Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich
Sony, the Ad Council and the National Crime Prevention Council are running a contest to create a television PSA on the awareness and prevention of cyberbullying. The grand prize winners -- an individual and a school group -- will receive thousands of dollars worth of video production equipment. Consumer-generated marketing -- great, right? Yes, until you look at all the requirements and restrictions they put on the entries.

The contest submissions must be broadcast quality -- that can cost serious money. They specify tiny details like the required PMS colors and proportions of each organization's logo. Entrants have to get talent releases from everyone involved and location releases.

And each person involved in the production has to confirm that "neither he/she nor anyone else has engaged or taken part in (or induced or encouraged anyone else to do so) in any activity or conduct that may or is likely to harm or create a risk of harm, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to any person, other living thing or any property." Does this mean that kids who have been involved with cyberbullying (or other types of bullying) in the past cannot be involved in this project as a part of their rehabilitation?

So, essentially, the contest sponsors are asking for someone else to invest the time, money and creative energy in creating a finished spot for them, in exchange for the production equipment they would already need to own in order to create the spot. Perhaps this is the kind of thing a school-based video production class or semi-professional producer could pull off. But it also excludes an awful lot of people who might otherwise want to enter the contest. And those who do enter the contest but don't win get nothing for their efforts -- no opportunity to show off what they created or share it in other venues.

If Sony, the Ad Council and NCPC wanted to get more youth participating and engaging with this issue, why not solicit a broader range of videos with fewer restrictions, select the most creative and persuasive entries, and then cover the production costs to turn those ideas into a professionally created PSA? They could do it on YouTube or MySpace so that everyone can see all the entries and comment on them. This approach would seem a lot fairer to me, and potentially much more effective in ultimately affecting the issue of cyberbullying among youth.

I'm not sure whether this contest was underthought (in terms of the implications of the rules) or overthought (by the lawyers), but I have to hope that it's not just all about passing off the costs.

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On this lovely (almost) fall day and my 13th wedding anniversary (hooray!), here are the latest tips from the world of social marketing...
  • The internet has become the primary source of health information in online US households, with 78.1% of adult web users finding it online, according to a Burst Media survey of 3,700 internet users. Women go online for health information more than men (83.5% vs. 72.4%) and 90.1% of women age 25-34 search for it online. The internet is the main source of health information for 45.1% of respondents, more so than health professionals (23.0%) or friends and family (12.9%). It's more important than ever before to make sure your organization's health information is search engine optimized on your website.
  • Last year, my 9-year old son was spending a lot of time waddling around Club Penguin, the preteen virtual world recently acquired by Disney. Slate's Michael Agger went penguin for a while to report back to the rest of us adults what cool things are going on over at the old iceberg. I've been searching for info on any social marketing activities that may be happening there, but all I could find is an internet safety initiative with NetSmartz (a partnership of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America). Does anyone know of any other health or social issues promoted within Club Penguin (aquatic safety or avian flu prevention, perhaps)?
  • You can watch a video of Michael Rothschild of the University of Wisconsin's School of Business speaking about "An Introduction to Social Marketing: Considering Its Philosophy and Process as Input to Public Health Practice." He's one of the field's big thinkers, so definitely worth watching.
  • Former Apple marketing executive Steve Chazin has released a free ebook called Marketing Apple (pdf), which lays out the principles that have made Apple so successful. These include things like "Focus on what people do with your product, not what your product does" and "Do not define a new category: try to occupy shelf space that already exists in your prospect's mind." Good advice for social marketers as well.
  • I guess someone took my advice about blimp marketing from a previous Tip Jar. On September 10, the American Blimp Corporation donated ad space on its blimp with a floating jumbotron to encourage people across Central Texas to do good deeds for strangers on the anniversary of 9/11 the next day.
  • Do traffic rules remove a sense of personal responsibility for our actions on the road? The Dutch town of Makkinga (population 1,000) thinks so. Its traffic planners got rid of road signs, traffic lights, parking meters, stopping restrictions and sidewalks. The idea is to get drivers and pedestrians to interact in a considerate way that doesn't rely on external rules, but on socially responsible behavior. I don't think that would work here in Los Angeles, which was just rated the US city with the worst traffic congestion.
  • When people are convinced to adopt a behavior that goes against the established social norms, chances are that they will not continue it for long. But as an opposite case study, the Wall Street Journal tells the story of Susan Taylor, a woman living in a subdivision of Bend, Oregon, who decided to make some changes to her lifestyle to combat global warming. Though her subdivision's covenants prohibited it, she set up clotheslines in her backyard so she could hang her clothes to dry instead of using the electric dryer. She experienced disapproval from her neighbors and sanctions from the homeowner's association, including threats of legal action. She's been fighting it and trying to get them to come around, but now has to hang her clothes in the garage. She's thinking about moving to a less restrictive neighborhood rather than having to compromise what she thinks is important.
  • I've just come across the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World, which shows that many basic values correlate across countries' cultures and can be expressed with just two different dimensions of values. On one axis is the range of traditional values versus secular-rational values, and on the other is survival versus self-expression. It's interesting to see how the countries cluster together on the graph in groups that include Protestant Europe, Catholic Europe, former Communist countries, English-speaking, Confucian, South Asia, Latin America and Africa. And understanding these underlying values is key for social marketers to help determine what will best motivate people in each of these countries to adopt health or social change. For a more humorous representation of the world's countries, see this map of the world according to Americans.

