“Every mom counts.”
“We all have moms.”
“You don’t have to be a mom to help a mom.”
UN Week in mid-September saw the launch of the Million Moms Challenge in Times Square, trumpeted through facebook, twitter, a new game app, and an ABC video segment. The video showed how measles is spreading among Somali children weakened from hunger in the drought-stricken region. It also showed a group of U.S. mommy bloggers visiting a Somali camp, the news crew capturing their shock at the conditions, as one mom barely uttered, “I don’t think people even realize what the situation is.”
Viewers of the news clip quickly donated 138,000 doses of measles vaccine to children in the Horn of Africa refugee camps.
The Million Moms Challenge partnership between the United Nations Foundation and ABC News aims to use social media marketing to directly engage consumers – especially moms – in advocacy around global health and poverty. It’s an appeal to mothers in the world’s most privileged nation to make a connection with moms facing challenges they can barely imagine—among them the dangers posed by infectious disease.
A week after the campaign launch, the GAVI Alliance announced that it will fund immunization against two childhood diseases — rotavirus and pneumonia–in 37 countries, and fund the second dose of measles vaccine to nine more countries. Such life-saving measures are taken for granted in the world’s richest country.
Not so in the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Globally, rotavirus kills more than half a million children every year, half of them in African countries, where access to treatment for severe cases is limited or unavailable, and acute diarrhea can lead to life-threatening dehydration. For children there, rotavirus vaccine is truly a shot at life.
Be sure to check out the campaign and help spread the word for one million strong!
Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a Weber Shandwick client and supporting partner of the Million Moms Challenge campaign.
In a recent blog post, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote, “I generally have the view that humanitarians are really bad at framing issues and marketing causes, because they believe so deeply in them.”
The comment was part of a dialogue he had with readers who were taking him to task for over-focusing on Westerners and Americans development workers when reporting on global health and development issues. Kristof argued that stories that had a relatable character, often a Westerner or American working in the region, resonated better with an American audience.
I wonder if the stories work not just because the ethnicity or nationality of the protagonist, but also the specificity in which the global issue was framed. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll on the U.S. role in global health found that while American generally don’t support foreign aid, they are more supportive of increased spending abroad for specific global health purposes. It matters if you ask are we “spending too much on foreign aid” or are we spending too much on “efforts to improve the health for people in developing countries.” People responded even more positively to U.S. spending for specific health outcomes, like preventing malaria, treating HIV or improving access to clean water.
Another recent poll found that 9 out of 10 American aren’t familiar with the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight time-bound development goals, that if achieved together will end extreme poverty by 2015. But after hearing more specific information about each goal, 87% believe the U.S. should be involved in accomplishing the MDGs.
Specificity matters. We can be better at marketing causes if we are mindful that people may not know a lot about an issue, particularly global issues that they haven’t experienced firsthand. But that doesn’t mean they won’t care. It’s our job as storytellers to explain the issue and make it relevant for all of our audiences.