Blog & News


Prologue: My favorite part of advertising is meeting new creative minds and sharing and solving problems. This year, I began to ask friends, colleagues, clients (past and present), and even competitors in healthcare marketing to “Take 3” and discuss trends they see developing, explore challenges, and discuss opportunities. Since I know this is asking a lot of very busy folks, as motivation for every interview, Access will make a $500 donation to Make-A-Wish.

This month, we are breaking our traditional “Take 3” format to discuss a very important topic in more depth. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and our guest Stephanie (Stevi) Cannon is the Senior Director of Interactive Marketing at the nation’s largest pediatric hospital, Nationwide Children’s Hospital. In this series, she discusses the challenges and opportunities surrounding marketing this sensitive topic to families.

To learn more, visit:

From Stevi Cannon,

As marketers, we often speak to segmented, targeted audiences. It is rare to get the opportunity to be part of something that touches many different people on many different levels, but Nationwide Children’s Hospital has launched a campaign to do just that. We are raising awareness, driving advocacy, building corporate support, and funding research for children’s mental health.

May is mental health month and we are using that as momentum to build an audience. Barriers to care such as funding, access, and stigma contribute to the health services gap for children with mental health needs. That gap continues to widen and we have found a community of people who are ready to act and address it.

Why us

In some way, mental illness touches everyone. You may have a family member, friend, or child who is living with a mental illness. For children especially, the statistics are sobering. One in five children is living with a mental illness, and 50 percent of all lifetime mental illnesses start by age 14.

Part of our strategic plan focuses on improving behavioral health services for children through innovative care and research; this campaign was designed to move us toward that goal.

Marketing basics still apply

On Our Sleeves is a local and national, multi-channel campaign. We need to be considerate of our audience and use our channels wisely. With eight different ways to get involved (, we explored the best call to action per channel.

  • Social – By tracking the hashtag, #OnOurSleeves, our social channels serve as a leading indicator of how the campaign is performing, both organically and in the paid space. Also new is our national influencer campaign, all of whom were hand-picked for their authentic connections to mental health, which helps us get the right message to a built-in audience.
  • Web – All roads point to our new, robust website. Every ad, email, and link is tracked so we can truly learn what our audiences want and how they engage with our content.
  • Email – We have a push/pull approach to building our advocacy email list. Our ads will ask new users to join, while our existing newsletters will allow audiences to get to know the campaign and opt into that separate list.
  • Partners – Getting business partners involved in the movement was a KPI for us. Providing content and digital assets for them was an important piece of what our creative team built.
  • Media mix – Launching this locally, we knew what worked best, but admittedly, we’re trying some very new tactics with getting our advocacy message out on a national level. Since our brand is new to many, we hope to learn a lot from this first media flight.
  • Podcast – We have a physician-recorded podcast, so why not have that audience get their content bundled for them too?
  • Video – We are creating and sharing patient stories through video, which is a powerful way to engage audiences.

Best Practices

Since we’re all about sharing our learnings for how to help break stigma around mental health language, here are some best practice tips:

Focus on the person, not the condition. The basic concept is that the mental health condition (or physical or other condition) is only one aspect of a person’s life, not the defining characteristic.

  • Preferred: She is a person with schizophrenia. A patient with schizophrenia ….
  • Not preferred: She is schizophrenic. A schizophrenic patient ….

Mental Health Disorder/Illness/Condition: When referring to mental health, use “mental health disorder,” “mental illness,” or “mental health condition.” Do not use “issue” or “problem.”

  • Don’t say “mentally disabled,” “mentally handicapped,” or “mentally ill.” These terms are outdated and hurtful. Say, “has a mental illness.” It can also be appropriate to say “mental health condition,” since many people who deal with mental health concerns may not have a formal diagnosis or a full-fledged illness.

Suicide: Don’t say “committed suicide,” which refers to the outdated notion that suicidal acts were crimes; say “died by suicide.” Also, don’t say that a suicide attempt was “failed” or “successful.”

About the Guest:

Stephanie Cannon is the Senior Director of Interactive Marketing at the nation’s largest pediatric hospital, Nationwide Children’s Hospital. When Stephanie started with Nationwide Children’s in 2000, she was given the task of developing and expanding the Interactive Marketing Department. As it has grown from a regional hospital with 2,100 employees to a national hospital with over 12,000 employees, Stephanie’s role and responsibilities have also expanded. She led the digital strategy for four logo and brand updates and two name change campaigns. Currently, Stephanie is working on redesigning and migrating the main website to Sitecore 8.2 from proprietary software, while enhancing the audience experience. In her free time, she enjoys watching her boys play baseball and basketball and sometimes finds time to play tennis herself.

Topics: Blog