Photo Credit: terpstra_brett

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Even blogs with a relatively small readership like mine have become the new holy grail of marketers because of the fact that the audience is so targeted to a particular niche. While a mention from an A-list blogger is certainly a coup, sometimes you can be even more effective by getting your message out through smaller blogs that have the very specific audience you want to reach, making up for quantity with quality.

I often get emails from PR firms, publishers, and individuals with something to promote asking me to cover their product/book/website/etc. on my blog. Sometimes I will immediately say yes because it's clear that the information is of interest to me and/or my readers (and hopefully both).

Other times the pitch is so poorly done that it's a waste of my time and theirs. It's clear that they have no clue what I write about even though they say that they love my blog. Or they send me email after email to try to convince me of the merits of their product.

Blogger relations has emerged as a tactic of its own, similar to media relations but not the same. Bloggers generally do not consider themselves journalists, so a somewhat different and more informal set of guidelines apply from standard media outreach practice. But that doesn't mean that your approach doesn't matter. In fact, you may need to put more time into cultivating blogger contacts -- it's all about building relationships.

Others have created excellent lists of suggestions for how to pitch bloggers (see Toby, CK and Rohit), as well as examples of what not to do, so I am not going to cobble together my own list here.

The folks over at Ogilvy have recently developed a Blogger Outreach Code of Ethics, and they are asking for feedback to help refine it. Here it is:
  • We reach out to bloggers because we respect your influence and feel that we might have something that is “remarkable” which could be of interest to you and/or your audience.
  • We will only propose blogger outreach as a tactic if it complements our overall strategy. We will not recommend it as a panacea for every social media campaign.
  • We will always be transparent and clearly disclose who we are and who we work for in our outreach email.
  • Before we email you, we will check out your blog’s About, Contact and Advertising page in an effort to see if you have blatantly said you would not like to be contacted by PR/Marketing companies. If so, we’ll leave you alone.
  • If you tell us there is a specific way you want to be reached, we’ll adhere to those guidelines.
  • We won’t pretend to have read your blog if we haven’t.
  • In our email we will convey why we think you, in particular, might be interested in our client’s product, issue, event or message.
  • We won’t leave you hanging. If your contact at Ogilvy PR is going out of town or will be unreachable, we will provide you with an alternate point of contact.
  • We encourage you to disclose our relationship with you to your readers, and will never ask you to do otherwise.
  • You are entitled to blog on information or products we give you in any way you see fit. (Yes, you can even say you hate it.)
  • If you don’t want to hear from us again, we will place you on our Do Not Contact list – which we will share with the rest of the Ogilvy PR agency.
  • If you are initially interested in the campaign, but don’t respond to one of our emails, we will follow up with you no more than once. If you don’t respond to us at all, we’ll leave you alone.
  • Our initial outreach email will always include a link to Ogilvy PR’s Blog Outreach Code of Ethics.
It's a great start, and I think it shows a great deal of respect for the bloggers they are contacting. I would suggest that they add that they will only contact a blogger after having read enough posts to determine whether their information or product is relevant to the topics that blogger writes about.

