e-Advocacy: Getting Your 15 MB of Fame

By Seth Ginsberg, co-founder and President of the Global Healthy Living Foundation

Advocacy used to be serious. Now it is social.

Advocacy used to be Jerry Lewis asking us to open our wallets every Labor Day weekend or he was going to cry, and we did and he did.

Seth Ginsberg

Seth Ginsberg

Today it is us and our friends asking each other to click a box saying “Like” or fire off 140 characters to our followers, or to pledge online with a credit card so somebody can ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, or to watch a video with millions of other like-minded people who need help.

But, at the same time we are reaching people in ways they have never experienced, we are rekindling senses that include responsibility, action, and compassion.

It has been the combination of responsibility, action and compassion that has enabled the Global Healthy Living Foundation to evolve, from a 1990’s “dot-com” dorm room start-up patient organization called CreakyJoints.org, to the host organization of last month’s e-Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C., which convened more than 200 other organizations to learn about ways to use social media for advocacy.

Helping organizations understand the power of the Internet and the accompanying impact that is created by social media was the primary reason for partnering with Eli Lilly & Company to produce the first of what will be many e-Advocacy Summits. The mission of the e-Advocacy Summit, and its ongoing educational programs (advocacy texting, webinars, regional events, conference calls), is to evolve, engage and empower. The complete agenda for the inaugural summit, including topics, learning materials and videos are available at http://www.eAdvocacy.org.

Whether your organization is new to social media or you have already integrated it into your advocacy strategy, the digital landscape holds great promise. The keynote speakers, panelists and attendees at the e-Advocacy Summit shared enthusiasm for the future of advocacy. Everyone agrees that it’s changing. Understanding that change, and using it to improve health outcomes – and the collective mission of the attending organizations – is the goal of e-Advocacy.

Not since Jimmy Stewart received bags of letters in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, or Kris Kringle got the same as he stood before a judge in “Miracle on 34th Street”, has advocacy been so obviously powerful. But, it’s important to know that only the tactics have changed, not the strategy. Kids still got the message to Santa in that 1947 movie, just as they did in real life when they addressed letters to the North Pole.

Today, however, we don’t have to wait until Christmas to advocate. We are invited into a world of free and instant speech, courtesy of some of the biggest geeks on earth, where we have the ability to shout out loud, and depending on our creativity, it might be to an empty room or to a packed house 10 million times the size of Madison Square Garden.

Andy Warhol famously said that everybody wants 15 minutes of fame. GHLF executive director Lou Tharp less famously, but more appropriately, has now refined that: everybody wants 15 megabytes of fame. And it’s not getting it, it’s recognizing its fragility.

Seth Ginsberg is the co-founder and President of the Global Healthy Living Foundation (http://www.GHLF.org), non-profit patient advocacy organization dedicated to improving patient outcomes through education and improved access-to-care.

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