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January 28, 2011

Guest Blogger: Alexson Calahan, American Heart Association

Happy National Blueberry Pancake Day, fellow marketers and PR pros!

Oh. Were you unaware that this fine January day was set aside for raising awareness of the plight of blueberry-less pancakes across this great nation? And you call yourself an American. Tsk tsk.

Every single day, week and month is spoken for. Each one meant to raise awareness and celebrate one group’s chosen cause.

But does it make a difference? Is it worth the energy non-profit staff (like me) and volunteers pour into National Radon Action Month (January), American Heart Month (February) or Women’s History Month (March)?

My answer is a whole-hearted, “Yes.”

If your activities and promotions for that month/week/day are lined up with the goals of your cause, you can be successful and all that work is worth it.

For example, next month is American Heart Month and so we at the American Heart Association are all a-buzz using words like “engagement,” “awareness” and “education.” American Heart Month for us, is not a fundraiser (though a few extra coins are certainly appreciated) or necessarily about getting butts in seats at events.

What it is about is truly educating people, especially women, about their risk for heart disease and stroke. Right now, only 65% of women know that cardiovascular diseases are their number one killers. This fact becomes even scarier when you know that 80% of cardiac events like heart attacks can be prevented.

Thirty-five percent of our mothers, sisters and best friends don’t even know that they are most likely to die from heart disease, or that it can be prevented.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to call my mom, my two sisters and my Nana and ask them to look after their hearts.

And as a cause marketer, I want to inspire that feeling in more Iowans. If 10,000 Iowans learn something new about their hearts next month, we’ll have made progress. If 1,000 Iowans tell the women they love to treat their hearts better, we’ll have made a difference. If 100 Iowans take action and choose to live heart-healthy, I can save lives. You can save lives.

American Heart Month is tracked in media hits, social media engagement and website visits – don’t get me wrong. We’re watching what we’re doing and improving every year. But, what the month is really about is sharing the message with many (because 90% of us are sitting at our desks right now with risks for heart disease), encouraging those so moved to share and being there when people are ready to save their own lives.

I encourage you to make it your mission to be more conscious of how you treat your heart for the next month. I ask you to show your support by wearing red on National Wear Red Day (Friday, February 4) or even attending our casting call for national spokeswomen. Because what makes American Heart Month and other awareness months worth it isn’t the million-plus media score, it’s the smaller numbers – lives saved and lives changed.

Alexson Calahan is the Communications Director at American Heart Association in Des Moines, Iowa.
AdMavs note: If you are attending #CIB on Friday, Feb 4, the American Heart Association and all of us at Lessing-Flynn encourage you to wear red! Also, check the Info2Go site in February to see what they are doing to support AHA.

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