If you're a blogger, or someone who wants to work with bloggers to get your messages out, what do you think of the code of ethics?

Photo Credit: ~Aphrodite

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I didn't intend to dwell on 9/11 long enough to let the tears form. I was just planning on writing a few words and linking to last year's post about Amy O'Doherty, who was one of the victims in the fall of the World Trade Center. All I needed to do was find a good picture on Flickr, get in and get out.

But something happened as I browsed through picture after picture of towers of light, towers on fire, firefighters and policemen, flags, makeshift memorials on fences and marble memorials in cities from coast to coast. Images floated through my mind of the type of picture I wanted to find.

It would memorialize with dignity those who were killed -- not just in New York, but at the Pentagon and on Flight 93. It would acknowledge both the heroes who died doing their jobs and the regular people who helped strangers in ways large and small. It would remind us of the amazing feeling of the whole country being unified in our resolve to make sure this never happens again, coming together to strengthen each other and defeat the enemy. It would recall the unfettered pride we felt in being Americans, with flags flying from our porches, our cars and our lapels. I miss that, and it makes me sad.

I looked for a picture that would represent the rawness I still feel when I remember that day, sitting in front of the TV in disbelief with my baby on my lap as I watched the tower collapse again and again in slow motion. And the fearful certainty that another terrorist strike would happen any day, this time possibly closer to home. I also wanted a picture that would give us hope that the world will eventually become a better, safer place for our children to grow up.

I looked through hundreds of pictures. I couldn't find the right one. So my words will have to do.

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[UPDATED 9/10/07 - see below]

Bear-ly enough room for all the tips this week...
  • Amazon is again using its Mechanical Turk technology for a search and rescue operation, this time to find aviator Steve Fossett. Fossett, who is the first person to fly a plane around the world without refueling and the first person to fly around the world in a balloon, went missing last Monday when his airplane failed to return from a flight over the Nevada desert. You can join the search effort by registering here and looking at satellite photos of the area to try to identify where the plane went down.
  • The social entrepreneurship organization Echoing Green has just published a book designed to inspire young people to consider careers in the nonprofit sector. The book, Be Bold, tells the stories of 12 nonprofit leaders who typify the core elements of being bold: experiencing a moment of obligation (committing to what you feel is important), having the gall to think big, trying new and untested approaches to solving problems, and seeing possibilities where others may not. The book has a useful set of worksheets that can help you figure out what being bold means to you, and how to put it into action. I have a copy of the book to give away to the first current or aspiring nonprofit professional to leave a comment here (include your email within the comment and I will contact you for your mailing address).
  • Coming in February is the first ever online conference focusing on social marketing in the developing world. The conference is sponsored by the Private Sector Partnerships-One Project and USAID's Office of Population and Reproductive Health. Participation is free and open to all. If you would like to be a presenter, the abstract submission deadline is September 30.
  • An uncontrolled disease outbreak in a virtual world offers lessons in human nature that could apply to real-world pandemic situations. The contagious disease, called Corrupted Blood, was introduced in 2005 to high-level World of Warcraft players and quickly spread to the densely populated capital cities. It caused high rates of mortality and social chaos within the virtual population. Some epidemiologists who happened to learn of the in-game outbreak used the opportunity to identify variables they had not taken into account in their real-world models of human behavior. One of these was the "stupid factor" -- people thinking they could just get a quick look and not be affected. They could also see the effects of near-instant international travel and infection by pets. Unfortunately, the game makers reset the game to eliminate the disease and wiped out all the data, but the epidemiologists are working with them to model disease outbreaks in other popular games.
  • According to Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, a health-conscious Al Qaeda insisting that Iraqis quit smoking was a big reason why tribes in western Anbar Province decided to support US troops instead. I know a lot of people feel that anti-smoking activists here in the US are extremists, but when a smoking ban is considered as much a factor as blowing people up in losing supporters, that's a pretty questionable claim.

