#BreakTheStigma: A Case Study on Uniting a Community of Advocates Online

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BreakTheStigma LogoIn our last guest post, we took a look at how 2U utilized BuzzStream to build valuable networks online. Specifically, we noted how Buzzstream allows us to engage communities, encourage thought leadership, and provide innovative content on behalf of our university partner program MBA@UNC. This time, we will look at how 2U’s inbound marketing team leverages BuzzStream to execute successful campaigns that unite communities of advocates spanning multiple disciplines around a common cause for a mental health program.

Counseling@Northwestern is The Family Institute at Northwestern University’s online Master of Arts in Counseling program. The Family Institute dedicates itself on educating the next generation of well-rounded and culturally competent counselors who work with individuals, families, and groups from all walks of life. Much of what we communicate to students in Counseling@Northwestern is reflected in how we generate awareness around the program. Much like counselors do on a clinical level, our communications team strives to interact directly with marginalized communities and empower their advocacy initiatives.

Counselors are especially passionate about combatting stigmas associated with mental illness. For Mental Health Awareness Month, Counseling@Northwestern sparked a dialogue titled “Break the Stigma,” aimed at uniting mental health advocates in an effort to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health and illness. BuzzStream was a critical tool for recruiting support and establishing trusted long-term relationships with thought leaders. Below we demonstrate how Buzzstream helped us build relationships with 50 reputable mental health organizations and incorporate their thought leadership to promote a unifying message.

Launching a Campaign

The format of our #BreakTheStigma campaign was structured around identifying thought leaders in the mental health space in disciplines ranging from eating disorder awareness to the treatment of manic depression. We asked each thought leader how their organization is tackling stigmas around mental illness with the intention of curating their responses into an inspiring list of initiatives the public can get involved in. Our ultimate goal was to demonstrate the diverse ways mental health practitioners, thought leaders, and organizations are actively participating in breaking stigmas around mental health. To generate engagement amidst such highly nuanced mental health spaces, we needed to ensure that our communication was tailored to the expertise of each individual thought leader we reached out to. Buzzstream was a critical component in allowing us to unite these different individuals around a common cause.


After creating a list of prospective collaborators based on their mental health discipline, we recorded them in BuzzStream at which point it was time to conduct outreach to engage responses to our call-to-action. BuzzStream was instrumental in successfully executing the #BreakTheStigma campaign in three key ways:

1. Customized communication

Given the expansiveness of the mental health space, we needed to ensure that we created a number of customizable, personalized email templates. BuzzStream allowed us to draft, label, and store as many templates as we needed.

In researching what inspires counseling students to join the mental health profession, we’ve discovered that most students are intrinsically motivated by emotional factors. Many mental health advocates and professionals have deeply personal ties to the disciplines in which they are dedicating their work. In communicating with professionals such as these for #BreakTheStigma, we had to ensure that our varied communication touched upon the unique passion points of each thought leader.

Using BuzzStream’s template customization feature, we were able to efficiently execute hyper-relevant communication to a diverse audience of advocates efficiently.


2. Scheduled tailored outreach

When it came time to begin outreach, we chose to do so using BuzzStream’s email tool. Mental health advocates are individuals who are deeply grounded in their communities and spend their time at the grassroots level of their causes. As a result, thought leaders in this space can be hard to reach immediately online. Buzzstream allowed us to implement and track first and second touches with our busy advocate contributors.

To be sure our thought leaders were reached effectively, we also made use of Buzzstream’s ability to set the time/date scheduling function. Remaining cognizant of the busy schedules of our grassroots advocates, we made sure that we were reaching them at times when they were most likely to be checking their inboxes.


3. Established meaningful relationships

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.45.00 PMUtilizing all of the tools BuzzStream has to offer allowed us to add a touch of humanity to the frequently robotic process of email outreach. Our personalized communication and our ability to tailor our outreach to the logistical needs of each advocate enabled us to establish trust with our thought leaders. That “human” factor is what we believe was the key contributor to our campaign’s success. It established us as an authentic partner as opposed to an automated solicitor.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.43.06 PMAs a result of these relationships, #BreakTheStigma garnered 50 responses from organizations as prominent as The National Center for PTSD and NO MORE. In addition, #BreakTheStigma inspired a Twitter chat featuring 11 expert panelists including PsychCentral.com founder, Dr. John Grohol, and award-winning Latina mental health activist Dior Vargas. With so many participating organizations and our panelists’ strong social media following, #BreakTheStigma reached nearly 2.5 million impressions on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 12.44.05 PMTo further stress the value of ensuring our collaborators’ full buy-in, their participation went above and beyond simply responding to our ask. They willingly advertised their support of #BreakTheStigma to their vast online networks, enlisting their communities’ involvement. We saw participation on Twitter and Facebook where individuals shared how they were also breaking mental illness stigmas. We believe this contributed greatly to the incredible reach of our Twitter chat. Through authentic personalized communication we were able to elevate this truly meaningful conversation and generate trust with both our partners and our readers.

Bottom line: BuzzStream Was The Glue

The art of communication is a challenge, especially when you are working within an emotionally driven community spanning varied disciplines. BuzzStream housed our collaborator list and helped us organize contact information in a way that was accessible. It facilitated efficient, personalized outreach with its emailing and template capabilities. Lastly, the ability to schedule emails allowed us greater flexibility and the ability to reach our on-the-ground contributors more effectively.

The tools bolstered a truly authentic community-building strategy, helped us communicate in a personal and effective way, and allowed us to form trusted relationships. Ultimately, BuzzStream was the glue that held #BreakTheStigma together and assisted in uniting and elevating authoritative voices around a common cause.

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Megan Dottersmuch

Megan Dottermusch is an inbound marketing manager at 2U, where she develops and designs creative content on behalf of Counseling@Northwestern, Northwestern University's online Masters in Counseling program. Megan is passionate about promoting health and nutrition, combating mental health stigmas, and practicing everyday mindfulness. Learn more about 2U @2Uinc (we’re hiring!) and connect with Megan at @Mdottermusch.

Disclaimer: The author's views are entirely their own, and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of BuzzStream.
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Website: http://2u.com

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