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Thursday, November 12, 2015

3, 2, 1 . . . Action! Live streaming with Periscope

Every time you hop on the Internet there seems to be a new social media tool everyone is talking about. The latest darling of the social media world is Periscope, an app that enables you to broadcast live from your mobile device. Scopes, as broadcasts are called, are used to inform, educate and entertain. The biggest caveat for public relations professionals to remember is that scopes are LIVE. 

As always, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate a social media tool to determine if it’s an appropriate channel for your campaign rather than just jumping on the bandwagon. Below is an overview of Periscope, how it can be part of your public relations toolbox and best practices for successful scopes.

What is Periscope?
Periscope is an app enabling users to live stream to over 20 million viewers and counting. Users are notified when people they follow start broadcasting. Viewers can type in comments or questions during the broadcast, and the broadcaster can respond to comments live as they stream across the screen. Scopes are only available for replay for 24 hours on the app itself, but you can extend the life of a scope by saving it to your mobile phone camera roll or online with a service such as Now that the app is included with the new Apple TV, some people think it will replace evening cable TV watching.

Why use Periscope?
In today’s “me, me, me” society, it’s no big surprise that individuals would jump on to Periscope as another way to share their lives with anyone who will watch. But the app is also gaining popularity among businesses, government and community-based organizations as a communications tool. Scopes can help organizations introduce their brand, establish their expertise, showcase what they do and give the public access to a perspective they can’t get elsewhere. Some ways organizations are using Periscope is to teach viewers about a specific topic, broadcast press conferences, host question and answer sessions and share personal stories.

Tips for a good scope
·      Make a plan: Before you even consider pressing play on your first scope, take the time to plan out your strategy. Is your audience on Periscope? What is your goal for using Periscope? What will your broadcasts be about? What unique content can you offer? Broadcasting consistently is key, so take the time now to put together an editorial calendar to identify topics, speakers and broadcast dates. If you have a hard time coming up with more than a few ideas, then Periscope may not be the best channel for your campaign.
·      Use the right equipment: No one expects your scope to have the same quality as Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, but you do need to make sure the lighting is good, viewers can hear what you’re saying and the camera is steady. For example, if you’re filming a question and answer session, mount your phone on a tripod, use a wired microphone, open up blinds to let in natural light and film your speaker at eye level. Always shoot in landscape so your scope will look good on other devices (TV or computer).
·      Pick the right person to film: People want to be entertained, even if your topic is more CNN than TMZ. You need to put a personality in front of the camera. You want someone who is real, authentic and engaging. They need to be comfortable in front of the camera and with broadcasting live. And, most importantly, they have to be able to stay on message while interacting with viewers’ comments and questions.
·      Plan your scope: The typical scope is five to 10 minutes long. Your scope is live as soon as you press your record button, but don’t forget that most of your viewers will join your broadcast after it starts. You’ll want to leave a buffer at the beginning to give people time to join. Scopes always start with the rear facing camera, and you can switch to the front facing camera at any time during your broadcast. If you’re stationary, set up your device so it’s facing your computer screen, and use a nice opening graphic or video you’ve prerecorded. Use the first thirty seconds of your broadcast to welcome viewers, tease your topic and introduce yourself. If you’re in the field, think about a nice setting you can use for your opening image or design a title card in advance that you can print out and hold in front of the camera. At the 30 second mark, switch the camera to face you and dive into your topic. End your scope with a question and answer session, a call to action, by asking your viewers to share your scope and by teasing your next scope.
·      Promote your scope: Establishing a regular broadcast schedule will also help you promote your scopes. Promote your scope on your various social media channels the day before and the day of broadcast. Also promote it on Twitter about 15 to 30 minutes before you start broadcasting. Promote your next scope at the end of your broadcast. Upload your scope to your YouTube channel so it lives beyond the 24-hour replay available on the Periscope app.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Would You Care for a Shot of Insulin to Go Along With That Soda?

An aisle of obesity, diabetes and a host
of other medical problems awaits you
at your local grocery store.
And they're on SALE!

The soda industry has been saying, and testifying, for years that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and that sugary drinks aren’t the problem when it comes to obesity. Nope – we all just don’t exercise enough.

Well now a new study is out showing that all calories are not the same and that surgery calories work very differently on the body than calories from other sources, such as starches. 

For years my wife and I have discussed that when we were kids, people didn’t drink sodas in near the amount that they do today, and that there virtually were no fat kids. Back then a large soda was 12 ounces, and there were no refills. Now a small soda comes in a 24-ounce container with unlimited refills. And it’s really disturbing to talk to teenagers and young adults who say they don’t like the taste of water and that they only drink soda.  OMG!

While I rarely buy soda anymore, I recently wanted to get a 6-pack of 12-ounce cans. I couldn’t do it. A 12-pack was the fewest I could buy. And it is getting harder and harder to even get a 12-ounce can out of a machine anymore. Most machines only have 20-ounce bottles now.  So on those rare occasions when I’m looking for a can of soda, I can’t even get that.  I’m forced to get 20 ounces or nothing. So I get nothing. 