    UPDATE: Apparently there is more to this than the NY Daily News let on. This smoking ban wasn't just backed up by a fine of a few dinars and social disapproval, but amputations of fingers or hands, and in some cases by death. So it's not just a silly statement by Thompson but a very real concern.
  • An article in the Nonprofit Times suggests that we should be movement builders, not marketers. Bill Toliver of The Matale Line says, "Awareness is not the answer. Your job is not to get people to act. It is to get them to commit. To commit to things that are not in their obvious best interests." And some of the suggestions he gives for how to do this goes against a marketer's instincts (though he makes them sound awfully crass): Don't group donors into categories, don't dumb down messages into sound bytes, don't try to appeal to donors' basest instincts and simplest wants, or to donors' knee-jerk emotional responses. I don't agree that the line between marketing and movement building is an either-or one, nor that his exaggerated prescriptions of what not to do should be avoided entirely. The ideas of segmentation, simplifying the message and appealing to values and emotions should not be dismissed as tools to be used to rally the troops.
  • The use of picture boards is spreading, as their effectiveness in assisting with communication with non-English speakers is recognized. These indestructible boards have easily understood graphics that allow health and disaster personnel to communicate with people about their needs. They originated in Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and are starting to be used by hospitals across the country.
  • Have you always wished you could be as trendy as I am? Wish no longer. Trendwatching has put out its top five trend watching tips, so you can build your own trendspotting capacity. They even share how to come up with catchy names for the trends you suss out, like their trysumers or infolust.
  • The webcasts for the morning plenaries from the CDC's recent health marketing conference are now available for viewing, and transcripts are available as well. I'm not sure whether the closing plenary will eventually be available as well, but it's not there right now.
  • When you're trying to get your product accepted by the cool kids, be careful not to let it first catch on with the nerds, geeks and dweebs. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger and Chip Heath of Stanford (and Made to Stick fame!) looked at how products signal identity and how that can change over time. They watched what happened when the yellow Live Strong rubber bracelets were first adopted by students in one dorm, but quickly abandoned when the residents of the "geek" dorm started wearing them. We geeks get no respect.
  • OPC Today had a couple of reports showing that visual cues at "point of purchase" work to generate action. First, that signs at a mall suggesting that people take the stairs instead of the escalator increased traffic on the stairs even after the signs were removed. And second, that product nutrition ratings at supermarkets lead to purchases of healthier foods. It's all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time and right place. Right?
  • Be careful when you are trying to counter myths and misperceptions about your issue. When you publicize false statements, even if you do so in the context of negating myths with facts, people are more likely to remember the false statements as true. So, stay focused on promoting true information and avoid talking about the common misperceptions themselves.
  • If you are a healthcare blogger (devoting at least 30% of your blogging time to healthcare), please take a few minutes to respond to the "Taking the Pulse of the Healthcare Blogosphere" survey. Envision Solutions and Trusted.MD Network are co-producing this poll, which is in its second year (see last year's results). Besides contributing to knowledge about this field, you could be one of five winners of a $25 gift certificate. Click here to take the survey until October 15, 2007.

