What’s in Store for Social Marketers in 2019?

New Year 2019 opened with plenty of controversy, including partisan disagreements over funding for a border wall that has resulted in a government shutdown. As we worry about the impact a prolonged government shutdown will have on public health, education, and other social supports, let’s consider some of the biggest issues in public health and education that social marketers will need to address in the year ahead.

I asked my colleagues at Hager Sharp to do a bit of crystal ball-gazing, and here’s what they said will be important in public health:

  • Senior Account Executive Monica Carano predicts health privacy will be an issue requiring increased focus in 2019, as technology enables ever-increasing information collection through innovations, such as wearable devices, home monitors, patient portals, and patient-generated health data. Patients need to be able to trust that their data is safe, and cybersecurity will be more important than ever. For more on this topic, check out expert predictions in the Journal of AHIMA.
  • Monica also suggests that social isolation will be a hot topic to address in 2019, especially given former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s recent focus on the problem. Several countries, including Britain, Denmark, Australia, and Japan have taken steps to address the issue, launching public campaigns and even, in the case of Britain, appointing a minister for loneliness. In the U.S., social marketers can follow the Kaiser Family Foundation’s work in this area to keep up with news and trends.
  • According to Account Executive Maddie Stein, “the relationship between diet and health simply cannot be ignored any longer, especially as four of the leading causes of death in the U.S. are directly linked to food. As rates of diet-related diseases continue to rise, people have become increasingly interested in and aware of the critical role that food plays in human health. Therefore, I predict that 2019 will be the year that the ‘food as medicine’ movement―with a focus on the power of produce―finally takes off. We’ve started to see this idea come to life through concepts such as food prescription programs and innovative marketing initiatives like FNV, and I can’t wait to see more in the new year.”
  • Along with a heightened awareness of nutrition as a determinant of health, Maddie also predicts that “we’ll see a greater focus on the tremendous disparities in healthy food access that exist in this country. Whether it be through public-private sector partnerships, school garden programs, or changes in food policy, I hope to see significant strides toward eliminating food deserts and closing the ‘grocery gap’.”
  • Senior Account Executive Laura Koehler predicts that emergency preparedness will take center stage in 2019, as communities take steps to prepare for natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other incidents that affect public health. The American Journal of Public Health has issued a call for papers on this topic, and as social marketers, we will be looking for the resulting supplemental issue.
  • According to President and CEO Jennifer Wayman, as an increasing number of states and communities legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use, social marketers will need to focus on public health communications about the health effects and public safety effects of marijuana use. Hearing a radio advertisement for “pot as a Christmas stocking stuffer” made her realize that marijuana is not regulated for public health effects in the way that alcohol and tobacco are, so policymakers will need to consider these two case examples as they create a public health framework and policies for legalized marijuana.
  • As for me, I think food sustainability will continue to grow as an issue. The Economist’s recently released Food Sustainability Index (in partnership with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation) reminds us that the issue is complex and far reaching—the Index tracks data by country on three separate but related facets of food sustainability: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture, and nutritional challenges. It is a global issue and one that spans a variety of environmental, economic, and social disciplines. Therefore, coordinated approaches across disciplines may prove to be most effective.

My colleagues working in the education sector also made some predictions about hot issues to address in 2019:

