Yes, you have read that correctly. I have been doing this work for more that 10 years now, and many current campaigns I am seeing for the 2nd or 3rd time. They obviously have had little impact with their previous appearances yet decisions have been taken to spend more money bringing them back to the public again. They are all important of course, and public awareness is key, but as a businessman I wonder when you have to admit defeat and do things differently? They all have new graphics, tag lines, public meetings, videos and TV advertising, plus many people from campaigns departments working on them. Look at the cost, all paid for by charitable donations.
Most cancers have an awareness month where their issues tend to get more publicity than at any other time and September is a particularly busy one. Each organisation filling up their communication channels with various asks for the month. Most involving asking for money or raising awareness. It has become so predictable and unimaginative, particularly when they follow the similar formats. Pre set social media posts being sent out at their pre arranged times. As a patient I feel like a sitting duck for all this marketing and I am now starting to switch off myself!
There is one particular charity where I speak personally to specific patients. They were checking their admin and wanted me to complete a whole raft of paperwork if I wanted to continue doing that, as they needed to comply with new data regulations. I decided to cease that role as I no longer wish to be bound up in tireless administration and constant emails! I do understand the need for it of course because I run my own charity, and am bound by regulations too. But we all want to help people as quickly and easily as we can, and not to bore them rigid with endless campaigns and fundraising asks!
Of course we need to raise money and awareness, but in this day and age where almost anything is possible, there must be more imaginative ways of working? One of the biggest conversations I am having with healthcare these days is about social media engagement. Most are not communicating in the way they want with their followers. The answer for me is quite simple! Most current online engagement is reacting to something happening immediately, not an annually prepared month of awareness or campaigns. Pre written posts don’t encourage engagement at all. The channels are full everyday and I often wonder how people select what to actually engage with. It does seem that many of the more corporate brands are losing their way in this area. They seem to have mastered the art of making interesting things bland!
Many large Governmental health campaigns are also suffering in the same way. As calls for measles jabs, routine smear test etc get ignored, and our problems increase. We should be very aware by now that different audiences react to different messages on different channels. If we can change the results of elections around the world by using marketing differently, then I’m sure we could do that to change the world positively for healthcare.
I work very differently to most in the cancer sector, and importantly I don’t have hundreds of staff to manage, and that is my choice! My work is innovative and I can remain agile, with few hoops to jump, and boards to sit with. If it feels right I will put it out there until I can see that it is not! The age we live in now, ideas become old whilst they are being discussed. Sometimes you just have to jump, to see what is below you. I understand why larger organisations cannot work in this way, but there must be a compromise where new ways of working can get off the launch pad quicker?
But doing things differently can be risky, and if it isn’t broke why do we need to fix it? However I believe that things ARE becoming broken and the fear of change will set us back many years if we don’t use technology to think and do things differently. Treatments in the cancer sector are improving all the time, even if we continue to have the constant battles with big pharma. But where are the big improvements for the increasing number of people living with cancer. We are still talking about the cost of cancer, the emotional impact, the physical impact, discrimination in the workplace and from financial organisations. Also early detection for all cancers, with many GPs seeming unable to recognise early symptoms. These are still the same issues I have been talking about for the last 10 years!!
So who is to blame for this? Most people would blame the Government, which is currently easy and common. But I believe that with proper collaborative working between charities and patients, we could/should have changed many things that are still on the list. No business would still be spending money on the same problems 10 years later, it just doesn’t make financial sense!
As always, these are my personal views drawn from my experiences. Please feel free to share your own below.