Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich
When's the last time someone wrote a superhero comic about people in your profession? Sure, if you're a reporter, nuclear scientist or even a reclusive millionaire, you're used to this type of thing. But we health marketing types are usually the ones on the development side of the media, not the target audience. So I'm sure you'll be as excited as I was to discover that my longtime blog friend Fard Johnmar of Envision Solutions and the HealthCareVox blog has created both a fun set of different types of media to draw people like us in, and a more serious project that underlies it.

His mission is to bring together people who work in health marketing communications across disciplines so we can learn from each other. He calls this the Path of the Blue Eye -- a rather zen-sounding name with accompanying mantras that help us do our jobs more effectively.

Fard graciously agreed to share more information about the origins of the project and its different components with my readers via an email interview:

What spurred you to create the Path of the Blue Eye?

I was motivated to develop the Path of the Blue Eye project in response to two statements, both of which begin with the words “I wish.” They are:

  • I wish I knew that.
  • I wish we had a place to collect this information.

Over the years, I’ve learned about beneficial data, case studies and other info that would be useful to people across the health marketing communications industry. I often share my knowledge in conversations with pharma marketers, public health experts, social marketers and others. Many times, I find that people are not aware of interesting and successful campaigns taking place in industry segments they do not work in. For example, people in pharmaceutical marketing are sometimes not knowledgeable about campaigns launched by government agencies that leverage social technologies. After our conversations, people will sometimes nod their heads and say: “I wish I knew that.”

In addition, I have had many conversations about how we need a place where people can quickly and easily share information with their peers – especially with those working in other parts of the health marketing communications industry. They say: "I wish I we had a place to collect this information."

The Path of the Blue Eye project is designed to grant each of these wishes by:

  • Fostering knowledge sharing across health marketing communications industry segments and silos.
  • Providing people with tools they can use to quickly share interesting information with others working in the industry from around the world.

The key word here is interdisciplinary. We are trying to reach across silos and centers of practice rather than working within them.

How does this project fit in with the work you have been doing with Envision Solutions?

The mission of Envision Solutions is to help health marketing communications pros become more efficient and successful. I think the Path of the Blue Eye project helps us to achieve this objective.

Can you tell us about the different components of this project and how they fit together? How will you phase them in?

The core of the project will be an online collaboration hub we are currently building. It will enable people in health marketing communications to:

  • Quickly access and share data, case studies, news articles, blog posts and other content relevant to the field.
  • Ask and answer questions from their peers.

Currently we are the pre-launch phase of the project. We are leveraging the comic, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and other communications channels to spread the word about the project and attract a diverse group of people who believe in what we are trying to accomplish. I am happy to say that (as of this writing), nearly 80 people have “joined” the project via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. We launched Path of the Blue Eye about a week ago, so I’m very pleased with the progress thus far.

In phase II, we will invite a select group of people to help us conduct a series of road tests on the collaboration hub to help us iron out any final kinks in the system. After this, we’ll launch the hub and begin our work in earnest.

I’m also very excited that we’ve been able to develop some strong partnerships with prominent organizations and businesses over the last few months. They have agreed to help strengthen the hub by providing information to the Path of the Blue Eye community when it launches.

How would you define the "Path of the Blue Eye?”

The Path of the Blue Eye is represented in the comic by a series of six mantras. These represent habits and activities we believe will help people forging careers in the health marketing communications industry achieve success.

Who are the main groups you’d like to reach and what are some of the ways people can become involved with this project?

We are trying to reach a diverse range of people working in all areas of the global health marketing communications industry. Everyone is welcome, including social marketers, public relations professionals, advertisers, pharmaceutical/biotech marketers, public health communicators, academics and others.

Given the current intense interest in social media it is important to note that the site wlll not be focused solely on social communications channels and techniques. Rather, we want people practicing in all areas of the field to feel comfortable participating in and contributing to the hub.

Currently, people can participate in the project by:

  • Showing their support for the project by joining our Facebook group, Twitter community or signing up for our e-mail list.
  • Spreading the word about the project to their friends and colleagues.
  • Considering becoming contributing or guest authors on the project’s blog Walking the Path. We are looking to build a blog that features a diverse range of perspectives from people around the world. A few people have accepted our invitation to participate, but we are always looking for more authors. Currently, guest authors are helping to produce a series of blog posts focusing on what collaboration means to them.

Once the hub launches, people will have other ways they can contribute to the project.

I love the comic book! I’m sure it’s the first time that health marketers have been featured as superheroes. What was your thinking behind using this medium? Can we expect to see this as an ongoing series?

I’m really glad you like the comic! I decided to commission the comic because I wanted to:

o Create a mythology focusing on the work of health marketing communications pros. We are often behind the scenes, creating campaigns for others, so I wanted to celebrate what we do.
o Attract a broad range of people to the project.
o Encourage us to have fun and enjoy the work we do each day

I also want to use the comic to expose more people in our industry to transmedia storytelling techniques. There’s a lot more going on with the comic than meets the eye, so I encourage people to dive deeper by participating in the SMS component of the project. Not many people have accepted our invitation yet, but I hope this changes in the coming weeks. I also hope people enjoy the comic’s soundtrack.

I hope we’ll be able to produce future issues of the comic. If people want more we’ll continue the story.

How would you like to see the Path of the Blue Eye evolve over time? What would it ideally look like five years from now?

Ultimately, I’d like to see the project evolve into a strong, self-sustaining, diverse, interconnected global community of health marketing communications pros.

Five years from now, I hope that the community will have become a go-to resource for people trying to improve their skills and develop better health marketing communications campaigns. We want to help people become better at what they do. If we achieve this, I think the project will be successful.

***
I wish Fard great success with this project, and I am excited about being part of it as well. I hope you will also consider participating in some way, as the whole profession will benefit as more people get involved. We can all walk the path together, which makes getting over the hills much easier.
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7.08.2009


  • John Haydon invited me to share with his readers how I "rock the web" on his excellent blog on social media. In my guest post, I talk about some of the tools I use to take control of my time online. Take a look at the other posts on his blog for insights on how nonprofits can use social media effectively - John is a great resource (and an awesome musician).
  • My other favorite nonprofit social media blogger, Beth Kanter, also put up a guest post from me while she's getting settled from her cross-country move. This one is an oldie but goodie from me on how to select your target audience: should you pick the low-hanging fruit or the hard-to-reach but bigger fruit at the top of the tree?
  • People are signing up for the Social Marketing University fundamentals webinars from all over the world. It's a great way to learn about social marketing from wherever you are, especially if you are not able to travel to an SMU training like the Advanced Course coming up in Berkeley in September. But you can also do both! Don't forget to use the discount code 'BLOG' to get 10% off the registration fee for the Advanced Course.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Brooks
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