Colorectal Cancer

How To Be #1 at #2 – Warning Toilet Humor To Follow

If you think it’s hard to generate excitement about your product or service, what if you are trying to be #1 at #2? Stand by for Potty humor.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cancer killer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016, it’s estimated that there will be 134,490 new cases and 49,190 deaths.

Colorectal Cancer

Generating excitement for a nationwide kick-off event for Colorectal Cancer Awareness month would obviously present a host of challenges.

How to Run a Successful Colorectal Cancer Kick Off Event

In March 2013, Debbie Donovan was up to that challenge. As a well-respected PR and Marketing professional in the medical device field her vast experience, sense of humor (potty talk required) and out of the box thinking made volunteering for the launch of #1MilStrong more successful than the sponsors could have imagined.

Few consider a colonoscopy or a “polyp-free tushie” to be an exciting subject to promote especially in the middle of Times Square NYC. Yet the inspirations for One Million Strong  are the over one million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States. It’s the survivors that give the event the heart, the audience and the excitement needed.

Here’s where the story gets good. We know the who and the why here’s the how.

  1. Send out well-crafted media alerts to respected news outlets and make sure you follow-up. A great media alert/press release gets the word out for an event and begins the education process.
  2. Activate your social media team and use social media to move excitement from on land to online, encouraging in-person and virtual participants to take action. The bulk of the efforts were conducted on the actual day of the event.

Debbie was invited to volunteer at the command center. Her physical location for the one-day event was inside the NASDAQ headquarters in Times Square near the big tent featuring a giant inflatable walk-through colon.

Hot Tip: make sure you have a reliable and steady power source, to keep your laptop and smart phone powered up, and a good WiFi connection. You can also utilize a personal hot spot and I always make sure I have my Portable Power 8000mAh Backup Battery by iSound that charges 5 devices multiple times with me for these types of events. 

Utilizing multiple browsers, she was able to bounce between three different personas. Debbie has personal (Twitter, Facebook) and professional (Twitter, Blog, LinkedIn) social accounts. She was also legitimately representing a relevant medical device technology. And bringing up the rear (pun intended) she was able to represent a non-profit charity as a board member.

Debbie was re-tweeting #1MilStrong from the organizing non-profit @FightCRC onto @Third_EyeRetro with their #goodforyou hashtag. She used her personal Facebook page and Twitter handle to keep her friends and family apprised of the activities (including a surprise appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America).

Professionally, Debbie used her blog to post an announcement as the day began and shared it on the appropriate Twitter handle. She also had certain channels connected to her LinkedIn profile so select content was posted there as well. Again, she was also funneling content to The Colon Club (another allied nonprofit) via Twitter and Facebook. Tweetdeck was a helpful tool because she set up separate columns to quickly scan #1MilStrong and relevant colorectal cancer keywords.

Debbie was invited to volunteer by Michael Sola, the VP of Operations for Flight Colorectal Cancer. He used Storify to compile social media highlights in the morning and in the afternoon. So as Debbie scoured Twitter and Facebook for interesting posts she forwarded them to Michael. Michael was editing the best social objects into a story and interjecting acknowledgments for all the sponsoring organizations.

Colorectal Cancer

The response was huge. There were people wearing the Colorectal Cancer blue hats out in front of Good Morning America and the Today Show. #1MilStrong images were posted on NASDAQ’s electronic billboards as the trading day closed.

Organizers, volunteers, staff and passersby posted loads of video, photos and countless heartwarming and uplifting stories.

According to Debbie: “This was a very symbiotic experience that integrated three aspects of me. I grew up with a father dedicated to colorectal screening tests. That unusual upbringing led me into my career’s professional mission of promoting breakthrough medical technologies that change the practice of medicine. Now, I’ve been blessed to lend my digital and social expertise through participation in national advocacy nonprofit activities.”

The vital components of this event started with a well-executed PR campaign but it was social media that moved the excitement from on land to online. This shows how to be #1 at #2!

Over to You:

As much fun as this event was, the purpose was to encourage those over the age of 50, or with symptoms to get screened for Colorectal Cancer. Make sure you start that discussion with your doctor early and make sure you get your colonoscopy! For more information:


How To Be #1 at #2 – Warning Toilet Humor To Follow was last modified: June 20th, 2017 by Heidi Garland

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  • Robin Strohmaier March 30, 2016   Reply →

    Hi Heidi,
    Your title to this post really pulled me in. I had to read it!

    What an excellent story and example of a well-executed PR campaign that used social media to move the excitement from on land to online! Bravo, Debbie Donovan!

    Thank you for sharing this story, Heidi. Well done!

    • Heidi Garland March 31, 2016   Reply →

      Thank you Robin. Debbie Donovan is an incredible marketer and the perfect person for the job! She, like me volunteers for something she is passionate about!

      • Robin April 7, 2016   Reply →

        Debbie Donovan sounds like an incredible marketer, Heidi! Being passionate about what you do definitely makes the difference, doesn’t it?

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