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Friday, August 26, 2011

Bring Back the Pre-Junk-Food Era Diet

Recently, I saw an article online about how a family in North Carolina broke its junk food addiction. After 100 days of eating “no refined grains or sweeteners, nothing deep fried, only local hormone-free meats, and organic fruits and veggies, and absolutely nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package with more than five ingredients listed on the label,” their palates had changed to the point where artificial food actually tasted bad.

This article made me think about how fortunate I was to grow up on a farm in Minnesota in the 50s and 60s. In those days, we didn’t have any of the fast-food options that are available today. Instead, my mother worked hard to serve us fresh, homemade food. We had fresh-from-the-chicken eggs. Our milk was direct from the cow – no store-bought milk for us. We butchered our own free-range, hormone-free beef, pork and chickens. My mother had a huge garden where she grew beautiful organic vegetables. She spent hours canning produce for use throughout the year. She also purchased big boxes of fruit in season and canned those as well. And our treats were all the most delicious made-from-scratch cakes, pies and cookies.

Obviously we’ve come a long way in the food world since the 50s and 60s. We now have access to so many “convenience” foods. However, a lot of these foods just aren’t very good for us, nor do they taste as good as they should. But, as the family in North Carolina has found, with a little imagination and conscientiousness, you can break the junk-food cycle and provide your family with a good, healthy and tasty diet.


Friday, August 12, 2011

What We Learned From Turning the Tables

Mike was in Atlanta this week presenting at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media on a panel about Designing Evidenced-based Communication Strategies to Affect Policy Change. Putting together the presentation about our work on menu labeling, Turning the Tables: Winning Support for the Nation's First Statewide Menu Labeling Law, gave us the opportunity to reflect on the lessons we learned from the campaign.

We’d like to share some of our top tips for communication strategies to affect policy change:

1. Research can be your story: The thrust of our campaign became a “consumer’s right to know issue” after a Field Poll commissioned by our client, the CaliforniaCenter for Public Health Advocacy, showed how little people actually knew about popular fast-food menu items. Of the 523 people surveyed, 68 percent didn’t geta single question right when asked about the calorie content of popular menu items. (Do you think you could do better?) Of those polled, 84 percent supported menu labeling. You can conduct research, and get media attention, to illustrate the need and support for a specific policy change.  

2. Simplify the message: People are going to have no interest in what you’re saying if they don’t find what you’re talking about very interesting. It’s your job to make them see why they should care about what you’re saying. Also, it’s easier for people to tune out your message if it’s too complicated for them to quickly understand. A solid message that resonates with the audience forms the backbone of all successful campaigns.

3. Entertain: In response to our bill to put calories on menu boards, the fast-food industry sponsored its own bill that would only require restaurants to hand out brochures. This purposefully ineffective bill offered timid legislators political cover and was quickly championed by the media and public alike. We used a humorous video to show how ridiculous using brochures at fast-food restaurants is in order to redirect public opinion and rally waning political support. Don’t be afraid of communicating in a fun, light-hearted and humorous way. The video was fun for people to watch and really took the wind out of the competition’s sails.

4. Start local: Setting out with a dramatic policy change in mind can seem pretty daunting to advocates working at the local level, but not doing anything in hopes that “someone else will do it” is a huge mistake. Policymakers look for examples of success at the local level before they will throw their support behind major policy change. California’s menu labeling law wouldn’t have come to fruition if advocates in San Francisco and Santa Clara hadn’t first shown that it could be done.

5. Establish a grassroots support system: This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Embarking on a major policy change effort requires a lot of ground forces. Local advocates became part of the team, writing letters to the editor and opinion editorials, meeting with editorial boards and writing comments on their local newspaper’s website, to keep the issue in the news and in front of policymakers across the state.
6. Be prepared for the competition: Making major policy changes in the field of public health often means taking on huge industries, such as tobacco, restaurants and soda. No one can deny that these industries have a lot of money to support an army of lobbyists, send “experts” on media tours, and donate funds to medical associations and cash-strapped local governments. They may have more money in the coffers than you, but you have “social good” on your side. Just know that they will come at you with all guns blazing.

7. It’s about the war, not the battle: As I said above, the competition seems to have an unlimited cash flow and is determined to defeat your efforts. But just because you lose a few battles along the way doesn’t mean you will lose the war. Our menu labeling efforts became a two-year endeavor after the governor vetoed the bill the first time around. We were able to bring the governor and Legislature around the second time by creating more pressure with a strong argument (and a great YouTube video). Again, you have “social good” on your side, which ultimately will trump money in the long run. Endurance is key because the “long run” can be a really long time.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Started a Facebook Page But Now What?

Facebook Tips for Business

Infographic by Joseph Klaas
While those of us who indulge in Facebook may share a little too much on the personal side, Facebook is still a good tool for your organization. If used effectively and strategically, Facebook can be a great place to build your brand, promote your organization or lead community outreach programs. If you’re considering diving into social media, some tips on the do’s and don’ts on Facebook are listed below. Remember, each social media tool has a different purpose, but I’m only focusing on Facebook and how to use it as a platform for your organization.

Do post regularly. You want to be relevant and dynamic. With social media, you need to be seen on a regular basis to be remembered. With so many competing posts, it’s easy to get lost in your friends’ newsfeed if you post infrequently.

• But with that said, don’t spam your friends. Too many posts can overload people with too much information and turn them off. It’s best to spread the information out so that you aren’t posting more than once a day (at the most), or your friends might hit the “unlike” button.

• Genuinely interact with your friends. Being a participant and engaging your friends in the conversation is the best way to build trust on Facebook. Some comments may not require an answer, but make an effort to acknowledge them and make them feel heard.

Don’t neglect or ignore questions on your page. I think this is a no-brainer. Doing this gives the impression that you don’t care.

Post conversation starters or ask a question. This helps keep the dialogue moving. You might even think about what you want to know from your audience and start a poll. Create a list of questions or topics ahead of time for those down times you may not have as much to post.

Don’t restrict your friends’ ability to post comments. This one is tricky since I understand the issues and legal concerns organizations may have about allowing people to freely post anything on their page. But to do this may alienate friends who want to engage with you. This ultimately defeats the purpose of you being on Facebook. Trust that your friends will behave and post relevant comments and concerns. Respond immediately if they do misbehave. If need be, delete the post. Your responsiveness and how you handle an inflamed comment will mean more to your friends and impress them than a wall of information that says you’re not good enough to talk to me.

Offer something of value. People are overloaded with information. Why should they take the time to read what you write if it doesn’t have any value to them, even if it is just a joke or a different way of looking at something.

Now you have some of the basic business essentials to prepare your organization to meet new friends. Have fun (social) networking!