Photo Credit: arimoore
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Recently on the Social Marketing listserv, we've had an interesting discussion of Facebook and other social networking sites. Brian Cugelman, who is with the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group at Wolverhampton Business School in the UK, made what I thought was the best case I've seen for why social marketers need to consider using these sites in their programs. I asked Brian if he would do a guest blog post on this, and he graciously agreed...

Why Web 2.0 matters to social marketers
Some quick thoughts by Brian Cugelman, MA

I'd advocate using FaceBook, along with a few of the other Web 2.0 sites for the simple reason that they provide a small number of websites with the largest outreach potential. In fact, Alexa ranks YouTube, MySpace and FaceBook in the top 10 of all websites in the world.

Moreover, by moving through networks of friends, interest groups and geographic cliques, it's possible to zero in on target audiences in ways that are not as easy in regular Web 1.0 environments, unless of course, you're paying for advertising. Newsweek recently published an article about a research project, by Danah Boyd, that showed some demographic differences between FaceBook and MySpace. In short, FaceBook has an older and more educated network (the reason why it's worth so much to potential buyers), while MySpace has a younger, more sub-cultureish network with many musicians having their online presence there.

The Tipping Point/Linked/Viral Marketing/Word of Mouth/Dell Hell/6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon fad has created interest in any online environment that allows people to directly connect to others, be it email, blogs, or social networking sites. The idea is that the people become the media--so it's not MySpace that is the media per se, but rather the people themselves. The sites just connect people and reduce the social transaction costs required to interact, which means it's easier for people to share digital objects of interest. No doubt, by building a large network of social media relationships for any campaign, campaigners will be able to better increase their chance of triggering a viral buzz, which amounts to your message being spread further—which saves you time and money. And by being sent through personal networks, it is perceived to be more credible, and consequently, I believe this can fast-track the formation of social norms while increasing the odds that people act on the messages.

If the medium is the message, then it's worth considering the media effect of having an online presence in these major online networks. I think the media artifact of social media is the appearance of cool and hip, which you may wish to present depending on your target audience. I suspect in a few years, this media effect will be negligible as the competition has been swooping in on these popular sites for some time and they'll soon become commonplace.

It's one thing to set up a FaceBook account and quite another to do the leg work to engage your constituency. The question of whether or not to use these sites is a quantifiable one: is the effort worth the impact? Though it may not be easy to answer this question, it's possible for campaigners to test out their online campaigns by tracking the impact of their Web 2.0 outreach, and measuring online behavioural goals against references in order to start evaluating the gains versus resource expenditures.

An ethical consideration that faces Web 2.0 social marketers is the question of whether they’re being intrusive or dishonest. Although some social networking sites have policies against companies advertising, a number of organization operate on these sites; they’re upfront about who they are and what they stand for, without any hidden agenda. Several months back, I met a number of Greenpeace activists at FairSay’s eCampaigning Forum. One coordinator told me she had volunteers working around the clock to build relationships on MySpace, and she was working on trying to move the relationships from MySpace to offline activism--they have over 67,000 friends. And it’s not just activists—I believe all the US presidential candidates have MySpace accounts and a few months back, reports emerged about ‘who had the most friends in MySpace’. These well run social media campaigns provide a good template for how to conduct business in these sites in an up front way.

Also, an interview by Andy Sernovitz, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s CEO provided a number of insights about trust, ethics and spreading word of mouth messages. He distinguished between word of mouth marketing and stealth marketing, drawing an ethical line between honest and dishonest e-marketing. On the honest side, Andy’s description of word of mouth marketing boiled down to all the techniques companies employ to respectfully engage customers by joining the online conversation about their brands, products or services. In practice, this means representatives have to respect netiquette conventions and honestly declare who they are. On the dishonest side, he described stealth marketing as the unethical practice of deceiving customers by inserting their views into customers’ online conversations through misrepresentation and forcing their way into the conversation.