And don't get me started on the fact that a bottle of water often costs more than the same size of bottled soda. 

The good news is that the word is getting out. The consumption of sugary drinks is trending down. But there’s still a long ways to go before America’s increasing waistline starts to deflate.  I only hope those people who don’t like water rediscover it and turn away from sugary drinks before they need to include a shot of insulin with each bottle of soda they drink.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Kick the Diet Coke Habit!

So you think you're doing yourself a favor by drinking Diet Coke instead of regular Coke? Au Contraire, my friends. As you may know by now, sugary beverages like Coke are proven contributors to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. However, Diet Coke takes the harmful effects of regular Coke even further, which can lead to a greater likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, weight gain and high blood pressure.

Yesterday I noticed a blurb in the Sports Section of the Contra Costa Times about Dave Baldwin, the offensive coordinator for Oregon State. He was quoted as saying, "Every man has a vice, and if he doesn't, then he's lying to you. And this is my vice." The vice he's referring to is that he drinks 16-19 Diet Cokes a day. I can only imagine the condition of his body since they didn't provide a photo in the newspaper. If he doesn't succumb to all the health hazards inherent to his Diet Coke habit, he must be some kind of super human.

Check out this article from Yahoo Health by Korin Miller, "What One Can of Diet Coke Does to Your Body in One Hour." It should make you think twice--and hopefully catch Mr. Baldwin's attention as well--about whether or not you want to drink another can of Diet Coke.

I know we're in a major drought here in California, but you really should drink water!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

So, you think you know public health? (A health inequity primer)

People tend to be very uncomfortable talking about race, ethnicity, gender, sex or poverty. 

That’s a shame. 

These issues are inextricably tied to most of society’s problems, yet very few people can communicate properly around them – let alone take real action. 

This is a major roadblock for those working to improve the public’s health. Nearly every county health officer that Brown·Miller Communications has interviewed for our ongoing Health Officers Communications Project identifies inequity as a major health threat. But what does that mean in the context of health?

Health inequities are systemic differences in health outcomes that spring from unfair social conditions or disparities in the distribution of resources. For example, low-income families are more likely to live near polluters that increase the risk for asthma. African-Americans are more likely to see tobacco advertisements, start smoking and develop lung cancer. Women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

All of these adverse health outcomes are the result of social problems and, in general, not personal behavior, genetics or happenstance. Yet many in the health arena focus on fixing the aftermath of these outcomes, instead of the basic inputs that are overwhelmingly preventable. 

In other words, our obsession with health care reform and pharmaceuticals has distracted us from the real roots of our problems.

Low-cost policies and programs that decrease pollution in low-income areas can prevent high-cost asthma. Controls on tobacco marketing can prevent young African-Americans from becoming addicted. Changes in social norms, through public relations campaigns, education and organizing, can prevent domestic violence. 

Prevention is key. 

But for prevention to be successful, health leaders must work with every other sector of society to push for social changes that influence public health.

That means county health officers must work with other county departments (housing, economic development, human services, etc.) to address the social determinants of health. They also must communicate better with community organizations, advocacy groups and stakeholders to coordinate their work for maximum impact. We’re working with all of them to help make this happen.

But you, dear reader, can also help turn the tide against health inequities by changing the way you think and the way your organization works, thus helping shape society’s norms.

Here are a few steps:

1. Recognize your privilege. Bear with me – I’m not trying to be “politically correct.” But I am going to be frank. Every person is born into their own unique situation that frames their behavior, interacts with other’s preconceptions and guides their path in life. Some situations make it easier to be healthy and successful. If you’re born to two white parents, in a wealthy neighborhood, you’re much less likely than the average person to have heart disease when you’re fifty. But if you were born a black foster child, in a low-income neighborhood, you’re much more likely to take up smoking (because of intense marketing at the local convenience store), eat fast food (because that’s your only option) and gain weight (because the city never invested in public parks in your community). Then, you will probably develop heart disease by your fiftieth birthday.

Life is like a marathon. But in this marathon, some people begin at the starting line, while others begin one step from the finish line. Addressing health inequity requires us all to ask a critical question: where did I start my marathon? 

2. Communicate and act in a manner that recognizes oppression and counters it. It is important to recognize when something you say or do perpetuates inequity.  Don’t stumble into prejudicial behavior like assuming certain groups “don’t show up” or “don’t fit in,” or that going into a particular community is a “safety concern.” Don’t assume certain groups are being hypersensitive when they react to your actions. From their perspective, you may have inadvertently participated in an injustice. Don’t dilute action by focusing on “helping everyone” when certain groups have greater needs and we only have a limited capacity for action. 

