October 20, 2011 at 11:37 pm #144132
Attachment-TheComicBookHave you seen this? The CDC has come out with a graphic novel to illustrate the importance of being ready for an outbreak.
According to the story:
“The comic book went live on the CDC’s website on Friday, with no fanfare. It has already been a hit at New York’s ComicCon, a gathering of fans and creators of comic books, graphic novels, games, and other media. There, Ali Khan, director of the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, passed out copies and spoke on a panel titled ‘Zombie Summit: How to Survive the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.'”
You can get the comic book here: http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies_novella.htm#
How did they get away with this?
Read on, from the story:
“This isn’t the CDC’s usual M.O., (David) Daigle (of the CDC Preparedness Office) acknowledges.”
“In May, Daigle and CDC health communication specialists Margaret Silver and Catherine Jamal were writing their annual Emergency Preparedness blog item with Kahn. The somewhat-dry piece urged Americans to get ready for disaster by putting together supplies such as water, food, flashlights, extra medications, first aid materials and batteries.”
“The trouble was, although millions of Americas are affected by emergencies each year, few read the CDC’s advice. ‘Typically, we’ll do a blog and it will get 1,000 to 3,000 looks,’ Silver says. So they pondered the matter and realized that while preparing for emergencies was dull, dull, dull, and zombies were hot, hot, hot.”
“The result was the CDC’s breakthrough “Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” blog, a tongue-in-cheek discussion of how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse that coincidentally led readers through steps necessary to create an emergency kit and prepare their families.
“It was posted May 16. “Then we waited two days to see if anyone got fired,” Daigle says. When they weren’t, they began tweeting and posting about it on Facebook.
“That’s when the apocalypse really did hit, in a wave of interest so strong it crashed the CDC’s blog server. ‘By Friday, we were trending worldwide on Twitter and the phone was ringing off the hook,” Silver says. The page got more than 3million views and 500 comments. “Most of our blogs get maybe five,’ she says.
“There was some gnashing of teeth by pundits who said the CDC was wasting the public’s money. but Daigle points out that the total cost to the taxpayer was just $87, to buy a stock photo as an illustration. ‘We got an estimate for the blog that it’s worth $3.4 million in marketing value.'”
“That’s a lot of Americans ready for the next zombie invasion, or tornado, for that matter.”
‘Our heads were spinning. There were T-shirts, book offers, we had calls and e-mails,” Daigle says. With their creative juices flowing and the number of natural disasters this year climbing, he and Silver started to think how they could get more people thinking ahead.'”
Basically, as I see it, the CDC took a chance.
My question is: What kind of culture does it take to promote similar risk-taking? How can communication leaders be ready for blowback (in addition to showing return on investment – for example $87 for a photo vs. $3.4 million in ‘marketing value,’ though I’m not sure how that was measured.)
What do you think of all of this? Personally I am wowed.
October 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm #144176
October 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm #144174
I love it! I think a lot of organizations and government agencies are afraid to deviate from their “brand” or “culture.” This is not something I think any person would have expected the CDC to produce, but it’s memorable and effective.
October 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm #144172
A cultlure that rewards risk taking will have risk takers.
October 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm #144170
I think zombies are cliche, but you can’t argue with results. Kudos to the CDC for using pop culture to inform the public. Now excuse me, I have to prepare for the zombies…
October 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm #144168
It’s great! Let’s face it – in government we need to educate citizens about things that on the surface might appear boring to them. And usually we end up investing time and money into material that is never used. This is a great example of how to cost effectively reach and engage people so they actually read and understand the material we offer. Just because it’s packaged in a fun way doesn’t make it bad – it’s actually quite brilliant!
October 24, 2011 at 7:50 pm #144166
October 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm #144164
Kate Lilja LohnesParticipant
Very impressive! The CDC has used several innovative communications strategies over the years, and this is another great example of stepping outside the box.
October 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm #144162
Just gave it a quick speed read, and I gotta say, it’s quite well made. Besides the checklist at the very end, the story itself isn’t the most educational, but certainly entertaining and therefore a great motivator to take real action. Well done, CDC.
October 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm #144160
We had been planning a zombie page for a while. The hardest part was getting administration to understand that, if you want to reach more people, you can’t just say the same things over and over. You have to try something outside the box and outside your comfort zone.
Part of the appeal of social media is that it puts a personal spin on government. I loved it when the CDC did their zombie post, because I knew they were trying to push their message and everyone had grown numb to it. Putting it in a zombie post got people to read it. I read the comic book, too, and started taking an inventory of my emergency supplies.
Reframing the question makes you look at the question/problem/situation differently and helps you reach a different conclusion. I’m glad the CDC was willing to invest some time to do this right, and kudos to the managers that were willing to take the risk.
October 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm #144158
that comic is absolutely brilliant. Regarding the quote from the article, that seems to be the approach for trying new things that aren’t officially approved by agency policy handbook manual directives: “JUST DO IT and then wait and see if anyone gets fired. If no one gets fired, KEEP GOING!” It’s a laughable policy toward innovation, but it seems to be the only way agencies can protect themselves and allow creativity: enforce a system wherein innovators must go out on a limb, then either fire them or claim credit, depending on the response.
October 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm #144156
I don’t even know how we could top this…that would be an interesting discussion. My daughter had an idea about using Xbox kinect to come up with a game. That could be cool used right.
October 26, 2011 at 1:30 am #144154
Now that is thinking outside the box! WOW!!! I like it!
Agreed Carol “A culture that rewards risk will have risk takers”
October 26, 2011 at 1:13 pm #144152
October 28, 2011 at 1:43 pm #144150
Sarah Ressler WrightParticipant
Well put indeed!
October 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm #144146
I did something similar (but on a much, much smaller scale) a few months ago. We needed to create a one-page handout for new employees that informed them of the most important things to know about IT security at State (in our office). We wanted to make sure it stood out from all the other handouts people get when they’re new. I’ve attached the “before” and “after.” You can probably figure out which is which. 🙂
October 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm #144144
I love the password example! Nice work
October 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm #144142
Gary M. MorinParticipant
And, likewise, a culture that punishes risk takers won’t have creativity or risk taking.
October 28, 2011 at 4:16 pm #144140
Gary M. MorinParticipant
I agree! it’s an unwritten policy of “plausible deniability,” until management can find a way to take the credit yet never take the blame.
- “enforce a system wherein innovators must go out on a limb, then either fire them or claim credit, depending on the response.”
October 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm #144138
Molly, this is great!! nice work!
October 29, 2011 at 1:15 am #144136
Fabulous! Now if only all of us can harness the marketing power of zombies… Thanks for sharing!
October 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm #144134
Jeffrey J KonturParticipant
To echo Gary,
It’s not enough to reward risk takers (which most managers interpret to mean rewarding risks that pan out), you have to actively tolerate and encourage some amount of failure. Without it, there is no risk taking.
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