All posts by Robin Schell

Changing Behaviors On Concussion Treatment Through “Chalk Talk”

The "4 Steps To Public Behavior Change"  by Jim Grunig, Harold Mendelsohn, Brenda Darvin,  Max McCombs and other behavior change specialists laid out a path of action that has been used with great success by such efforts as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), smoking cessation programs and others.  Now it has been applied to the problem of concussions and learning. 

The Brain Injury Association of NH (BIANH), in cooperation with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS), has developed a pilot program called “Chalk Talk” for returning students with concussions to the classroom with the same care taken that they would use to return them to the playing field.

For the past 3 years, BIANH representatives have worked with Concussion Management Teams at 9 high schools and two middle schools to establish a protocol that involves baseline testing before a concussion occurs, and careful monitoring to ease them back into their academic schedule to allow the brain time to recover.

“Instead of sending the student home for 2 weeks, where the temptation to watch TV and use electronics is high, the student recovers under the careful guidance of a team of school professionals.  This may include time out of the classroom in a specially designed location to address issues of fatigue or sensitivities to light or sound,” says Lynne Fleming, Program Coordinator. “It’s a team approach, and the school nurse, athletic trainer, teachers, parents, guidance counselors and Dartmouth Hitchcock’s pediatric neuropsychologists are all evaluating the student’s progress.  They are monitored and given a reduced work load, so they are only sent back to a full schedule of classes when they are ready.”

In addition to comparing post-concussion data with baseline data, parents, teachers and nurses are asked to complete forms to evaluate the student’s progress on a daily basis.  “Having the expertise of a trained pediatric neuropsychologist is key,” says Steve Wade, Executive Director.  “We were fortunate to receive a 5-year ACL (Administrators for Community Living) grant, much of which is used to pay the pediatric neuropsychologists for consulting to the education team.”

In 2012, NH Governor John Lynch signed SB402, otherwise known as “return to play” legislation.  This bill gave schools clear guidelines on returning a student to the playing field after they had sustained a concussion.  Now the BIANH is considering legislation for RLT or “return to learn” to take the protocols developed in Chalk Talk one step further.  “There are 7 states out there with Return to Learn legislation,” says Executive Director Steve Wade, “and we are in the process of studying how it has been implemented elsewhere.  We plan to talk with opinion leaders on the topic of brain injury here in NH about the merits of similar legislation here.”

So the 4 steps to public behavior change,  was ideal for successfully asking for Return to Learn legislation.

The 4 Steps In Action:

Step 1 developed a coalition campaign to educate the public that a concussion is a brain injury and it is critical not to overtax the brain while it is in recovery mode.  This involves identifying opinion leaders on the topic, getting them to recognize the problem and how they could be affected, and giving them opportunities to address the problem (by serving on concussion team task forces, advocating the proper treatment of concussed students, advocating legislation etc.).

Step 2, enforcement, or establishing laws or guidelines that would mandate the behavior change –is where Return to Learn legislation would come in .

Step 3, engineering, or enacting a structural change to work around the situation is what  BIANH has done with the creation of the Chalk Talk program and system for evaluating progress.

Step 4,  social reinforcement –is where the behavior becomes a socially-acceptable norm, and social rewards and punishment take over the job of enforcing it.  Ideally, in the future, every school will have a protocol for returning a student to the classroom after a concussion.   Just as we have learned we need to protect the developing brain from re-injury on the playing field, we now know we need to reduce cognitive demands in the classroom in order to give the brain time to heal.

The “So What” Factor: Migrating From Outputs to Outcomes in PR Research

For years, PR practitioners measured effectiveness by “counting clips” and calculated the dollar value of press coverage they obtained for their organizations. Some PR people are still doing this — mostly, we hope, only when their bosses are demanding it. We have made progress, but we know we have much more work to do to educate management on what Public Relations and Communications professionals can …and should … be measuring.

The good news is, more and more public relations professionals are thinking about what JJ&W calls the “so what” factor – we measured it, but so what? What are the behavioral results? It’s nice that we know how many people recalled seeing our hospital's advertising …but what really matters is, how many people chose our hospital for their healthcare needs?

I’m happy to report that the subject of how PR professionals measure the impact of what we do is being presented on, discussed and debated a lot more frequently than when I started my career 30 years ago. In 2010, the Institute of PR Research formed the Barcelona Principles. There are 7 principles, which are continually discussed and refined, and they reflect the direction PR research is moving in our field. Principle #2, for example, states unequivocally that “measuring the effect on outcomes is recommended vs. only measuring outputs.”

