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Ok. I will admit. I have a crush on Atul Gawande.

I love his book, The Checklist Manifesto and his no-nonsense approach to avoiding medical errors which plague health facilities in the US.

Rather than pointing fingers he provides a practical tool for hospital staff to ensure all steps are covered during hospital procedures.

In his recent article in the July 29th New Yorker, SLOW IDEAS: Some innovations spread fast. How do you speed the ones that don’t? Gawande examines how important global health practices can “stick” given the right approaches and tools.

As someone who has been following the literature and practice of behavior change for 30+ years, such a treat to come across this article that succeeds in explaining behavioral theory, research and practice in one easily digestible, non-academic article.

The big take from Gawande’s article….

The gold standard for behavior change is positive personal interaction. High touch (personal interaction, mentoring, one-to-one instruction) interventions in many cases can be more effective than low touch (mass media, instructional curricula, and technology) interventions.

So in keeping with his checklist approach I will share with you my checklist from his article:

1. Observe and understand the context for why a behavior is or isn’t being practiced
2. Learn why people are doing what they are doing- and what is getting in the way of doing things the right way
3. Don’t assume that technology is the best solution (especially in global health)
4. Instructions (a checklist) followed by careful mentoring can reinforce positive behaviors for health professionals
5. Mass media is helpful to sustain a behavior over time
6. Community interventions that require a community learning a new practice need: individual interventions that demonstrate the practice; observations of community members trying the practice and monitoring of the practice over time.

I’m eagerly awaiting his next book.

I happen to think the whole idea behind Congressman John Lewis’ book March is brilliant.

Brilliant because it combines a “new” genre – okay, graphic books are not really new but compared to Gutenberg I’m going with new – and a history lesson to teach audiences and generations about our past that we shouldn’t and can’t forget.


Talk is that it was the idea of one of his Congressional aide’s and subsequently his co-writer, Andrew Aydin who introduced the notion of a graphic book to tell the Congressman’s story. Joining up with award-winning artist, Nate Powell the first of the trilogy is being released this month.

Not only is he (and his writing and artist team) using a graphic novel format….he is taking it to Comic-Con 2013 to promote it.


I saw one news report…and countless news stories…that ask, “what is John Lewis doing at Comic-Con?”

Good question.

And it did just what it they wanted to do…grabbed my attention!

Congressman Lewis – a national hero – mingling with action heroes.

There’s a visual there, folks.

Why I think it is so brilliant…because it is a perfect example of a good strategic communication approach to reach new audiences and tell an important story.

National Hero tells his story….using graphic novel format….illustrated by an award-winning graphic illustrator….then promoted through traditional media outlets….NBC…NYTimes…press releases….and new outlets including….appearances at Comic-Con 2013.




Congressman (and national hero, in my opinion) John Lewis’ recount of the Selma March and eventually the Voters Right Act of 1964

Mobile phones have become very popular in development communication and I am constantly on the lookout for information on how they are being used in development programs and what’s working. In my quest to stay current I followed the news from the GSMA Global Mobile World Conference which was held last week in Barcelona Spain.
I can across some interesting intel from the non-profit group Mobile Intelligence. I learned that there is actually a term for my area of interest with its own acronym, Mobile for Development (M4D). Who knew! M4D describes s collection of over 1000 development services available through mobile phones. Mobile health dominates the M4D sector but others include money, entrepreneurship and education.
What is interesting to me is that the sector is maturing from using an SMS exchange of information to a more interactive; personalize communications which involves SMS and APPS for mentoring and delivery of services. These more complex services will require smarter phone, which are still out of reach for most people in developing countries.
Interestingly, the phone company heads were also addressing the issue of internet access for developing countries. Their interest is that there are 1 billion customers up for grabs for the company that can produce the affordable smart phone at the right price point. The race is on and it appears from all the talk at the conference that we will see these affordable smart phones in the near future.
With over 40% of mobile phone subscribers as of 2012, there is still a big and growing market for mobile phones, smartphones and M4D services!
It is wonderful when the private and development sectors all are working toward the same goal!
James E Burke died last week.

Though most folks won’t know him by name they will know his contribution to business management and crisis communication.

He was CEO of Johnson & Johnson when the Tylenol crisis happened in 1982.

Every business student and communication practitioner has studied and memorized the Tylenol case because of how successfully they, or he, handled a terrible event that potentially could have destroyed a company and a brand after the horrible deaths of seven people.

In later interviews he had said J&J didn’t have a crisis communication plan. He and the company made decisions as they went along and much can be attributed to the humanity in J&J’s response because of the type of person he was reported to be – very decent.

His instincts were to be honest and forthright – say you don’t know when you don’t and keep everyone current as information became available. Also to accept responsibility.

In Mr. Burke’s obit in NY Times, Jack Welch formerly chairman of GE said “[Mr. Burke’s response] taught corporations a lesson about candor. It was a huge legacy to leave: When you have a problem, deal with it openly, up front.”

It is the same basic instructions we as communication professionals tell our clients to do in day-to-day communication or during a crisis. What’s amazing is that 30 years hence individuals, organizations, and governments still don’t do it.

One last thought, there were other changes that came out of the Tylenol crisis – how OTC products are configured, packaged, and promoted – something to remember when at 2 a.m. you struggle to open a bottle of aspirin. It is for a reason.

Sound familiar…can you identify with this woman’s data trail?

NYTimes tracked One Woman’s Data Trail Diary ( and commented on how normal it probably is for most of us working souls. 

TIME Magazine dedicated an August edition to the digital state of the US and the world.

Yep, that’s us.

Technology in all forms is here to stay….so we need to adjust.

And with almost 60% of people in developing countries having access to smart devices of some form do their government leaders…and even development experts….under estimate the capability of their populations/citizens to use and benefit from emerging technologies.

Think B.I.G. folks. 

Communication professionals everywhere are grappling with how to monitor content and respond to misrepresentation and devastating rumors….USG and other governing bodies along with private companies, e.g., Google, FaceBook, are drawing lines on privacy, ownership, and censorship. Technology is moving much faster than policies, procedures, and regulations.

We need to contribute to setting the standards and the value of these technologies….not ignore them or be paralyzed by them.

For the past several years I’ve conducted communication workshops all over the world as well as have worked with other communication professionals to develop effective communication plans and the question that repeatedly comes up is – How do you respond to incorrect — read, negative and malicious – information posted on the internet and through social media.

Short answer: It is tough.

Anyone with an opinion and a computer or smart phone can do irreparable damage by spreading wrong information presented as Truth.

Even tomorrow’s first Presidential Debate of the 2012 election is unlike other Presidential Debates in that everyone watching the debate can be an expert and instantaneously show their approval or disapproval via social media.

I for one will watch with one eye on the debate and one on Twitter.

The worry we communication practitioners have about social media – though we see it as a marvelous media channel – is also shared with the media companies, i.e., Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. How do they better police themselves to keep inflammatory stories and information off their sites and hold users accountable while not infringing on free speech.

NY Times provides background on what key actors are discussing on this big issue which will have major impact over the next decade.