Get Organized - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Get Organized


Pharmaceutical Executive


People from Hawaii to New Hampshire were featured in the exhibit, which debuted in New York City, and has traveled to cities across the country for the past three years. The photos and the stories behind them were also featured on the campaign Web site, along with information for patients about diabetes care, management, and support. Thousands of people have been touched by these stories on site at the exhibits, online, and through media coverage. This campaign could not have been successful without a deep understanding of the diabetes community.

Relationship Building Community organizers frequently utilize the "community wheel" model to build a core action team (culled from public and private sectors such as education, government, and business) to guide the work needed to enact or change policy. Marketers must also identify key influencers and potential partners deemed appropriate to mobilize the target audience on behalf of a brand. By incorporating key constituents and third parties into the process, marketers can develop a strategy that deploys (or at least recognizes) the role each member of the "community wheel" plays in building an effective community outreach program.

The partnership between Novo Nordisk and the national nonprofit Divabetic—a community-based group providing diabetes education and encouragement to women living with or at risk for diabetes—was formed in response to a need in the diabetes community to improve quality of life, share knowledge, and raise visibility. What began as a one-time fundraising endeavor became a grassroots movement to empower women by allowing them to connect and challenge each other to take charge of their diabetes.

Novo Nordisk worked with Divabetic to bring the "Makeover Your Diabetes" program to cities with a high incidence of the disease, providing education and empowerment alongside free beauty makeovers from expert stylists. The confidence-building program highlights themes like "glam more, fear less," and focusing on positive self-image and "twist and shout" exercises, with tips for integrating movement into daily life.

To date, more than 5,000 people have taken part in the program. "Makeover Your Diabetes" has been an effective partnership because it recognizes that as women play a critical role in driving change in their homes and communities, they can also help themselves and others to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Action In community organizing, the call to action is getting out the vote. Grassroots execution is invaluable to both community organizers looking to change policy and pharma marketers looking to change attitudes and behavior. For marketers, this is accomplished through local media, local experts, and local partnerships.

Recently, Novo Nordisk partnered with Cathedral International, a church serving African American and Hispanic communities—populations that often show a high prevalence of diabetes. Blood sugar screenings were held in three member churches in New Jersey, which also displayed the "Be the Face of Change" photo exhibit. Local pastors encouraged congregants to attend.

Here we see the domino effect at work, from umbrella organization to local churches and pastors, and finally to parishioners who encouraged their friends and families to attend. The screenings became a community event. Mobilizing members of this church community at a local level resulted in the screening of nearly 400 congregants, including nearly half the parishioners in Asbury Park and nearly one quarter in Plainfield. Novo Nordisk is reinforcing its partnership with the Cathedral by sponsoring a series of events throughout 2009 to engage multiple groups within the church.

Keep the Conversation Going

Novo Nordisk's relationship and community building—on both a national and a local level—are a prime illustration of what can be achieved when brands unite their target audience toward a common goal, much as a community organizer would. By wedding the principles of effective community organizing with the basics of brand marketing, pharma marketers can take their brands beyond merely dispensing a one-way message to a two-way conversation and ongoing relationship with consumers. As Barack Obama proved on both levels, change is made one person at a time.

Megan Svensen is executive vice president, MMC Health, Marina Maher Communications. She can be reached at


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