Q&A: Amy O’Connor at Eli Lilly and Company
Earlier this month, Eli Lilly and Company sponsored the first Digital Advocacy Institute conference, gathering speakers from associations, consulting firms and interest groups to talk about digital advocacy.
Hundreds of people turned out to hear a line of top-shelf speakers, including Jenna Golden of Twitter and Crystal Patterson of Facebook. The tips flowed all day long.
So we caught up with Amy O’Connor, the senior director of digital and social media communications at Eli Lilly, to see where the company plans to steer the Institute now that the first conference is in the books. Below are edited excerpts.
Because the Digital Advocacy Institute is an offshoot of the Campaign for Modern Medicines, can you speak to some of the challenges in forming a broad advocacy coalition like CMM?
There are many challenges in forming a broad advocacy coalition, including finding commonalities in our vision and cause. We have found that our broad-based health care policy mission has attracted partnerships with many organizations and individuals across the country. While every CMM partner has a different specialty or focus, we have a common goal: to ensure the public policies necessary to ensure individuals have access to safe, effective, and breakthrough medicines of today and tomorrow.
Health care advocacy seems really scattered across different diseases and issue areas. How do you think digital advocacy can bring some coherence to all the work being done by different groups out there? How are you defining the common ground among those working in the health sector?
I identify with the challenge that health care policy is scattered across disease, states and issue areas—there are many different areas to focus on! To overcome these challenges I approach our focus in four health policy areas: ensuring access to medicines, creating a 21st-century regulatory framework, fostering the cures of tomorrow, and improving patient care.
We believe that digital engagement will help shape the future of the health sector, and we want to make sure health advocates have the resources to take advantage of these tools. While many organizations have already developed a robust online presence, we believe that by working together we can all do more.
What aspects of digital advocacy have been the most challenging for CMM’s partners? Where do you see the largest skills gap, and what does the Digital Advocacy Institute initiative think is the most critical thing to get partners up to speed on in advocacy work?
Our CMM partners have faced a variety of challenges—from understanding and having executive buy-in to developing a broad digital engagement strategy, to which specific tools and tactics to use, depending on their needs. The Digital Advocacy Institute should provide a variety of information, from how to develop a digital strategy to specific tools to use, to help answer those needs.
How much training is the Institute going to reserve for campaign partners and how much will be public-facing?
Conferences will be available to the public. The webinars will be mixed between publicly available and for our partners only, depending on the topic.
What do you think of the broader availability of online resources for digital advocacy out there? Have advocacy professionals missed an opportunity by not educating the public on the tools, tactics, and strategies they use more broadly?
To date, I’ve seen a lot of content talking about how to be effective online, but I’ve struggled to find a resource where it is curated in one place for advocacy organizations. My hope is that the Digital Advocacy Institute will fill that gap and provide the resources and tools needs for our partners and other advocacy organizations to be effective online.
Do you think other industries can follow the Institute’s model, or is it unique to the particularities of the healthcare sector?
Campaigning to advance public policy goals has commonalities across sectors. But of course there are always specific challenges for each issue.
Let’s say the immediate legislative targets of CMM are met. How permanent a community of activism is Lilly trying to create here? Are there ways that participants can give direction to the goals?
We envision that there will be an ongoing need to give voice to advocates in the healthcare space. I’m proud to say that CMM has grown from a few dozen partners focused on a single piece of legislation to nearly 100 organizations and thousands of individuals focused on a wide variety of health care issues. I’m excited about how we can continue to grow our community and empower others. We really look to our partners to continue to guide our discussion and direction going forward.
The first Institute webinar is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. EST and is entitled, “The Influence Checklist: Assessing and Improving Your Advocacy Strategies.”
The description: “As online advocacy tools have grown, the diversity, complexity, and sheer volume of options has created a challenge for grassroots organizers. Identifying which strategies fit an organization’s needs, abilities, and culture becomes an annual puzzle. This presentation will walk through 23 tactics that will help you build relationships between your supporters and our lawmakers.”
A second webinar is scheduled for Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. EST and is titled, “How to Create Stories to Move the Hearts, Minds, and VOTES of Lawmakers.”
The description: “People have trouble remembering facts, but they never forget a good story. Effective advocacy appeals to the heart as well as the head and political health of the legislator. Learn how to organize and present your story through the tactics used by actors. This presentation will provide you with the seven key elements of public policy advocacy story-telling.
To register for Digital Advocacy Institute webinars, visit: digitaladvocacyinstitute.com/webinar.