Author: Crys2Sana

Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety- 3 tips to raise awareness

health care pictureOn September 3-4, 2015, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board attended a workshop in Washington, DC to discuss the impact marketing and communications have on consumer knowledge, skills, and behavior as it relates to food, nutrition, and healthy eating. The goal of the workshop was to address the current state of science and how to use this information to communicate health literacy, consumer knowledge and behaviors with respect to food safety, nutrition, and other health issues, explore scientific information and communicating using credible sources, and how food literacy can be strengthened by using consumer-centric strategies. The overall take home message in the workshop brief was as stated by Cynthia Baur. She said, “I think every single presentation has focused on the fact that you have to start where people are with the lived reality of their lives and then build whatever it is you want to do from there.” 

In today’s fast-paced social and digital environment, messages are thrown in the faces of consumers from every angle.  Celebrities endorse diet plans and products. Products are being marketed with claims that are positioned to appeal to targeted audiences. Friends and families are sharing testimonials and product experiences on their social websites. Marketers and advertisers are designing campaigns and brand stories around analytical and tracking tools. What’s critical in all the chaos, is finding the right balance of integration.  According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), titled, “Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012,” the research conclusion stated, that, “Overall, there have been no significant changes in obesity prevalence in youth or adults between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012. Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.”

I found the food literacy workshop brief incredibly insightful because it poses an important question. How do healthcare quality and patient safety experts communicate scientific information about health concerns to diverse audiences in a crowded Internet space? The short answer is, it depends. Obesity spans across race, social and economic backgrounds.

After reading the food literacy brief and researching obesity, I would like to offer the following three actions to merge healthcare quality and patient safety with integrated marketing communications:

  1. Send test messages to targeted audiences- A/B Testing
  2.  Listen and engage on social and digital media– Storytelling campaigns
  3.  Use Integrated Marketing Communication strategies- build relationships with patients across many channels to increase awareness of specific health concerns.



National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Food Literacy: How Do Communications and Marketing Impact Consumer Knowledge, Skills, and Behavior?: Workshop in Brief. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015. doi:10.17226/21863

What’s in a nickname? A Story and an emotional bond!

ScoutNicknames. Why do we need them? Nicknames give us a greater source of recognition. Life revolves around our names. Names grow on us. I grew up believing nicknames are mandatory and necessary.

To Kill a Mockingbird

In the 70’s, the Tousana Family moved to Markham, the far south suburbs of Chicago. Realizing they need space and landscape, my parents moved Mugsy, Round Table, Scout, and Cricket to a neighborhood that sort of reminded my mom of home. Fast moving city life was too much for them to handle.

Our small town felt a lot like southern Mississippi but with paved roads. Backyards had gardens with a minimum of 5 rows across the back gates connected to the alleys that were eventually closed off to traffic. We grew everything. Corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and other greens, onions, all kinds of peppers, okra and there were even attempts to grow watermelon, cantaloupe, and other fruit that wasn’t so keen of the soil.

The gates surrounding the houses were where we introduced ourselves to the closest neighbors. We can tell which families were from the south by their names. Introductions were emphasized with preferred names. Usually their nicknames had an entertaining story to go with. Our driveways were parallel to wire and flimsy gates.

My siblings and I needed permission to play pass the length of the gates. Hanging out in the driveway was my favorite spot anyway. Jumping rope, playing street dodge ball, and hop scotch was not my thing. I rather sit by my father’s side and help fix cars. Or as the old schoolers used to say, “Shoot the shit.” As we sat and discussed everything under the sun, the background noise would be filled with kids yelling and running across the width of our driveway.

My sister and her best friend would be at the end of the driveway jumping rope, clapping and singing over and over again. Their screechy voices repeated the lyrics, “Step in the water, boom bop, water was cold, boom bop, chill my body, boom bop.”

Sometimes my father would say, “Cricket go get me a beer.” My sister would stop jumping and run in the house, get a beer, I would pop the top, pass it over to my father’s shaky hands. All the while my sister is in full motion back to jumping rope without missing a beat. That was the routine. If I went into the house to get the beer, my sister would freak out.

The time seemed to fly when my father and I sat together. Even if we didn’t talk much and the basis of conversation was commands such as “Start the car Scout, I’m done.”