JJ&W has been talking about the importance of measuring behavior for years; Pat Jackson, JJ&W’s founder, together with leading academic professional Jim Grunig, created the Public Relations Behavioral Model and implored practitioners to define the “ultimate desired behavior(s)” they were seeking — in order to have a clear behavioral goal against which to measure success. It’s nice to see the scales in our field tipping in the behavioral direction.

At the International PR Research Conference in Miami this past March, practitioners from all over the world shared ideas on measuring ROI (return on investment) relative to PR activity. Visit www.instituteforpr.org to download and listen to some of those conversations.

Both keynote and breakout session speakers at the PRSA District Conference held on April 28th in Corning, NY focused their remarks on delivering measurable results.

• Ross Levi from the NYS Division of Tourism talked about the impact of the “I Love NY” campaign and its efforts to broaden tourism beyond NYC to all parts of NY – generating a staggering $102 billion in tourism dollars for the state.

• Katie Paine of KD Paine & Partners urged PR practitioners to “measure behavior, not activities”. Instead of doing research to measure our performance, she said, PR should be conducting research that will produce better results for our organizations

• I added to the District conference research conversations by presenting with my colleague Dane Wiseman on the topic, “Your PR Data Has A Story”. Part of dissecting the behaviors we want to reinforce or change is finding out what motivates our audiences, and what’s blocking the behaviors we want from our audiences. We need to make sure our research is asking the right behavioral questions so we have the information we can use to develop the right PR strategies.

For a copy of my Powerpoint on “PR Storytelling with Behavior-Based Data”, email me at rschell@jjwpr.com. For more information on Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel & Partner,       Jackson Jackson & Wagner

 

CLEAN OUT YOUR COMMUNICATIONS JUNK DRAWER WITH A COMMUNICATION AUDIT

It is a time for new beginnings, fresh thinking, purging files and finding different ways of doing things.  If you’ve been managing your communications function for a while — or, if you’ve recently inherited the position and found yourself asking, “why are we doing what we’re doing?” – it is a good time for an audit.

The word “audit” is a bit daunting, but really what we’re talking about is an evaluation of what you’re doing now to see if it is:

  • in line with your organization’s goals… your communication department’s goals should be directly aligned with those of your organization
  • meeting the needs of your stakeholders, because if it isn’t, then why are you doing it?
  • driving knowledge and behaviors so that stakeholders act on what has been communicated

A communications audit examines what you are doing now to assess what’s working and not working for your critical audiences.  It helps focus on communications vehicles and messaging that has the greatest impact.

JJ&W asks the following questions when conducting a communication audit:

  1. What does your organization’s communication system look like?  We look at how communication is flowing from the top down, the bottom up and across the organization (laterally).  Do you have a good balance of one-way and two-way communication tools?
  2. What audiences are you reaching with each communication tool? Have you asked these audiences how they would like to be communicated with, or are you just bombarding them from all directions and hoping something sticks?
  3. Have you accounted for the changing demographics of your target audiences? If you’re a utility who is geared toward communication with the senior generation, have you thought about how you might change things up to reach the millennials who are becoming your customers – and will be with you for a long time to come?  Are you communicating in the right languages (not actual languages but idioms of that generation)?
  4. Are the key messages resonating with your audiences? Are those messages driving understanding and behavior?
  5. How effective are your digital communication tools, including social media? Are your target audiences using and responding? Are they clear on where to get their “need to know” vs. their “nice to know” communication?
  6. Do all your communications look like they come from the same organization? Do they have an easily-recognizable family look & feel that immediately lets audiences know where to find information?
  7. Have you gotten the perspectives of more than the senior management team? Have you talked to the front-liners who may not be sitting at desks with computers to find out how, and if, they’re getting the communication they need to do their job?

And if you want to leverage the real power of communications… how about some questions to probe the culture at your organization?  Do people perceive they can “fail forward” or are they fearful of taking risks that might result in punishment?  Do they feel communication is transparent, or does leadership hold things “close to the vest?”

This is an excellent time to clean out your “communications junk drawer” – get rid of anything that’s not working and fill in the gaps with effective methods and messages that are right for the stakeholders you are trying to reach.

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com /603/770-3607.