By reading a social media’s terms of use; examining the practices of well established and respected organizations; being upfront about your campaign and who you are; following conventions of netiquette; and respecting the golden rule, you’ll be acting in an honourable way and chances are, your potential audiences will respect you for it. And if your message rings with their values while meeting their needs, chances are you’ll be social marketing online.
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When Beijing was selected as the venue for the 2008 Olympics, my esteem for the institution went way down. What should the Olympics stand for, if not the freedom to follow your dreams and be the best you can be? Giving China -- one of the worst international human rights offenders -- the opportunity to grandstand in front of the world as if it were just another global good citizen evokes shades of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

It's not as though China's abuses are minor or in dispute. Beijing's victims include hundreds of thousands of Tibetans who have died as a result of China's invasion of their country, thousands of dissidents and prisoners of conscience who have disappeared into prisons, organ harvesting from political prisoners, and the 400,000 Darfurians who have been killed in Sudan's genocidal campaign backed by Beijing's oil profits. China wants so much to control its population's every potentially nonconforming thought and action that it has even banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission.

The Chinese government is also implementing a human rights crackdown in preparation for the Olympics, ironically to clean up its image prior to the games. According to Wikipedia:
The Beijing municipal authority has declared that more than 70 local laws and decrees would be made before the 2008 Summer Olympics which would banish local people who don't have hukou (residency permits) of Beijing. It would also banish vagrants, beggars, and people with mental illness from the city. The Municipal authority also made it clear that it would strengthen border control, call for a "special holiday", or forcible shutout, to make Beijing citizens stay at home during the Olympics. It also seeks to strengthen controls over Chinese and foreign NGOs and forbid any protests during the games. The government has also strengthened its laws relating to prosecution of those deemed to be disseminating material not beneficial to the state.

The Geneva-based group, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions has claimed that 1.5 million Beijing residents will be displaced from their homes for the Olympics event. Beijing's Olympic organizing committee and China's Foreign Ministry have put the number at 6,037. As of May 2005, 300,000 residents have been evicted in preparation for the games. Police in Beijing placed many people under arrest for protesting against the evictions.
Just today, the news came out that China arrested activist Yang Chunlin, who gathered 10,000 signatures for an open letter calling for human rights and opposing the Olympics. Clearly the government is nervous about efforts to link the Olympics and human rights -- as well it should be. Human rights groups have dubbed these the "Genocide Olympics," with a number of advocates starting the Olympic Dream for Darfur campaign and others addressing China's role in issues like freedom of speech, religious freedom, Tibet, child labor, and the environment.

So, should we boycott the Olympics? Some are calling for this, but I think this is not the most effective path. We tried this with the 1980 Moscow Olympics and didn't make much difference. It would only punish the athletes who have been working so hard and had no say in the decision where the games would be held. Better, I think, to get in China's face and make sure the world knows what is going on there. We need to focus attention on their human rights abuses and not let them escape the glare of the world looking beyond the glittering facade to the bodies of the 1.3 billion people that the Chinese government steps on as it holds up the Olympic torch. We need to make Beijing squirm, and this event offers the opportunity to create a PR nightmare for the regime. When the world unites to denounce China's repression, that will truly be an Olympic victory.

