Talk about the world of social media influencers as they relate to chronic disease.
Chronic diseases occupy an online world of memes, hashtags such as #HospitalGlam, and people who provide information and insights to communities that too often feel they have no voice. One-in-three Americans and one-in-seven people worldwide live with a chronic pain disease; it needs its own set of influencers.
How do you influence patients?
By letting them know there is help, that there are options, ideas, tips, and tricks for things that don’t cost a lot of money you can do at home, and things that do cost money and how to navigate to get your insurance to cover them. I became a celebrity in the chronic pain world because I’m willing to share my story. I have also been on multiple reality TV shows, published nine books, and do in-person presentations.
Can you give an example of a recent campaign you worked on with a well-known brand?
Johnson & Johnson does a yearly conference called HealtheVoices. They invited me to Chicago and had me be a social media influencer at the conference. I also worked on a constipation ad shown during the Super Bowl in 2016, paid for by AstraZeneca. I served on a patient advisory board of five people, who helped write the script, choose the scenes, props, suggest edits, and help promote the ad in addition to it airing during the second quarter of the Super Bowl, wrote blog articles, and posted about the campaign. It was about opioid induced constipation and garnered a negative and positive response. People were talking about it and I know it helped the chronic pain community to have that commercial out there. If you ask people about the poop commercial during the Super Bowl, they remember it.
What are the challenges when working with health brands?
There are laws pharmaceutical companies have to abide by and follow and, as a social media influencer, if you are being paid by them you have to make sure you are following the same guidelines and rules. With pharma companies, everything has to go through their lawyers, and it takes a bit of time. It’s also important to be transparent. If a new medication is coming to market and you want me to [promote] it, I am careful and cautious. I tell people to check the FDA website and talk to their providers. I’m transparent so I’m not giving medical advice but rather saying, "Here is an option." Don’t start walking 5,000 steps a day because I say I so. Talk to your provider to check if it’s something you can do.