3. Change business as usual. Create a “new normal” by openly challenging oppression when you see it. This can be done by working with community organizations to call for change, putting pressure on elected officials and business leaders, or reforming your own organization from the inside. The key is to open up lines of communication between as many groups as possible to build community capacity.

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg in this primer. If you want to dive even deeper into the subject of health inequity, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) offers a free online course on the subject called “Roots of Health Inequity.” It’s highly interactive and very informative. I strongly recommend it.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Warning! Don't Be Fooled By Industry Purchased "Science"

With soda sales declining and legitimate studies linking consumption of sugary drinks to obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases, it was only a matter of time before Coca-Cola came up with a “new” old strategy to counter criticism and boost lagging sales.

This week Coca-Cola admitted it was funding the not-for-profit Global Energy Balance Network, the GEBN. Who comes up with these names? 

GEBN “so-called scientists” are claiming that the science linking sugary drinks to obesity is inconclusive and that losing weight is all about exercise, not diet.

We’ve heard this before. Remember the “it’s the couch, not the can” campaign that claimed there is nothing wrong with sugary drinks as part of a healthy diet? Well, it is back in the guise of GEBN. 

But people aren’t stupid, and the ploy, which is reminiscent of Big Tobacco’s efforts to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking, is backfiring. Since the announcement this past week, critical editorials and articles quickly appeared in a slew of influential publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee and London Guardian.

In their editorial, “Coke Tries to Sugarcoat the Truth on Calories,” the New York Times discusses some of the soft drink industry’s shady tactics: paying dietitians to write blog posts or articles suggesting that a mini-can of Coke would make a good snack food, deploying armies of high-priced lobbyists to fight against soda taxes, soda warning labels and financing scientists to support industry claims.

Exercise is important, but if you want to weigh less, the best exercise is to push yourself away from the table and drink plain water, not sugar water.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Can today’s newspaper predict obesity rates in 2018?

New research reveals it may be possible to estimate a nation’s future obesity prevalence based on how frequently national media mentions sweet snacks and vegetables or fruits. In “FiftyYears of Fat: News Coverage of Trends That Predate Obesity Prevalence,” researchers tracked mentions of healthy food items and less healthy food items over the last 50 years in the New York Times and the last 17 years in the London Times and then compared with obesity data. The findings reveal that obesity rates increased when newspapers featured more unhealthy foods than healthy foods.

 “Mentioning more sweet snacks and fewer fruits and vegetables over the past fifty years has influenced rather than reflected an increase in unhealthy consumption, which would subsequently increase obesity,” said Brennan Davis, the study’s lead author. 

The study highlights how important media can be for public health officials in improving health behaviors. Public health officials should have good working relationships with their local media and encourage reporting that promotes healthy behaviors, such as news articles about the impact of diet on health, sharing recipes for healthy foods and promoting restaurants with healthy offerings. Also, tracking media coverage of healthy foods and less healthy foods can help health educators get a pulse on the effectiveness of current obesity interventions. This in turn could help them adjust public health messages and interventions.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Sandwich We’re Not Talking About

This sandwich consumes 10 percent of California’s prime 40 and up career-minded men, but mostly women. They can’t stop thinking about it. Some have even given up their jobs for it. What sandwich can this be? Maybe it’s a hipster concoction of a pastrami burger on a brioche bun dripping with avocado aioli and homemade ketchup – or something like that.

Unfortunately, I’m talking about the growing number of adults, nearly two million Californians, who are taking care of both their children and aging parents. These “caregivers” are called the sandwich generation. So much for that delicious bite. According to the University of California, Berkeley, report, the facts are sobering. With more than 80 percent of long-term care still provided by family and friends without compensation, the sandwich generation is feeling the squeeze. Let me give you some key ingredients from that go into this “sandwich”:

  • Typical sandwich generation caregiver in California:
    • Middle-aged woman (average age 39)
    • Well-educated, having obtained at least some college education
    • Employed full-time
    • Income is below the California median
  • 93 percent of caregivers are not paid for the time spent providing care.
  • 27 percent of caregivers in the U.S. reported a high degree of financial hardship from caregiving.
  • Sandwiched caregivers in California more frequently report not being able to afford to eat balanced meals and hungry due to lack of money.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of California voters who are likely to need paid long-term care service in the next five years say they will not be able to afford one month of care, and the majority (75 percent) report they cannot afford more than three months of nursing home care.
  • Caregivers are more likely to experience physical strain, emotional stress and financial hardship.
  • Family caregiving in California was estimated at $47 billion in 2009, far exceeding the $12.8 billion in Medicaid spending for long-term care in the same year.

These bites are hard to swallow. California’s elderly population is growing, and rising health care costs are contributing to the increased demands of informal caregivers, but quite frankly, the menu options are extremely limited. As we move into the baby boomers’ silver age in the next decade, will California have more options, or are we doomed to have sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Jack Ohman draws his experience of caring for his dad in his editorial (click on the link for the full story):

For more in-depth look at UC Berkeley sandwich generation report, go to