Guest Author 21 Sep 2023 // 12:23PM GMT
Endometrial cancer (EC) accounts for 90% of all uterine cancers, making it the most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S. Incidence and mortality rates continue to rise, yet discussion around this disease lags far behind other cancers often referred to as “women’s cancers”. September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, and the Spot Her initiative is on a mission to end the silence around endometrial cancer and give it the spotlight it deserves.
MMC Group SVP Marissa Festante, MMC VP Jeff Walters, and Eisai Director of Oncology Communications Michele Randazzo join a discussion with PRovoke Media to share their insights into the power of healthcare communications through a human-first lens which brought this initiative to life.
How did you infuse a ‘human-first’ approach when creating Spot Her?
MARISSA FESTANTE (MMC): At MMC, one of our core values is our human-first philosophy. We respect each other’s boundaries, listen to each other’s point of view, and support each other without judgment. We believe these are some of the ways we create the best creative environment for ideating impactful and groundbreaking campaigns. For Spot Her, our human-first approach was the thread that wove the program together. When tackling an unfairly culturally taboo subject like gynecologic health, leading with empathy and empowerment was crucial to start breaking down the stigma. Empowering all people with a uterus who may be at risk to take control of their health, encouraging them to use their voice, and amplifying the stories of people living with endometrial cancer (EC) were the fundamental approaches that helped make the Spot Her campaign a success.
MICHELE RANDAZZO (Eisai): Eisai is rooted in a concept we call human health care, or hhc. It’s what makes us who we are, and I love that MMC shares a similar philosophy. To us, hhc means giving our first thought to people and patients in everything we do: how we can support people to live their lives to the fullest and achieve social good by relieving health anxieties and reducing health disparities. It’s the spark that ignites our imaginations when it comes to building impactful programs like Spot Her. Before embarking on this campaign, we spent time with patients, HCPs, and advocacy organizations—listening to and learning from them—to understand the everyday challenges people living with endometrial cancer face, and to uncover the true unmet needs of the individuals affected by this disease. We found that education and dialogue were key to driving awareness of this disease, to help people spot the signs of endometrial cancer early, when it may be more treatable. Utilizing this insights-driven approach rooted in human empathy, we created Spot Her to help address those gaps in the community.
Spot Her is now in its third year. Can you tell us about how the program has evolved and the strategy behind its evolution?
JEFF WALTERS (MMC): We launched Spot Her right in the thick of COVID-19. With all the news and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, the landscape was incredibly challenging—especially when it came to securing media coverage and hosting in-person video shoots or events. So, we went in with a digital-first mindset to spark a conversation online about gynecologic health by partnering with a number of social influencers to get the word out in an authentic way. Two influencers were real patients who shared their personal experience with endometrial cancer, which we found helped inspire others to speak up and share their experiences, too. We invited one of those patient influencers to join us on the PRovoke Podcast where we gave the communications industry a sneak peek at our work with influencers in healthcare through the campaign: Inside Look At The World Of Pharma Influencers.
In year two of the program, we evolved our strategy by taking a media-first approach and emphasized awareness efforts among the Black community. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages and with more aggressive types of endometrial cancer, so collaborating with a known figure that would help reach and resonate with this community was key. We partnered with a celebrity spokesperson who not only had an authentic connection to endometrial cancer and gynecologic health, but was also an outspoken advocate for women’s empowerment and a recognizable voice and figure among the Black community. This partnership coupled with our continued digital and influencer efforts helped drive extensive digital and media coverage, reaching millions of people across the country.
Now in its third year, we’re approaching things with a grassroots lens to get Spot Her and tangible resources directly into the hands of those who need it most. We’re bringing a Spot Her mobile truck on a tour in key cities across the U.S. to educate communities about endometrial cancer. We kicked off the tour last month in New York City, right in time for Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, which is September. People were eager to learn about the Spot Her campaign, don a peach fanny pack that we’ve made our awareness symbol for the disease, and show their support by snapping a picture in our photo booth. This year, for every photo taken in the booth, Eisai is donating $1 (up to $20,000) towards advocacy organizations who provide support for people living with endometrial cancer. Being out there in the community and hearing about how grateful people were for the important work we are doing—that’s the stuff that makes it all worth it.
How have influencers contributed to the success of the campaign year over year? Can you explain the process of selecting these influencers to reach your core audiences?
