Raising Awareness

Communication is not persuasion.

How to raise awareness about and encourage participation in Alzheimer's research? Go “old school” with advertising and communications efforts.


Whether it’s selling consumer products and services or trying to recruit people into clinical trials, the focus today has been on using “big data”. Individuals are now profiled to the nth-degree. Because of this, there has been a stampede of government agencies and brands to the belief that big data tells all about a person. So agencies have be told that by simply employing such data, they are given a magic wand and abracadabra, they now have the ability to make someone do exactly what is wanted.


Nothing could be further from the truth.


The over concentration on big data fails to incorporate that more is needed than simply arriving at the point of engagement. Time and again, communications campaigns fail because: Communicating is not the same as persuading. Too often, campaign messages – especially those from government and scientific circles - are more announcements than persuaders.


But how to persuade?


To be persuasive, a campaign needs to excite the target audience with not just the features of a program, but also the benefits. This feature-benefit premise needs to be captured in a (persuasive!) slogan that integrates across all media. This integration helps the audience become familiar with – and believe in - the value of what is being offered. This entire effort needs to answer the audience’s question: What can participating in Alzheimer’s research do for me (or my love one)?


Distribution of campaign materials needs to be practical and build trust.


A campaign must not to over-rely on social media. It’s been all the rage to think that using social media to advertise is the elixir. It isn’t. Different groups use social media differently. Alzheimer’s affects African Americans more than whites, so what value is Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to them? Then there are the different age groups. Social media targeting is like a Rubik’s cube.

Even worse, what is the truth about social media effectiveness? For years, the consumer advertising community has be skeptical of social media platforms’ stated engagement numbers, as those usage numbers are self-reported. Now over the past few months the veil has started to lift. Facebook has been caught falsifying its numbers, overstating by huge factors who exactly are using and watching what.


Consumers, too, are beginning to shy away from social media usage. During the past few months, Facebook experienced loses of American users in the double digits. And with recent headlines about its sharing of personal data, there undoubtedly will be further erosion.


What to do? Go old school.


Being effective at reaching people and encourage them to participate in Alzheimer’s clinical trials requires developing a campaign theme that resonates with its message and then integrates across the many media opportunities to reach people. For distribution, rely on old school tools like pamphlets and other print materials that doctors and social workers can distribute. There is nothing like medical professionals to carry trust – and trust is a key component in persuasion.


Old school tactics like these will drive people to web sites that carry more information. Here, it is important to coordinate with all the stakeholders in Alzheimer’s research to that people to get singular messages when they go on the internet. Googling “Alzheimer’s research” brings up endless options – which can be so confusing to people in need. They worry, “Which one should I trust?”. As much as possible, if not one web site, have as few primary sites to reduce consumer confusion. Confusion erodes that key component of trust.


And with no trust, there can be no persuasion.


Be clear, concise, and consistent. Be truthful. And above all, be persuasive!


Idea No. 183