FPRA 2012 Annual Conference: Breakout 2A, The Difference Industry: A place for fresh thinking, growing investments and work that matters, Ann Christiano

By: Adrienne Moore, APR, CPRC

Through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ms. Christiano worked on various science projects that actually had public relations emphasis.

Frank Cole / Health and Science Communication
Miami Herald First Science Writer / Covered John Glenn’s orbit
Funded science writing positions at NPR

This is a Difference Industry.  We are professionals, with our own unique skill set and it is different and professional.  What is the Difference Industry?  Is it new?  Creating communication skills to create positive social change? What is difference from pr?  What does the field look like going forward?

One of the earlier fathers of pr is Brendal Dodge, discovering the path for the transcontinental railroad through the Rockies.  Railroads were thriving in the east states, but the railroads were not busy in the west because there weren’t enough people to use the service.  Dodge coordinated a campaign to get the government to pay for the extension of the railroad and in effect, was one of the first lobbyists with the government.

In 1787, the first campaign to end slavery in England had started by changing the laws regarding slave ships, not making the actual slave trade illegal. The group consisted of many well-known business people in England.  John Newton was horrified by slave ships.  Strategy in the campaign to stop slavery was to create empathy for the slaves and used a slave logo on products, posters.  In 1807, Parliament ended slave trade ships, but not the actual slavery.

Many of the tools were exactly what we use today – Logo / Communications / Strategic Plan / Getting Media Attention.

Designated driver campaigns / Texting and Driving / Drug Abuse are all campaigns that started from local people, parents, and others who are affected by a death of a child or another tragedy.

The difference industry is more different in its purpose than its form in public relations.  Public relations / public relations issues rely on marketing, public relations, journalism.  They are supported from taxpayers, donors, etc.  It is really hard to find money for strategic communications plans.

Love is not abuse / Liz Claiborne, Inc.
Family Violence Prevention Fund  partnered to work on campaigns together.

Don’t Text and Drive commercials / AT&T released this campaign as a documentary with more than 2 million viewers.  They used a story / comments from people rather than lecturing the viewer.  It was something that could be picked up by TV and spread to social media programs, texting, etc.

In these types of campaigns, the stories matter more in communications / Stories of the heart get the message across.  Color narratives give us good stories and management tools and you can envision what the campaign is emphasizing and how to solve it.  The origin story / how did you start, where did you come from / what have you learned from your work. It will help others work.

For example, in dealing with doctors, who are usually just going from one patient to another, hospitals and medical schools started to change the way physicians and nurses are trained regarding end-of-life issues.  Rather than physicians pushing for more tests for a patient, even when they are close to death, the physicians now know to talk with Hospice agencies or advise the families to do so.  Tell us a story about your problem, where it comes from, what drives the problem.  Performance stories will inspire other people.

Stories help people understand better.  Alice’s Lemonade Stand raised money for cancer research and didn’t want other kids to suffer from cancer.  Alice was a child who died from cancer and her family kept her memory by working on more research for young people.

Best stories allow our target audience to understand better.  YouTube – Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come – POWERFUL, 80 million views.

Scientific data makes us different from pr folks.  Have to know that the thing that we are asking for will make people’s lives better. DARE made young people not want to use drugs as young people, but in the long run, studies have shown these same young people got into drugs at a later time.

GREEN HOUSE projects
Bill Thomas wanted to make nursing homes good for old people when most of them have terrible reputations for lack of cleanliness, not taking care of patients, etc.  He wanted to create a place that people could actually spend the rest of their lives doing something.  The GREEN HOUSE project is a smaller location (10 rooms) with a close-knit group of people.  It turns out that the GREEN HOUSE cost is the same as assisting living, but makes the guests more active creative, etc..  People come together and eat together, talk together, share activities.

The speaker’s Challenge was how to build credibility with GREEN HOUSE project – investors, nursing homes, infrastructure.  Feature stories were popular, but it was disrupting the development of the community.  She went to Wall Street Journal, nursing homes using pharmaceuticals by restraints.

When people lived in GREEN HOUSES, they were healthier, had a better way of life, and strong funding from outside.  People who didn’t have much money moved into these homes.  100 GREEN HOUSES are available by now.  Targeted certain audiences with people who are not wealthy.  Behavior challenge can have an effect on resources around the world.  It is what we, as individuals, can do differently.  Read:  Switch / Chip and Dan Heath  Identify people to do things differently and to get them to change their goals.  Tell me what you want me to do.

What’s New?
Organizations are finally recognizing strategic planning needs to be accomplished.  Many Foundations are outsourcing communications plans.  The organizations that get this feel that they will spend more on this every year.  Agencies using this become more sophisticated about engaging people in their work and more.  You must concentrate on singular cause of action.  They are learning from pr professionals who know how to do it effectively.

Ann Christiano is the Frank and Betsy Karel Endowed Chair in Public Interest Communications and a Professor at the University of Florida, Department of Public Relations. Prior to her current position, Christiano most recently directed communications for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Vulnerable Populations portfolio. This portfolio creates new opportunities for better health by investing in health where it starts and grows–in our homes, schools and jobs. The social innovations the portfolio supports work in the domains of education, housing or corrections, but always address health needs of people who are vulnerable. As part of her work, Christiano oversaw communications strategies for programs like the Greenhouse project, which is a radical reinvention of the traditional long-term care model, and CeaseFire, which uses a public health approach to reduce gun violence in America’s most violent neighborhoods. Earlier in her career at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation she developed a robust government relations program that helped foundation grantees build productive relationships with elected officials and significantly increased the foundation’s profile among Washington policymakers. She has also worked with the Washington Business Group on Health.

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