Social Media Tips as the World Turns Purple Again

On Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, monuments and landmarks across the world were illuminated in purple light. People wore purple to work, newscasters donned purple on camera. Some people dyed their hair purple. For one day the whole world–or at least a lot of it–turned purple. Why?

It was World Pancreatic Cancer Day.

As you might know, today, Nov. 21, is World Pancreatic Cancer Day 2019.

These eye-catching displays raised awareness for pancreatic cancer–the world's toughest cancer–and the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, a group of more than 70 pancreatic cancer organizations in some 30+ countries and six continents united to "Demand Better" for patients with this dreadful disease.

Here are five key takeaways from the 2018 effort that will help you raise awareness and drive progress on your issue or cause.

Community members are your best ambassadors

Much like engaged employees are a brand’s best ambassadors, your health issue advocates are the best way to expand the reach of your message. This is especially so if your campaign lacks the resources to run TV ads. Many of us experience “compassion fatigue” owing to the plethora of issues and causes. As a result, the best way to get someone to take action is to have a relative, friend, or coworker ask them.

Use behavioral science to inform content and messaging.

Applying research to guide your communications strategy is a best practice. If you have the budget, employ behavioral scientists as part of your data/analytics team. People don’t always act rationally. Their stated preferences in quantitative surveys and focus groups often do not match their actions.

Behavioral science principles were used to test copy in the campaign to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer's symptoms and risks. Which would generate the most engagement? The message that resonated the most in three continents was based on “anticipated regret” (i.e., “Don’t let someone you love get diagnosed too late”). That message was made the effort’s primary reason to care – and share.

Think visually

PR pros organizing a press event understand the importance of compelling visuals for television. The same applies to social campaigns. Challenge designers to use bold colors and eye-catching images to make social campaigns “thumb-stopping,” a.k.a. they’re able to break through the clutter on social feeds.

Be mindful of cultural differences and nuances

When running global campaigns, it’s important to avoid culturally insensitive imagery or having an American bias seep into your content. Watch out for slang, too. “It’s lit” may be an aspirational comment in the U.S., but the phrase could have wildly different interpretations overseas. The same goes for acronyms: What could be a handy pneumonic device in this country might be incomprehensible jargon in San Paolo or Shanghai.

Have a clear call-to-action, and put some social spend behind it

What do you want your audience to think or do? It might be to donate, visit your website, write their lawmaker, or see a doctor. Whatever it is, make sure your call-to-action is clear – and easy to accomplish.

Make sure to carve out budget to promote content on social. Paid media amplifies the reach of your organic posts, allowing you to communicate with consumers who aren’t followers. Your amazing content alone simply doesn’t generate enough exposure with Facebook’s current algorithms.

Social media has been a blessing for many health-related campaigns, from the Ice Bucket Challenge to #HereForYou to Know Your Lemons. Getting noticed, however, increasingly is challenging. That leads to a final piece of advice: never underestimate the power of having at least ONE truly memorable story. More than anything, a compelling, relatable story will transcend geographic boundaries and cultures.

Larry Krutchik is a managing director at Hill+ Knowlton’s public affairs practice and leads the Los Angeles office