“Most people don’t know that a watershed moment for prostate cancer was inspired by breast cancer,” reveals Colony Brown, vice president of marketing and communications at nonprofit organization ZERO. “In 1996, several groups of concerned patients, physicians and advocates came together to create the National Prostate Cancer Coalition – modeled on the National Breast Cancer Coalition – to stand up for men and their families impacted by prostate cancer and become a political force for a cure.”
Since renamed ZERO – The End to Prostate Cancer, the advocacy group advances research, encourages action and provides education and support to men and their families through its patient-centric programs.
Indeed, ZERO has long been a leading body in championing early detection for prostate cancer. Its Drive Against Prostate Cancer program pioneered free prostate cancer screening with two RV units travelling across the country testing more than 130,000 at-risk men and alerting them to potentially life-saving information.
This year, the organization continues its tradition with its “Faces of Hope” social media campaign for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month (PCAM) in September. Alongside driving education and awareness about the disease, the goal of the campaign is to create an open dialog about prostate cancer, facilitating a community where men can feel comfortable talking about the disease and, in turn, demonstrating that those affected by prostate cancer are not alone.
“Social media is critical in helping ZERO achieve its objectives of reaching the men and their families impacted by prostate cancer,” Brown explains. “By leveraging social media, we are meeting this population where they are most connected.”
Although prostate cancer now impacts one in seven men in the U.S.1, it’s still not often talked about, Brown explains. “Our goal is to highlight people’s individual experiences with the disease to provide relatable stories for American men. There is still a stigma attached to prostate cancer and many men avoid talking about it. We want men to know they don’t have to face prostate cancer alone and to create an environment where they feel comfortable talking about their hopes and fears.”
All the stories are being shared across multiple platforms and sub-campaigns using the #FacesofHope and #PCAM16 hashtags to spread awareness about prostate cancer and spark conversation within and beyond the patient community. “The campaign is highly organic,” Brown adds. “We are showcasing real men who have battled or are currently battling prostate cancer and who did not let their disease define them. This series of stories demonstrates there is still hope in the prostate cancer battle, and these men embody it.”
A team effort
The campaign also has an element of collaboration to it as ZERO has shared its initiative with the likes of nonprofit prostate cancer education and support network US TOO to ensure the message reaches as many people as possible. In addition, ZERO is tying the Faces of Hope campaign to other live events, namely its 16 prostate cancer awareness run/walks in cities nationwide.
“We seek to engage not just those men and their families who already know about ZERO and the work we do, but spread awareness to people we normally do not reach as a result of their friends sharing these stories on social media,” Brown points out. “We will certainly look at the likes, impressions and shares around this campaign, but the key indicator of success for us is awareness.”
Keeping things simple
“Don’t overcomplicate the campaign; the more organic, the better,” is Brown’s key message to onlooking advocacy groups. “Our primary focus is on the people who are battling prostate cancer. By sharing their stories directly, we’re personalizing the disease, as well as the hope and success that stem from efforts to fight it.”
Brown’s advice should be heeded considering ZERO’s current position in the patient advocacy world. The organization spearheaded the Department of Defense’s Prostate Cancer Research Program – a congressionally directed medical research program aimed at advancing research in prostate cancer. In addition, it has championed strategic alliances with national and local organizations and politicians to protect critical government funds for prostate cancer research.
“As the prostate cancer landscape has evolved, so have we. Today, we are the destination for taking action to end prostate cancer and making prostate cancer research a national priority.
“Our mantra to support, educate, and activate is mobilizing a like-minded, passionate and multigenerational army of advocates across the country to end prostate cancer.”
- American Cancer Society (2016). Key statistics for prostate cancer. Available from: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/prostate-cancer-key-statistics (accessed September 2016)