Using social media to trace victims of a rare disease

March 22, 2009

On March 15, a fifteen year-old girl died recently in the U.S. of a sudden, degenerative disease that may or may not be linked to a Gardasil vaccination. Her parents happen to be professors in the field of medical science. They are trying to clarify the ‘may of may not be linked’ part of the tragedy by finding other people who went through similar ordeals. So far, they have found at least two.

So, if you happen to know about a teenager who rapidly lost the use of his/her motor functions without a solid medical explanation…

Read Dan Gardner’s introduction of the case, call for action and tragic update.

See the video below.

Click the website.

How do you expand the reach of this little campaign? Given the current state of the social media sphere and the rather dispersed character of the target audience, I can only think about a massively multi-platform approach: make sure it’s in all the bookmark sharing systems with the right tags, get on the relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups, etc, etc, etc.

And use the on-line campaign to attract the traditional mass media, branding it as an ‘Internet phenomenon’ trying to succeed where the public health bureaucracy seems to be failing. That is one case when the ability of television to reach massive, vaguely-defined audiences can still be useful. Some good old-fashioned PR opportunities there.


Oil flacks keep their ear to the ground

March 12, 2009

Very good response from the flacks at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers about the National Geographic text on the oil sands. They set up a section on their Web site to deal with this (and certainly encourage friendly columnists to use their speaking points), then intervene on the blogs where the topic is discussed… including our own little Final Spin here.

It’s all very professional. The flack clearly identifies himself. The comment picks up on something that was written in the post (he mistook a quote I used for my own opinion but no matter). It’s respectful. And of course there’s a link to their Web site. Very nice. That’s 21th-Century PR.

I bet they monitor the reactions to their comments too (hello there Mr. Davies). It took them almost three days to get their response on this blog, that’s a bit long but not that much. And it took me more than a day to realize it got stuck in the spam filter – putting two hyperlinks in your comments will do that. Sorry.

I’d love to see the social media campaign report the CAPP flacks will write after that one. There’s a nice little case study in there. How about presenting something at the CPRS conference?

Here’s a great stolen podcast

February 27, 2009

I have no particular comments on the content of this podcast, which is a slightly more entertaining version of the standard discussion one can find all over the Internet in these difficult times for the media. I just wanted to see if the inter-Wordpress ’embed’ function worked well.

Okay, it works – copy, paste. Nice.

The podcast’s real home is here on Inkless Wells and here on Coyne’s blog, of course.

Periodic Table of the Social Media Elements by Rick Liebling

February 24, 2009

This by Rick Liebling is pretty neat.

Rick Lieblings Periodic Table of Social Media Elements

Rick Liebling's Periodic Table of Social Media Elements

Taking the time to think about social media

December 8, 2008

Nice debate on Joseph Thornley’s blog on social media and journalism. Well worth my time, and probably yours.

I’m surprised at the number of conferences, workshops, informal groups and working groups on social media in the last year in Ottawa. With GCPedia that just came online, it’s clear this trend will continue, economic crisis notwithstanding.

Forgotten PR campaigns in the shadow of Obama/McCain

October 28, 2008

With all the hoopla around the Obama / McCain (and Palin) contest, it’s easy to forget that in the United States, elections are also about voters deciding on a wide range of specific issues. In most states, voters will answer a variety of questions, from taxation to law enforcement.

A total of 153 initiatives, referenda and referrals will be on various ballots on November 4, according to Many of those, such as propositions on gay marriage, are hotly debated locally. Those keep quite a few flacks very busy, whether they are working pro bono or billing for their services. Unlike most of us who measure results in quarters and years, some flacks actually specialize in those short, intense and sometimes brutal campaigns.

The most passionate PR seems to be taking place in four states about marriage-related questions. Gay rights are an issue the presidential candidates are not too fond of, so the state PR campaigns pretty much have a clear field.

This being the age of YouTube, it’s interesting to see some of the videos that are being produced by amateurs, mostly film students.

Arms supplier shoots himself in foot, kills future contracts

September 22, 2008

So we have this small Canadian military equipment supplier that decided to distinguish itself by targeting a fairly specific demographic: xenophobic, sexist, vulgar people in need of army knives, flashlights and camping equipment (hello Michigan militiamen…). They build their Web site to reflect the values of their potential clients.

It turns out that somewhere down the road, they also get a contract from the Canadian Armed Forces. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, that is not about to happen again, since they don’t fancy being associated with a company selling lethal weapons to xenophobic and sexist people.


  • When you decide to build yourself a marketing niche, stay in your niche.
  • Yes, reporters know how to recover Google-cached Web sites.
  • This is a fine example where no amount of media relations work can possibly make things better.