is to walk into the room naked carrying a sandwich (wasn't that a Seinfeld episode?). My word was her name, "Shannon," with the wish that she always remember who she is and not lose her sense of identity when she gets married.

This exercise got me thinking about the idea of finding one word that summarizes my most important piece of advice for marketers (social or otherwise). After thinking for a while, I decided that my one word mantra would be "LISTEN." Listen to your customers, your target audience, the people you are trying to reach. Ask them about their needs, their wants, what's important to them. Find out what their lives are like, what they are thinking, feeling and doing. If you don't listen to them, you will have a hard time designing a marketing strategy that will resonate with their lives.

Now it's your turn to play the game with me. What would be the one word of advice you would write on a stone for a new marketer? Or what would be your one word of wisdom for success in life? Take your pick and leave it in the comments.

Photo Credit: _McConnell_

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In my latest post to the HHS Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog this week, I talk about the need to focus on building awareness about the issue before trying to get people to take action. We can't jump from practically zero awareness of pandemic flu and its implications all the way to full community preparedness in a short amount of time. I talk about how we can use the Stages of Change model to think through the types of messages and marketing approaches to reach people where they are in the behavior change process. I hope you'll read the post and leave a comment to add your ideas to this innovative idea-generation platform for the HHS.
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