  • According to Senior Account Executive Cailin Jason, “school safety and gun violence will be a continued hot topic in 2019, and on many levels. For instance, as schools and campuses explore how safety measures might be taken (given the lack of any sensible gun control laws), it will be critical to think about the impact that precautions may have on students—and if they pose more harm than good.” Those interested in this topic and the potential for unintended consequences can check out a recent article in Education Week. Cailin also notes that “gun safety obviously will also be a significant health issue, especially considering the recent #thisismylane movement.”
  • Senior Account Executive Samantha Prior suggests that expanding and improving early learning will be a key focus in 2019. She notes this was a hot topic in the midterm elections in the fall, with many polls showing widespread popular support across party lines. Samantha believes “the key question that will start to emerge in 2019 is, what’s next? Now that people broadly support early education and ensuring access for all children, more focus will turn on how to deliver high quality early childhood education, as a recent study found that many state-funded pre-K programs did not meet a number of high-quality indicators.”
  • Samantha also suggests that workforce preparedness will be a hot topic in the public and private sectors. “On the K-12 level, the conversation is moving from the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to the importance of STEAM (STEM + Arts), as many employers want employees with strong hard and soft skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving. I think support for interdisciplinary education is growing, but there isn’t as much agreement on what that actually looks like in schools. There’s also an interesting interplay between how much schools want to involve private companies and technology (see this recent example). On the post-secondary level, the conversation is shifting to one about access and financial stability—for example, the idea of apprenticeships is gaining popularity, recognition, and bi-partisan support from lawmakers (one example of recent legislation).”
  • Senior Vice President David Hoff suggests we should expect to see increased action around the concept of education as a basic right. He notes the recent lawsuit filed by a group in Rhode Island that seeks to establish a constitutional right to an education. He says, “It’s a long-shot, but it may change the conversation about the quality of education, particularly around preparing people for civic education.” Those who want to learn more about this can check out an article in The Atlantic.
  • Across the health and education sectors and in all of the work we do as social marketers, Account Supervisor Emily Martin suggests we consider authenticity as an essential ingredient in the communications materials and tools we produce. “We all keep hearing the importance of video, but what I think is really interesting is that apps like Snapchat and Instagram have made informal-looking videos more ‘normal’ looking for brands. It’s not uncommon to see videos on a brand’s social media sites that look like someone took them on an iPhone—and that’s okay because social media audiences are used to seeing them that way and perhaps even prefer the authenticity behind them. What is really neat about this is how affordable and accessible video then becomes to nonprofits and smaller companies.”

So, my fellow social marketers, we clearly have our work cut out for us. Here’s hoping for a productive and fruitful 2019!

Christina M. Nicols, MPH, MS, MS
Senior Vice President, Director of Strategic Planning, Research & Evaluation

Continue Reading No Comments

From Detroit Publicist to DC Professional: A Young Pro’s Journey to the APR

In September 2014, I found myself out of full-time work again for the fourth time since earning my bachelor’s degree in marketing and management. In my short career, I was one of the fortunate graduates to have held jobs related to my degree.

There was just one problem: even I didn’t want a job related to my degree. I wanted to do public relations.

And I didn’t just want to do public relations. I wanted to master it.

With that, I started my APR journey in July 2015 by enrolling on campus as a master’s degree student in public relations at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. There, I would meet my first APR: my program chair, Dr. Rochelle Ford. She would offer a few of us in my cohort the unique opportunity to earn our degrees by dually working towards completing our APR.

The coursework I would complete as part of my master’s program would serve me well in taking the first steps towards earning my APR.  They delved deeper into the introductory knowledge of PR I already had from my undergraduate and freelance experience, and the material from my APR study guide would help me advance even further.

I started seriously preparing for the APR in late 2016, and worked closely with a professional assigned by Suzanne Lundin Ross, the APR chair of the PRSA National Capital Chapter. For the Readiness Review, I presented a campaign from my brief time with McKinney & Associates, my first job in DC. Even though I didn’t develop this program, I did the best I could to tie my portfolio and candidate questionnaire answers back to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that I would be evaluated on. All in all, my presentation lasted close to an hour, with 20 minutes of discussing the program and 40 minutes of questions and answers from my panelists. The moment after I left the room to let the panelists deliberate on their decision came the longest four weeks of my life: waiting on my results.

They would arrive in the mail in late July 2017. I didn’t advance.

Admittedly, I took the news pretty hard, but still I knew I needed to request feedback addressing where I went wrong. I only missed passing by two points, mostly because I didn’t have enough management experience.

More determined than ever, I worked with an additional coach to make revisions to my questionnaire and presentation. Going into my second attempt, I demonstrated my management skills by approaching it as if I were presenting two programs: the first based on what actually happened; and the second based on how I would do things as the creator of the program. My aim was to control the narrative by bringing my program full circle. Whereas the Q&A portion of my first presentation felt excruciatingly long, the second time it felt like a breezy 10 minutes. I had a much better feeling leaving the room this time.

