“In previous years, we developed successful [public service announcement] campaigns featuring celebrities with rheumatic diseases to show how common rheumatic diseases are and that they can affect anyone at any stage of life,” says Jocelyn Givens, director of Public Relations & Communications for the ACR. “For our 2020 campaign, we wanted to speak to the experience of living with a rheumatic disease in a way that patients could personally relate to. Our patient spokespeople’s candor, openness and willingness to share their stories with others was a huge driver of the campaign’s success.”
Example: Ms. Schofield shared her challenges facing the biases she experiences with lupus when others react to her parking in a handicapped spot or pre-boarding a plane early because she doesn’t look sick. She said, “Living with an invisible disease is not the end of the road. It’s an opportunity to rediscover yourself. It’s not a period. It’s just a comma on your journey in life.”
Ms. Schmidt and Ms. Givens both attribute part of the campaign’s success to the “Share Your Story” feature, which they felt made it very easy for anyone to participate. In total, 137 individuals shared their stories during the campaign.
“This ‘Share Your Story’ call to action gave patients a way to personally connect with the campaign and really seemed to resonate with our audiences,” Ms. Givens says. “We were pleased to see so many patients engage online and submit stories throughout the month.”
The ACR is already planning the theme for 2022’s Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, which will continue to engage the ACR’s stakeholders and raise greater awareness of rheumatic diseases and their impact.
Carina Stanton is a freelance science journalist based in Denver.