Cancer affects all of us in some way. It has personally touched our families, our friends, and we’ve all seen its devastation. After his son passed away from brain cancer, former Vice President Joe Biden was integral in launching the Cancer MoonShot 2020 initiative. According to its website, “The Cancer MoonShot 2020 Program is one of the most comprehensive cancer collaborative initiatives launched to date, seeking to accelerate the potential of combination immunotherapy as the next generation standard of care in cancer patients.”
The mission of Cancer MoonShot 2020 trickles down into state and local community missions. Organizations who in some way work with families touched by cancer are working hard to help implement the strategies of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 initiative. How are different forms of media – social, traditional, paid – working together to help this initiative take off on the local level? What strategies are the communications personnel launching to raise awareness? We spoke with Kira Smelser from Camp Good Days, in New York. Camp Good Days also launched its own grass roots initiative to end cancer, Cancer Mission 2020.
Q: What is your allocation of paid, earned, shared, and owned media?
A: We rely heavily on earned media and shared media – both social and traditional, with a small amount of paid media and paid promos, like t-shirts, buttons, posters, direct mail, etc. Examples of things we have done include sending out emails talking about the most common forms of cancer and who they affect to get the information out about cancer in general, but also about Cancer Mission 2020. The County Clerk also let us set up a table to ask people who were renewing their license etc. to sign the petition.
Q: What role does social media/traditional media play in your outreach?
A: We probably have a 50/50 split on using social and traditional media for outreach. We use Facebook and Twitter for social media, and we use these accounts to update people on information regarding Cancer Mission 2020 and also to share articles that relate to cancer research and legislature. We use social media to encourage people to share information about our website and to encourage people to sign the petition. We use traditional media frequently for outreach. We have radio spots encouraging people to visit Cancer Mission 2020’s website and to sign the petition, we have news coverage when we have events for Cancer Mission 2020, and we have articles in newspapers regarding Cancer Mission 2020 events and when new research comes out.
With the news media, we ask them to donate space and time. In the beginning, we recorded PSAs with people in the community doing a spot about the importance of finding answers to curing cancer. We then created a poster with their faces on it that was placed in newspapers. There were people ranging from the mayor, to congressmen, to local officials, to doctors, to business leaders.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise for you through this initiative?
A: My boss, Gary Mervis, said that the biggest surprise for him during this initiative was learning where the nation was in regards to cancer research. After talking with the Monroe County Health Department, he learned that cancer was the leading cause of death in Monroe County. For the first 30 years that Camp Good Days was running, its purpose was to help improve the quality of life for children with cancer and their families. In 2009, Gary attended ten funerals for campers from Camp Good Days and wondered why nothing with cancer seemed to be improving. After talking to many doctors at major cancer research centers and learning that there are the tools available to find the cure for cancer, he learned that there is just not much communication between researchers. It was surprising to learn that, as a nation, we were not close to finding the answers to cancer, and it was because of this surprising information, that Cancer Mission 2020 was started.
Q: What are your thoughts on the importance of different kinds of media helping people with cancer and their families find camaraderie?
A: I think that finding camaraderie is important in every aspect regarding cancer. All of the different kinds of media can help show children and their families that they are not alone. When cancer is being addressed on social media, in the news, on the radio, in newspapers, and in magazines, and in blogs, people affected by cancer see that there are people going through the same struggles that they are. It helps people to feel connected to other people that they may have never met. When there is information about cancer in the media, it not only informs people of where our society and the world are in regards to cancer research, but it can also call them to action, and inspire them to help get something done; to help promote the need to finding the answers to curing cancer. The more cancer is talked about, the more people will be aware of it, and what they need to do to help. Media helps to bring people together who have a common goal.
Q: What can individual people do to help raise awareness and draw attention to the initiative?
A: Share, share, share! Share the information you learn, share the website information, and share on social media. Sign our online petition! Any information you share regarding cancer initiatives and information is helping to get people informed and caring about finding the answers to cancer. Barack Obama’s initiative, Cancer Moonshot, headed by Joe Biden needs to be continued on, and that will only happen if people are supporting it and talking about it. In the same realm, our initiative, Cancer Mission 2020 will only continue on if people are supporting it and talking about it.
It is with the spirit of raising awareness and sharing information that News Generation and the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance have collaborated together with Camp Good Days organization. The media has become a tool for platforms and people alike. By using this tool to help those in need, we are exercising our ability to do good for those we may not even know. The MCA, an organization that offers information, resources, and hope to those battling mesothelioma, continues to partner with other groups and organizations to share information about how the Cancer Moonshot can positively affect those with cancer, especially rare forms of cancer. Using awareness campaigns, the MCA hopes to share information about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure that would otherwise be unknown. In the digital age, we have at our disposal any mediums of mass communication and this is just one example of how those can be used to make a difference.