Asking questions was what young Scout enjoyed the most. Fixing cars, memorizing the names of tools needed to repair the green monster was Scout’s passion. Scout named it that because it roared loud, choked and growled as it rolled down our street.

My father gave me the nickname Scout. A keen sense of awareness, undeniable persistence is what Scout represents. Embracing my nickname was not a challenge. Playing with dolls and having tea parties is what our society say girls should do. Fixing cars is what I wanted to do. Being a girl wasn’t enough. I was defiant of the girl code.

My father was my secret weapon. While my sisters and neighborhood kids busied themselves with girly things, I sat beside my father’s toolbox. When he needed a tool, he would say, “Scout pass me the wrench.” I would passionately lift the wrench with both hands and proudly hand it over.

While sitting for hours, rearranging and handing off the screwdrivers, pliers, duct tape and hammers, I would say, “Dad, why people so mean.” Before he can answer, I would bombard him with more questions. Hyperventilating, talking fast and stumbling over my words didn’t excite him at all.

No doubt, I was daddy’s little girl. Mugsy, Round Table, and Cricket had special relationships with our father too. The difference is that they weren’t as needy. Mugsy, my brother took the role of the protector of his little sisters. Round Table, my older sister took the girl power leader role. She had a way of making dinnertime fun. Eating was not her thing. So my younger sister and I had a good time watching her cheeks grow before she runs to the bathroom. Cricket, my younger sister had a spunky and quick-witted personality that kept us all on our toes.

Growing up, I never thought nicknames had meaning. I really didn’t care. All I knew was that my father chose to not call my siblings and me by our birth names.

By my late teens, we were all in our own way about life. While my siblings busied themselves staying true to character, I was still lingering around my father. My mom did her best to get me to move on independently.

Riding shotgun to my father’s job to avoid public transportation to college in Downtown Chicago was the last straw for my mom. She would say, “Chris, you’re going to regret letting her jump in the car with you.” “Let her be.” He would smile a big pearly white smile with a cigarette stuck to the corner of his lip and say, “Let’s go Scout.”

The one time we didn’t pick up his coworkers slowly walking the last stretch to the train yard, my father seemed distant. To break his concentration, I finally asked the question my father thought would never happen. I blurted out, where the name Scout comes from? He paused, smiled and asked had I heard of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird? I wasn’t sure if it was trick question, so I said nothing. My father suggested that I read the book.

To Kill a Mockingbird represents two Scouts. The little girl is experiencing the story but the adult Scout tells it. Drawing comparisons to a story that is not supposed to be comparable is what makes my nickname dynamic. My father, the electrician and Atticus, the lawyer careers are starkly different. Scout in both relationships has a special father/daughter bond.

Losing my father early in life forced me to grow up fast. I wasn’t bitter about his death because I felt our short time was more than some people get from dads with more years. Often times, I would look to the sky and say, I’m going to make you proud. And use his favorite phrase “Watch out.”

Violence – balancing awareness and engaging targeted audiences

Chicago is a phenomenal city that is well-known for arts, entertainment, and great shopping. Celebrating milestones in sports, visiting museums from far north to far south and enjoying music and dance in some of the best and well-known venues in the country doesn’t scratch the surface to what Chicago has to offer. Unfortunately, violence concentrated in neighborhood clusters has overshadowed the vibrancy of Chicago’s nightlife.

Tackling violence in Chicago has become national news. In political campaigns and community events, the focus is on education, poverty, drugs, and gang activity. Having the spotlight on Chicago most impoverished and economically despaired neighborhoods has opened the opportunity for important dialogue.

In a 2012 documentary, The Interrupters, by Director, Steve James and best-selling author, Alex Kotlowitz (Cure Violence), the film exposes the harsh reality of surviving in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. The film shows all the complexities and challenges to reach and engage the perpetrators and victims of violence.

The interrupters primary goal is to reduce and prevent future spread of violence by mediation. Gary Slutkin, Founder of  Cure Violence, compares violence to disease epidemics. In a Ted Med video titled, “Can violence be cured?” Dr. Slutkin says that the geographical maps in areas where violence is more prevalent remind him of the clusters of disease.