FESTANTE (MMC): Influencer partnerships have played an integral role throughout each phase of Spot Her. The campaign is tackling the “taboo” subject of gynecologic health and the only way to start breaking down that stigma is to show people it’s ok to talk about it. We specifically identified female influencers that weren’t afraid to speak up about women’s health and advocate for women’s empowerment. As Jeff mentioned, we worked with a wide range of influencers in our first year to spark a conversation online about gynecologic health. In year two, we continued our partnership with some of those influencers who received the highest engagement to take part in our Spot Her virtual walk and encourage their followers to join in.
WALTERS (MMC): Endometrial cancer is on the rise across races and ethnicities, but we're seeing greater incidence and mortality rate increases among communities of color. And the Black community is particularly vulnerable, as only 53% of Black women with the condition receive an diagnosis when the cancer is in early stages. The Spot Her campaign is hoping to change that by connecting with these audiences and educating them about endometrial cancer via voices in their own communities. We want to ensure the influencers we collaborate with represent diverse backgrounds and span across generations. While endometrial cancer is most common among women who have gone through menopause, it’s on the rise among younger women between the ages of 20 to 49, when fertility may be an important concern.
How have advocacy partnerships helped reach core audiences for this campaign?
RANDAZZO (Eisai): Advocacy partnerships are an essential part of Eisai’s process for identifying and creating innovative solutions to address the challenges faced by patients and the people who care for them. We created Spot Her in partnership with SHARE Cancer Support (SHARE), Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), and Black Health Matters, with the shared goal of helping to inspire women across generations and cultures to listen, advocate, and put the health of the women in their lives – their mothers, their aunts, their sisters, their friends, and themselves – first. These advocacy groups are at the forefront of gynecologic cancer issues, and supporting those who are disproportionally affected. We collaborate across the lifespan of the program, starting with empathy interviews and insight generation, all the way through execution and amplification. Our partners truly extend the reach of Spot Her so that we can provide needed education and resources to underserved communities and those actively seeking help with the most immediate need. Then, when it’s time to start ideating for the next iteration, we repeat the process (of need identification, ideation, planning and execution) armed with new knowledge and insights from the latest phase of the program. This level of collaboration helps ensure that we are continuously centering the true needs of the communities we seek to serve and that those voices are represented throughout the process. This is vital to building trust and making a real impact.
What do you hope to achieve with Spot Her this year?
WALTERS (MMC): This year, we’re taking a hyper local-focused approach to spreading the Spot Her message with our mobile pop-up called “The Spot” that is making stops in various cities. We identified areas of the country with higher incidence and mortality rates, as well as communities with a larger Black population to take our activation. Our first stop was in Harlem, New York City with more stops coming up in Washington, DC; Edison, NJ; Atlanta, and Chicago (check out our site SpotHerforEC.com for more details on these events). Looking ahead, my hope is that this educational tour will inspire these impacted communities to feel empowered to speak up about gynecologic health. Through this education and dialogue, hopefully more people will spot the signs early and speak to their doctor.
FESTANTE (MMC): Since this campaign started and throughout its evolution, influencers and personal storytelling have been at the core of our efforts to spread the word about endometrial cancer. To promote these events this year, we’re partnering with local influencers in these key markets to help get people to visit “The Spot.” We’re continuing to identify influencers that represent the diversity of the communities affected by endometrial cancer and those that share a passion for women’s health and empowerment. My hope is that Spot Her continues to inspire others to join the dialogue about gynecologic health, empower others to share their stories, and help build a supportive online community.
RANDAZZO (Eisai): Shifting our focus to the grassroots level, my hope is to drive impact for people in underserved communities by providing education, resources, and support. We know that creating meaningful change in the face of multiple intersectional barriers to care requires time and effort, and it takes a village. That’s why in addition to our continued partnerships with SHARE, FORCE, and Black Health Matters, we’ve also welcomed ECANA (Endometrial Cancer Action Network for African Americans) and Foundation for Women’s Cancers (FWC) as our newest partners to expand our ability to share credible resources about endometrial cancer with the Black community and the professionals who treat them. When people rally around a cause, that’s when change happens. By spreading knowledge and awareness of the symptoms of endometrial cancer across families, generations, and neighborhoods in our own communities, together we can help normalize conversations and eradicate the stigma about gynecologic health, and end the silence around endometrial cancer.