Every September, the ACR and Simple Tasks recognize Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month (RDAM), and the RDAM 2020 campaign won top honors in three categories in the 2021 Ragan Public Relations (PR) Daily Awards. The ACR’s campaign was awarded with Health Care Communications Campaign of the Year, Best PR Campaign for Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing, and Best Patient-Focused Content.
The theme for RDAM 2020 was “Our Diseases May Be Invisible, But We’re Not.” The campaign’s call to action was for patients to share their stories of living with a chronic disease, which can often seem invisible to others.
“We’re thrilled that the ACR’s campaign elevating the voices and experiences of real patients was chosen for three top honors in Ragan’s prestigious PR Daily Awards program, especially during a year unlike any other,” says Erin Schmidt, senior advisor with Schmidt Public Affairs, Alexandria, Va. “This well-deserved recognition is a testament to the ACR’s ability to innovate, adapt and continue to successfully raise awareness of the prevalence and impact of rheumatic diseases in America.”
Schmidt Public Affairs collaborates with the College’s public relations experts on RDAM and other outreach efforts through Simple Tasks, which raises awareness about rheumatic diseases through advocacy, education and the direct voices of patients and providers.
About the Awards
The Ragan PR Daily Awards recognize the most outstanding public relations campaigns and initiatives of the year. The award program accepted entries from organizations worldwide, and award applicants are required to submit detailed entries, including campaign metrics, media coverage and creative materials.
Earning the Health Care Communications Campaign of the Year award is significant for the ACR and its members and the broader community of patients and providers who work to raise awareness about rheumatic disease.
The second award honors RDAM 2020 as the top PR Campaign for Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing, recognizing the campaign’s effectiveness in engaging its audiences and the media.
The award for Patient-Focused Content honors the heart of what Ms. Schmidt and her colleagues wanted to focus on for the campaign: elevating the voices of people living with chronic rheumatic diseases.
“Being awarded top honors in these three categories is especially significant given the enormous challenges of the ongoing pandemic and the important role of healthcare communications during COVID-19,” Ms. Schmidt says.
Why Voices of People with Rheumatic Diseases Matter
An essential element of the campaign that proved successful was the College’s collaboration with three patient spokespeople: Kim Schofield, Chandler Woods and Jill Abbott. Each provided feedback on the campaign’s theme and messaging. They shared their personal stories of what it’s like to live with a chronic disease that sometimes feels invisible.
“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.