Mr. Slutkin’s logic is to interrupt the spread of violence by hiring workers to shift the norms in these communities. The workers are violence interrupters and outreach workers with credibility and trust access. By engaging in community activity, remodeling and public education, they are uniquely positioned to change the way community members resolve conflict and control their emotions in hostile situations.

Interrupters are poised and prepared to handle the dangers of going into neighborhoods and talking to the people. They show empathy because they grew up on the same streets and in some cases committed the same crimes. They ultimately build trust and find ways to neutralize hostile situations. The youth in these neighborhoods is a part of the epidemic. Spreading violence and retaliation is all they know. It’s all about survival. In the documentary, there is a clear sense of hopelessness. There is a kill or be killed mentality.

Prior to viewing the great work of the interrupters and Dr. Slutkin’s Ted Med talk, I naively thought the solution is to simply go to the community and talk to these people. Let them know the wider population cares. Get to the bottom of the issues. Find out why violence is the answer to every conflict. Then share information with anyone that has enough power and influence to take action and make changes to help the communities recover. What’s missing in my thought process are factoring in poor schools, broken homes, drugs, absent fathers, racism and built up anger.

Finding the right balance between awareness and having productive conversations is critical to get to the bottom of why the problem continues to perpetuate in certain communities. Having access to media and social networks, leaders create opportunities to discuss issues and try to resolve the problem of violence. The primary issue is that conversations slow down and sometimes end when there’s a drop in crime rate.

Having statistics on crime rates in Chicago is a great start to determine the concentration of incidents and the effectiveness of programs that are designed to combat violence. In addition to having this data, a deeper understanding of microcultures in urban neighborhoods is needed. On the south side of Chicago, there’s a distinct behavior; community members believe they are alienated from the wider population. In the Interrupters, those interviewed feel they have no power when it comes to law enforcement and other public officials.

From a marketing and communication point of view, finding the right balance in awareness and engagement is critical to start moving to more positive and long-term results. Because we are in a high-tech and fast paced environment, communication-based in storytelling will create more authentic dialogue.

I will suggest the following steps:

  • Integrate as much as possible. Hit as many touch points as possible when advocating for change.
  • Create content from different perspectives. Give community members the opportunity to tell their own stories through organized campaigns using social media. Encourage authors to share and continue discussions across multiple platforms.
  • Use Analytic tools such as Google Analytics and Social Mention to build future conversations and content.

Storytelling – 3 tips to keep your brand story’s heart beating

It’s a brand new day. No pun intended. Having a compelling story in today’s social media is critical to survive in a highly competitive environment. Having an emotional connect with your targeted audience will not only create engagement but will increase sales.

Stirring up emotions, getting attention, and triggering engagement is great provided that your targeted audience trusts that the story will resonate over time. Often times, great stories become irrelevant as customer needs change. As marketers, we should focus on keeping the story fresh and conversations vibrant and ongoing.

When was the last time you got excited about a product launch and couldn’t wait to get your hands on it? Many times, we see people in line waiting to be the first to purchase. In that line, consumers are sharing stories, their brand experiences or why he or she is a first-time buyer.

I found this incredibly insightful article, “Science of storytelling.” This article gives the following six fantastic tips to help incorporate sophisticated storytelling into digital marketing efforts:

“Develop a true understanding of your target audience.”

“Through your conversations, identify emotional drivers your buyers experience.”

“Prioritise authenticity as much as possible.”

“Whether you are using Facebook, a blog, Twitter, direct mail or even a billboard, use the strengths of your channel to tell your story appropriately.”

“Give your stories credibility.”

 “Encourage user-generated content to share different perspectives of your overarching story.”

Storytelling is at the heart of every great brand story and we know how to get to those stories. The challenge is to ask the right questions, find out what matters to consumers, and to simultaneously share meaningful stories across multiple channels.

I’d like to offer three additional tips I believe will be valuable in your next story campaign:

  1. Purchase intent– Find out why your customers/clients bought or plan to buy your product or services.
  2. Listen/observe– Use social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, read comments on company blogs and websites, and evaluate behavior triggers.
  3. Timing– Reach your audience at the right time and place to get the best results from great content.