Internal Communication Is King: Kelly Ripa/Michael Strahan Controversy Is Case In Point

For years, JJ&W has counseled its clients, often anxious to rush out the door of external communication with whatever news they have, that their first stop needs to be communication to any internal audiences affected by that news.  It’s the priority.  And it’s common courtesy.  Period.

And we don’t stop with asking them to communicate with their employees – all of their employees, including the part-time flight attendants in the airlines, the cafeteria workers in the schools and the receptionists (especially the receptionists) at the desks of the Fortune 50 companies, who are likely going to be fielding the calls about the news when it gets out.  Go deeper than that.  In the case of the schools, think of your Board members, your parents, your alumni, your volunteers, your coaches of sports teams…even the vendors who are considered your business partners.  There is an easy way to determine who should be told before the rest of the world hears the news.  Think to yourself, if you were that employee, that volunteer, or that coach, wouldn’t you want to hear this from the organization you’re connected to before everyone else does?

Given that as criteria, it’s truly bizarre why Disney and ABC executives did not figure out that Kelly Ripa – the co-host of “Live” – would not deserve the courtesy of finding out that her co-host Michael Strahan was going to be leaving the show to go full-time at Good Morning America, where he is currently working part-time, in advance of everyone else.  Their rationale?  “She’s going to be upset no matter when she finds out.”  Perhaps, but what they forgot to think about was how they would feel if they were in her shoes and how much more upset she would be about the lack of communication and common courtesy extended to her in a place she has worked for over 2 decades.  So she gave them some time to think about what they had done while she took a few unplanned days off, as they scrambled for substitute co-hosts and flew their highest-level executives in to deliver a personal apology.

Kelly’s re-entry to the show today (on April 26th) was beautifully executed and appeared very genuine, and she delivered it to an audience that showed her the love and support she deserved with a standing ovation that went on until she finally shut it down to make her statement.

After acknowledging in a very honest way that she had taken some time off to process the news and really think about what she wanted to say in response (with some humorous comments about ABC likely having snipers with tranquilizer darts if she went “off message”), she talked about the fact that this situation had started “a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and most importantly, respect in the workplace.”  Amen to that!  She went on to talk about her longevity with the show and that it was a place that felt like family to her.  And all of us could imagine what it would feel like if family kept such an important piece of information from us.  It wouldn’t feel good.

She ended by acknowledging the personal apology by the parent company and the happiness she felt about the new opportunity for Michael – and he reciprocated with a heartfelt response.  If there was tension there, it didn’t show, and they went diving into the entertainment portion of the show with their usual carefree back-and-forth banter.  So it ended happily, at least for now.   The proof will be in the pudding when her contract comes up for renewal.

The lesson for the leaders of any organization – be it of a national television show, a corporation or a school – is really as simple as the Golden Rule.  Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Period.  Internal communication will always be, and should be, your priority for news that impacts members of your internal family.

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com

The Power of Triggering Events

When we talk about motivating behavior change, we tell people that simply making them aware of something rarely drives them to that behavior.

They usually need a triggering event – whether it is naturally occurring, like a time of year or an anniversary – or “manufactured” – something the organization does – to gently push stakeholders toward a behavior. The possible exception to this is advertising during the holidays, when people are already poised and ready to deliver the ultimate desired behavior in a retailer’s
eyes…buying merchandise!

Even with the naturally occurring triggering event of the holidays, though, companies are creating “manufactured triggering events” to drive behavior in the form of sales, coupons, emails, apps that entitle the shopper to discounts etc. Once they get you into the store to purchase what you came for, of course, their ultimate desired behavior is that you make some spontaneous additional purchases of cool stuff that catches your eye.

New Years as a triggering event? Everyone in the personal training/fitness facility world knows that New Years is the perfect triggering event for signing people up for health and fitness programs…since they have probably just made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, train for a specific event or just lead a
healthier lifestyle.   (Personally, I try to avoid going to the gym at peak hours during January  because it is packed! I wait until February to resume my normal routine,  knowing that even the best-intentioned folks will have trouble sticking to their newly-adopted behavior without some positive reinforcement to keep them
going).

In our business, the New Year is a triggering event for our clients to finalize budgets, conduct strategic planning and re-evaluate their activities from the past year … what’s been working and what hasn’t?

This is the time of year that we like to remind them how JJ&W can be helpful in many areas beyond our crisis communication work…including (but not limited to) research, strategic planning and employee communications. The intermediate behavior we want is for them to think of us when they have a need for public relations or management consulting services…the ultimate desired behavior is that they call us to help them on  whatever problem or issue
they are about to tackle.