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Workin' for tips on this Labor Day weekend...
  • If you live in the UK and don't have enough people telling you what to do, you can sign up for an online service called The Nag, which will send you an email once a month with a quick and easy thing you can do to help the environment. Companies or community groups can sign up and track the impact made by their collective efforts. Even if you're not a Brit, visit the site as a good example of a fun web design with attitude. (via PSFK)
  • Playing off of George Carlin's seven dirty words you can't say on TV, Jordan Ayan came up with 100 dirty words that shouldn't be used in email subject lines. If it reads like spam, it will get deleted. In addition to anything having to do with sex, viagra and debt consolidation, the list includes innocuous words and phrases like "act now," "dear friend," "free offer," "opportunity," "teen" and "your family." And even if someone has actually won something from your organization, don't use "You're a winner!" as the subject line. Make sure your email can be identified easily as coming from your organization and be consistent in the wording of your email subject lines.
  • As part of the Ad Age Power 150 list of marketing and media blogs, I was recently profiled by creator Todd Andrlik with an interview on his blog. You can find out more about my media consumption habits and favorite social marketing tactics, as well as what celebrity I've been told I look like. Interestingly, out of the 150 top marketing bloggers, only 20 are women, a fact that launched something called the W List around the blogosphere (I point this out only as an curious fact - I don't put much store by the glass ceiling of oppression/celebrate sisterhood mindset.). But if you're just looking for some new blogs to read, the Power 150 and W List are both good sources to explore.
  • Scenarios USA has announced its annual scriptwriting contest for young people ages 12-22 (in New York, NY, Greater Cleveland, OH and the Rio Grande Valley, TX). This year's theme is "What's the REAL DEAL about Masculinity?" One winner from each region works with Hollywood filmmakers to turn their stories into professionally-made short films. Last year's films focused on AIDS prevention. The website offers a useful manual on the basics of making a movie for the young filmmaker (and is a great introduction for the rest of us as well). Look in the box entitled "Resources" on the left side of the linked web page for the pdf links.
  • Researchers are studying the health effects of Ramadan on the bodies of those observing the month-long Muslim holiday. Because adherents fast daily between sunrise and sunset, and feast into the night, their circadian rhythms are disrupted. This can lead to sleep problems, hormonal changes and mood impacts. It's an interesting opportunity to do longitudinal research exploring how these religiously based behaviors affect health and social outcomes.
  • The National Cancer Institute is offering paid six-month internships in health communications (presumably including social marketing-specific opportunities) to current and recent graduate students. This program always looked so appealing to me when I was a grad student, but I was in such a hurry to get through school that a 6-month internship didn't work for me. But were I to do it over again, I think I would reconsider (what do you think, grad students?). And if you're a German student, consider entering this social marketing competition.
  • A couple of interesting health behavior stories here... Human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancers, may also cause mouth and throat cancer. Though the drop in smoking prevalence has slowed the rate of most head and neck cancers, the rate of certain throat and mouth cancers have not changed; researchers suspect they may spread through oral sex. The HPV vaccine may therefore be indicated for males as well as females... A study in Uganda found that men who wash their penis immediately after sex have a greater risk of becoming infected with HIV than those who wait at least 10 minutes - a fascinating counterintuitive result that demonstrates the importance of behavioral research.
  • In a bit of good news, the FDA has announced its approval of seconds, with the USDA revising the old food pyramid to reflect the new guidelines. They claim that "an additional plateful of food with every meal can greatly reduce the risk of hunger as well as provide an excellent source of deliciousness." (hee hee)
  • After the big study that showed that obesity spreads through social networks, we find that it may not be solely social after all. A cold virus may actually be a factor in weight gain in some people. Almost one-third of obese people are infected by the virus, compared to about ten percent of lighter people. So a cure for the common cold could also lead to a cure for some types of obesity - potentially huge news.
  • Another social networking site for social change has launched called Razoo. They are conducting a contest for nonprofits, with a $10,000 prize to be awarded to an organization that creates a Razoo Group with at least 100 members. On a related note, the Wall Street Journal did an interview with Ben Rattray of, where you can see behind the scenes of this start-up site.
Last week I was at the CDC's conference on health communication, marketing and media. I was not able to write up my notes from the sessions I attended, but the presentations are supposed to be posted on the website eventually. And I hope the live webcasts will be available to download, because I missed the opening and closing plenary sessions due to my flight schedule. In any case, I enjoyed meeting lots of you who read my blog, and spending time with old and new friends.

Photo Credit: SimoneDamiani
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