Lessons in Communications: Hosted in New York, Considering Global Perspectives

09 Jul 2019

By Elyse Winer, Strategy Intern, McCann Global Health

On Thursday, June 13th the Communications for Behavioral Impact (COMBI) Institute joined the McCann Global Health team for a discussion regarding how MGH works at the intersection of a private communications and public health causes. The COMBI Institute is a program that partners with the United Nations to grow the capacity of governments and non-governmental agencies in developing countries, specifically focusing on the development of staff in public health roles. Within the group that visited, more than 10 countries were represented, spanning areas from Bermuda to Tunisia.

The first segment of the meeting covered who MGH is, what the group does, and what processes the team uses in developing campaigns. Briana Ferrigno, the President of MGH, emphasized the combination of science, creativity and strategy that factors into each piece of work the group handles, noting the continuity of this practice throughout the McCann Health agency. Diving deeper into what separates McCann Health and MGH from other large communication agencies, Briana broke down McCann’s proprietary Truth to Meaning strategic framework, looking at how the methodology moves smoothly through the steps of problem definition, truth illumination, creative ignition, and experience activation. Lastly, the presentation touched on how MGH utilizes public-private partnerships to accomplish the majority of its work. One of the COMBI attendees, Virloy E. Lewin, Ed.D., MPH, MOH/Bermuda, was particularly interested in the unique nature of these partnerships and, “the important role the private sector can play in conjunction with public organizations […] and ultimately how this can effectively influence public health issues.”

Emily Carter, an account supervisor on the MGH team, then transitioned into how the team puts this framework into action, using the example of the anti-vaping campaign MGH developed with the Evelyn Lily Lutz Foundation.

Wrapping up the presentation, John Washburn, the creative director for MGH, discussed the role of creativity in influencing behavior change. John posed the question: how do you make people pay attention — demonstrating that no matter how important your message is, it is the task of a communications agency to use creative strategy to make people want to hear it. Through a few examples, John demonstrated the important truth that we all relate to stories that capture the “human experience” and the role this plays in a forming successful communications strategy.

The group then broke into an informal discussion, posing questions and debating best practices. The COMBI students then stayed to tour the building, work in their project teams and enjoy the happy hour hosted in HK’s. Both, MGH and the COMBI institute work towards the goal of positive social change and were happy to have the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge. MGH realizes that as experts in the social impact field, they have a lot of experience to share, as well as a lot to learn and always welcome opportunities to do so.

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