Case Study: PR Campaign Puts a New Face on Parkinson’s Disease

This recent Parkinson’s More Than Motion infographic was developed to maximize shares and encourage commenting on Facebook. It’s clean, simple look conveys the message. The logo is present, but discreet.
This recent Parkinson’s More Than Motion infographic was developed to maximize shares and encourage commenting on Facebook. It’s clean, simple look conveys the message. The logo is present, but discreet.

When conceptualizing a social media campaign, you should keep the “Content is King” and “Know Your Audience” mantras top of mind. But how are these easier-said-than-done concepts actually realized, and how do they translate into a positive user experience? The answers to these questions are complex and will vary by program. Yet social media success is based on a unique content offering and a careful balance between a commitment to core campaign messaging and a willingness to continuously evolve how to communicate that information.

THE GOALS

UCB, a top company in the neurological treatment market, and PR agency Cooney/Waters Group created Parkinson’s “More Than Motion” (MTM), an unbranded campaign designed to align awareness about the lesser known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD)—such as difficulty sleeping and loss of taste and smell—with the goal of fostering an educational and supportive online community.

Perhaps most important, the campaign would be hosted on Facebook because research shows a growing number of older Americans—the population most affected by Parkinson’s—are using the social media service.

Since launching in 2012, the response to what is an ongoing PR campaign has been extremely positive and the MTM community has grown rapidly, with the Facebook page garnering more than 75,000 likes to date.

In developing MTM, the PR campaign looked to connect with PD sufferers and their families, friends and caregivers. That first impression begins with the campaign name.

As a brand, Parkinson’s More Than Motion conveys the core message that PD is more than a movement disorder and lets users know what they can expect to learn about on the Facebook page. What is more, people affected by PD understand and relate to this message, and others who might be unfamiliar with PD might ask: “Parkinson’s is more than motion?”

THE EXECUTION

Every Facebook post that you choose to feature on your page is a chance to form or strengthen personal connections with your fans.

In the case of MTM, the campaign offers a supportive venue for people to talk about how they deal with Parkinson’s—perhaps for the first time. That’s powerful, and it means giving thoughtful consideration to your posts on macro- and micro-scales.

On a macro-scale, for example, MTM posts are planned and written in advance to ensure a continuous stream of new, fresh content. That allows the campaign to determine how much attention is given to individual topics over a set period of time.

It also enables the campaign to look ahead to future PD-related awareness events and make sure they are appropriately covered before, during and after they occur.

In addition to creating an editorial calendar, Cooney/Waters keeps a close eye on breaking news and important developments. The agency will then develop ad hoc posts to engage in conversations people are having in real time.

On a micro-scale, the campaign deploys several communication strategies to make sure our posts are compelling, highly shareable and generate likes and comments. These are translatable for any campaign and should provide a helpful starting guide.

The agency’s primary focus is on delivering content that enriches the lives of people with PD. Understanding that people will respond differently to the same content, the campaign continuously evaluates how posts perform and experiments with different ways to share information.

For example, some of the most popular posts feature a compelling statistic or fact about PD, a helpful tip, such as how to travel long distances comfortably with PD, or links to articles from national PD awareness groups.

The agency also uses posts to remind new and existing users of MTM’s available resources, including a free magazine and a symptom tracker that helps facilitate treatment conversations with healthcare providers.

The agency also likes to include graphics and images with posts whenever possible. Whether it’s an infographic, photo of the MTM booth at a PD walk or event, or an in-house design, such posts have a serious impact on comments and shares.

THE TAKEAWAY

People with PD are not solely defined by their condition. They have other interests, responsibilities, pastimes and challenges. The campaign seeks to engage them about these other aspects of their lives, so we make sure to take regular breaks from content focused just on PD.

For instance, the campaign posts inspirational quotes, recognizes holidays and seasonal milestones, and even gets a little silly by commemorating pseudo-events like National Chocolate Day.

These posts are well received and generate likes and shares, creating a momentum that carries over to our core messaging posts. It’s all about deepening your relationship with the audience and running varied content can help achieve that.

Another key takeaway stems from over-branding posts. Early in the campaign, Cooney/Waters would often mention the brand name, within the text of posts, and include a large MTM logo on the page.

In due time, the agency noticed a decline in overall likes and shares, and realized that, despite its best intentions, the page had slowly become more about the campaign itself and less about our audience.

Once the campaign realized that these posts were actually inhibiting engagement and sharing, the agency backed away from branding the posts.

Making this subtle change helped accomplish what the agency had originally set out to do: create an interactive online community that people with PD will want to join.

A Facebook page is a living, breathing entity. Keeping it thriving requires continuous attention.

The MTM page continues to evolve. The agency has developed the page based on both positive and negative learning experiences regarding the content, how we present it and how we can engage with the community in meaningful ways.

Sidebar: Facebook Do and Don’ts

Regardless of the type of Facebook campaign you’re deploying, there are some basic principles for how to leverage the social network.

Do:

Develop a brand voice. Identify the voice of your Facebook page based on insights about your audience. Then, remain within appropriate creative boundaries for overall tone and language. This “control” is often lost when there are multiple writers of content.

Plan ahead. Writing and scheduling general posts well in advance allows for a long-term strategic approach and provides a roadmap for the campaign and its evolution. You’ll find that it even gives increased flexibility to react to unexpected, time-sensitive events.

Include graphics. Stimulating visuals such as pictures and infographics will turn a good post into a great one. Think about the types of graphics you like to share with friends on a personal level and incorporate those elements into your own brand’s content.

• Experiment. Vary your posts in terms of length, frequency and time of day. Measure what works and what doesn’t. And don’t be afraid to repackage a previous post that didn’t work. It could be a diamond in the rough!

Be Human. Write like you speak. Admit mistakes if you make them, including typos. Respond to comments as if they are a face-to-face conversation.

Don’t:

• Over-brand. No one wants to be a walking billboard, and no one wants to be a digital one either. Successful social media content marketers don’t have to talk up their brand because they speak in the natural voice of their audience.

• Complicate things. Say what you mean, and mean what you say in as few words as possible. It’s an art. Once mastered, the increased clarity of your content will pay dividends.

• Ignore user feedback. Keep in mind that feedback is both active and passive. Active feedback is easy to spot (i.e., a comment like “I wish you would do X”), but it takes a keener eye to notice passive feedback like a leveling off of, or decline in, likes and shares. —E.W.

(This article was written by Eric Waters, accounts supervisor at Cooney/Waters. It is an excerpt from PR News’ The Book of Content Marketing, Vol. 1. To order a copy, please go to prnewsonline.com/prpress/.)

CONTACT:

Eric Waters, ewaters@cooneywaters.com

This article originally appeared in the December 8, 2014 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.