I received my advancement letter in December 2017. The final hurdle would be the computer-based exam. To prepare for it, I re-read chapters from Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, 11th Edition – a book I was required to get for one of my first courses at Newhouse – during my work commutes. The entire process took me three months to complete, with a few days of vacation in LA in between!

And on a Friday in early April, I did it.

Earning my accreditation gave me the deeper knowledge of public relations that I was looking for almost four years ago. Back then, I thought my endgame was to land media placements and increase social media followers. Now, I know that true public relations professionals are consistently monitoring the environment for opportunities and threats, and encouraging their organizations to proactively adapt to these changes. I’m looking forward to the ways I can influence behavior change for meaningful missions.

What a difference four years makes!

Find out more about #TheAPRDifference at http://www.praccreditation.org/

Cedric Brown, MS, APR
Senior Account Executive


This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can view it here.

Continue Reading No Comments

Ode to the Copywriter

The copywriter is a chameleon, writing as Hemingway in the morning, Dave Barry in the afternoon,
Maya Angelou at night, and Dr. Seuss when the need arises.
The copywriter knows how to write a video with no words.
A radio spot that makes you see.
A post you’ll want to click that isn’t clickbait.
A website you’ll come back to again and again.
The copywriter knows how to read a strategy and write one, too.
S/he knows how to find the right voice… or how to create the right voice if none is to be found.
The copywriter is never limited by subject matter; in fact, s/he always welcomes the opportunity to learn more.
The copywriter was fine with 140 characters because s/he says more with less.
The copywriter is not a grant writer, journalist, or technical writer,
but will happily ghost write for each of them if asked.
The copywriter knows insights are the key to reaching an audience.
S/he can write headlines, subheads, content, copy, taglines, and straplines—and knows the difference between each one of them.
Most of all, the copywriter is an idea person.
As such, s/he is never satisfied with the first idea, and rarely the 5th or 6th.
The copywriter is not dead.
The copywriter is alive and well at Hager Sharp.
And we’re looking for more.


Send a link to your portfolio to mgallagher@hagersharp.com

Mike Gallagher
Senior Vice President, Creative Director

Continue Reading No Comments

Welcoming new clients who help people live healthier, smarter, safer lives

Showing people how and why to read the updated Nutrition Facts labels so they can live healthier lives. Helping young women understand if they may be at higher risk for getting breast cancer at a young age and how to work with their healthcare team to develop a personalized action plan. Getting game changing information to teachers so they can use it in their own classrooms to engage students and set them on the path to success. Preventing cancer by encouraging more young adults to get the HPV vaccine. And, understanding the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors surrounding Lyme disease to inform communications around a potential Lyme disease vaccine.

These are the ways we’re helping people live healthier, smarter, safer lives on behalf of a host of new clients we’re so happy to welcome this year.

At Hager Sharp, our focus is and always will be to work with mission-driven institutions, businesses, and nonprofits to create and execute ideas that make a difference. We’ve dedicated the last 45 years to creating communications and marketing initiatives for organizations committed to improving health, advancing education, transforming our communities, and making meaningful change.

In the past few months, we’ve joined forces with a range of new clients to help them develop strategic and innovative ways to advance their missions.

Bring Your Brave

Bring Your Brave is an apt name for what younger women need to do when they face the possibility of breast cancer. Hager Sharp will be working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Cancer Prevention and Control’s Bring Your Brave campaign to provide relevant information about breast cancer to younger women, as about 11% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. are found in women younger than age 45. Hager Sharp will be helping CDC to spread this message by providing young women with scientifically sound information on actions they can take and encouraging and inspiring them to be proactive about their health. We’ll also be supporting CDC’s efforts to foster patient-provider dialogue and arm both providers and young women with the information and tools they need to have productive conversations about risk and prevention. Young women and the providers who care for them are among the many faces of breast cancer. We hope to show more of these many faces so young women and their providers can find their brave to learn more.

FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) engaged Hager Sharp to help increase understanding among consumers and professionals about preventing foodborne illness and choosing nutritious food, among other key topics. We’re honored to expand our work with FDA’s CFSAN to help people understand the updated Nutrition Facts Label, and how to use it to make healthier food choices. We will be working with FDA to provide a better experience for kids engaging with Snack Shack, a popular destination in the online Whyville community that helps kids understand and use the Nutrition Facts Label, make smart food choices, and build long-term healthy eating habits. We will also support the FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy, as the agency works to update the definition of “healthy” on food labels and will develop and test a new standard icon to be used to identify “healthy” foods.  In addition to helping promote important messages about nutrition and food safety, we will support efforts to educate and inform the public about agricultural biotechnology and the FDA’s role in its regulation.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in the United States. In anticipation of a Lyme disease vaccine, CDC engaged Hager Sharp to conduct research among audiences at risk for Lyme disease and health care providers about their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding Lyme disease prevention and a possible vaccine. The findings will help CDC to communicate about the Lyme vaccine when its available.

HPV Vaccine

Why would anybody pass up the opportunity to prevent cancer? The HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers from ever developing. The good news is that vaccination rates among adolescents are increasing, and Hager Sharp is proud to have contributed to that increase.

Following the success of our work on CDC’s award-winning HPV Vaccine Is Cancer Prevention campaign, we are now partnering with The MayaTech Corporation to support the HHS Office on Women’s Health in developing and launching an HPV vaccination campaign targeting young adults. The campaign will focus on three key states with some of the lowest vaccination rates—South Carolina, Texas, and Mississippi—encouraging young men and women ages 18–26 to get the HPV vaccine for protection against HPV-related cancers and infections.

What Works Clearinghouse

As a subcontractor to Mathematica, Hager Sharp has been engaged by the U.S. Department of Education to support the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). This initiative of the Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences is aptly named, as it looks at “what works in education?” WWC identifies proven practices across the country to share with teachers and policy makers to answer the question. It reviews and identifies well-designed studies, trustworthy research, and meaningful findings to inform decisions and improve student outcomes. Hager Sharp is working with WWC to help teachers, researchers, and policymakers find and use these research-proven ways to help students learn.

We’re honored to do this work to understand the attitudes and perceptions influencing these issues, to increase public knowledge about them, and to motivate people to take actions that will help them live healthier and smarter lives.

Debra Silimeo                                    Trish Taylor, PhD
Executive Vice President               Executive Vice President

Continue Reading No Comments

Growing Up Bilingual Made Me a Better Communicator

Inspired by a great job opportunity, my parents decided to leave friends and family and move me and my older brother from Venezuela to the USA. I was 5-years-old when we moved to Maryland. It was a tough choice, but the right decision. When we arrived in the US, my parents determined that if my brother and I spoke English at home and they responded to us in Spanish, we would learn English faster while not losing our native tongue. It was certainly an interesting approach—one that made people do a double take whenever my family spoke in public.

As a child, mastering the English language and assimilating to American culture was top priority for me. I was a Venezuelan first-grader in a mostly white school environment who was not ready to embrace my Hispanic heritage, nor my hard-to-pronounce name.  Add to that getting pulled out the classroom in front of all my young classmates to attend English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, I often felt like an outlier. I realize now that as trying as it was for me as a young ESOL student who just wanted to fit in, this experience helped me develop and value an important communication skill — understanding your audience.

In writing, knowing your audience shapes the way you deliver messages. Writing business proposals for potential clients typically requires the use of a formal, persuasive tone of voice. At the other end of the spectrum, texting your friends requires far less formality. In advertising, car commercials—which largely try to build credibility and reason —are catered to adults, while toy commercials—which use excitement—are aimed at children. Understanding your audience is vital in determining what content you will use; thus, researching your audience and understanding their desires will help you target your message.

Growing up bilingual has allowed me to be more empathetic toward various audiences. Knowing the feelings of frustration and fear when not being understood can grant you a new perspective on humanity. When I first arrived in the US, I had a difficult time connecting with my audience (my classmates) because I was not familiar with their culture. When I did my research (such as watching the same cartoons as my classmates), it was easier to connect with my audience.

Understanding who your audience is and what they like can be half the battle when creating better and more digestible messaging. I strongly believe that the more you open yourself to different languages and cultures, the better you will communicate–in any setting.


Sergio Vigas
Account Coordinator

Continue Reading No Comments