The question for you is: As we enter the New Year, what are the triggering events to get YOU to move YOUR key stakeholders toward specific desired behaviors?

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com

Helmetless Practices: How Behavior Change Strategy Is Paying Off For The UNH Football Team

Because JJ&W has counseled the Brain Injury Association of NH for a number of years, we’ve gotten very familiar with the concussion issue – it has certainly been in the spotlight with triggering events like the death of Junior Seau of the San Diego Chargers and more recently, the movie “Concussion”.

Of course, any social problem involving behavior change is of interest to us…but I was particularly fascinated by the approach UNH Kinesiology Professor Erik Swartz took with “Helmetless Tackling Training” or HUTT, pilot-tested on the UNH football team.  Swartz, using the “Head Health Challenge II” research grant funded by the NFL, Under Armour and General Electric, worked with the UNH football coaching staff to incorporate a tackling drill, with half of the players wearing helmet… the other half, not.

Head impact sensors worn by all the players collected data on the impacts.  The question:  would removing helmets cause players to adjust their tackling technique and build muscle memory that would result in a safer tackling technique and fewer head injuries going forward?

The results from the 2014 football season:  a decrease in head impacts of almost 30% among those who participated in the helmetless drills – in practices and games where helmets are worn. In the words of Schwartz:  “this is the first study out there to really focus on changing behavior to mitigate risk rather than finding ways to accommodate it.”

Breakthrough thinking, and the next steps will be developing appropriate training for players at the high school level and below – those audiences, and their behaviors, need to be studied and carefully considered first.

Many lessons to be learned for public relations practitioners as they design behavior-change programs for their clients!

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com

Issues Anticipation for Healthcare Institutions

There are a wide variety of issues that can cause organizations significant heartburn — if not outright damage — and occasionally, destruction.

It is the role of the public relations practitioner to conduct an ongoing scan of the environment (from both an internal and external perspective) to predict and prepare for these issues before they develop into crisis situations.

It is essential to know how to identify different types of issues,  find “triggering events” that could  spotlight these issues and have action plans in place for dealing with them.

JJ&W has prepared this piece from the perspective of our clients in the healthcare industry – though the issue categories and preparation tips are applicable to all industries. It is based on lessons learned firm’s long history of preparing for and dealing with issues (and crisis situations) and it integrates our behavioral approach to public relations. Click here for article

Your feedback is welcomed!

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com

Pan-Mass Challenge: A Case Study In Establishing A Signature Event

This past August was my 4th opportunity to ride in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), a 2-day bike ride across Massachusetts ending in Provincetown, to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The PMC raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. I’ve been reflecting on what they do right from a PR perspective, and there is a long list.
Goal-Driven: The PMC raised $45 million in 2015 with a goal of $46 million in 2016. Visit www.pmc.org and check out the Vimeo with PMC founder Billy Starr – powerful!

Get An Early Commitment: Those of us who are repeat riders are signing on the dotted line in January for an August ride, giving us ample time to train & fundraise. We put our credit cards down & then pray we can do the hard work ahead. One PMC t-shirt says it all: COMMIT – You’ll Figure It Out!

Establish A Clear Mission: The PMC’s mission is “Our hope is to provide Dana-Farber with the necessary resources to discover cures for all cancers”. Tough not to be for that one.

Design Healthy Competition. The fundraising can be overwhelming, but the PMC is a well-oiled machine that provides plenty of helpful tips, templates and systems to help you succeed. The “heavy hitter” and “top 10%” levels urge those with a competitive spirit to go above the required minimums.

Create Ambassadors. Last year the PMC attracted 6000 riders and 4000 volunteers – it takes everyone to pull off an event of this magnitude, from the folks pouring Gatorade at rest stops to those loading luggage bound for specific locations. Participation is infectious – all of us that have ever experienced a PMC will tell you to join the movement! There is nothing like seeing the crowd lining the streets with cowbells and signs, thanking
you for what you are doing, to pump you up as you muscle through the final miles.

Have A Passionate Champion Leading The Charge. Billy Starr founded the PMC in 1980, and he is out there creating events around check presentations, raising awareness through speaking engagements and touting accomplishments to keep everyone motivated.

For more information about the PMC, visit www.pmc.org – and consider becoming a sponsor, a rider, a volunteer!

Robin/rschell@jjwpr.com