Using Social Media to Leverage Family Stories for Healthcare Reform: MomsRising Shares Lessons Learned | Beth's Blog

Using Social Media to Leverage Family Stories for Healthcare Reform: MomsRising Shares Lessons Learned

Digital Strategy

Momsrising Story Site

Note from Beth: We featured Momsrising in our book, The Networked Nonprofit, as an example of a nonprofit that was born as a Networked Nonprofit.   They are experts in using  social media as part of their multi-channel advocacy campaigns.   They are also experts in repurposing content for different channels.  If you’re grappling with a content strategy, take a look at what they do.  You’ll learn lots.  They are also experts in reflecting and learning about what works and what doesn’t with social media and I’m lucky that they have offered to continue sharing their knowledge on my blog!

I thought this would be timely post because just this morning, I got an email alert from Momsrising  that John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House, announced that the House will vote on January 12th to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform bill.    The appeal used a personal story – and you can get the context of how it is working from this case study from Donna.

Using Social Media to Leverage Family Stories: MomsRising Shares Lessons Learned

By Donna Norton, Senior Director, MomsRising

Last fall, messaging research released by the Herndon Alliance found that the most effective way to sway swing audiences to support health care reform is to use personal stories paired with a fact or two about health reform. The research highlighted that women are both key targets and ideal messengers.

Inspired by this finding, in September, MomsRising asked members to share their experiences through an online story collection tool about how health reform was helping their families. MomsRising collected over 250 member stories from 44 states through this effort.

One of these stories was from Dawn Josephson, a MomsRising member in Florida, who shared that because of health reform, for the first time her health insurance did not exclude her son’s pre-existing eye condition.

Her story was right on the mark. And, MomsRising shared her story and hundreds of others with the White House, other federal and state leaders, as well as the media. Dawn was invited by the White House to fly to Virginia to share her story in person with President Obama. This event garnered tons of media coverage and Dawn’s story was covered by almost every major media outlet in the country including the Washington Post, CNN, the Associate Press, CBS, and more.

MomsRising decided not to stop there and continued to leverage Dawn’s story through social media. Dawn was invited by the MomsRising team to write up her experience about being helped by health care reform and of meeting with the President as a blog post. MomsRising then posted her blog on the MomsRising blog, as well as on the MomsRising weekly column on the Huffington Post, and MomsRising also worked with Dawn to help her set up an account to post the blog on the Daily Kos.

This social media push drove even more traditional media outlets to cover the issue and to showcase Dawn. Dawn’s blog was incredibly personal and compelling and she received hundreds of positive comments.  Placement in the Huffington Post was a strategic way to reach a large audience.    Importantly, what we found most interesting about this social media strategy is that it resulted in significantly more traditional media coverage. For example, NPR saw her post on the MomsRising blog and did a long interview with Dawn about her experience of sharing her health care story with the President that aired across the nation on Election Day.

Lessons Learned:

1) The lines between social media and traditional media are permeable. MomsRising has many journalists reading the blog and following us on Twitter, so blogs can easily become fodder for traditional media stories. (Note: The fact that the MomsRising blog features the work of not only MomsRising, but also hundreds of other diverse organizations and individuals, not only supports the entire movement for family economic security, but also drives journalists and influential bloggers to the MomsRising blog as a vibrant source of innovative ideas.)

2) Asking Dawn to write a blog about the experience of sharing a family story was a great way to make an important issue (health care reform) more personal and authentic which garnered increased traditional and social media.

3) When Dawn posted on the Daily Kos, she didn’t realize that Daily Kos bloggers usually frequently return to their posts and respond to comments made. She didn’t return to read the comments until a couple days later and by then a big discussion had ensued in the comments about whether or not she had been paid to write the story because her profile noted that she is a professional writer by trade. (Note: She had received no compensation.) From this experience, MomsRising learned that very detailed advanced briefing of members is needed about what to expect when they post blogs on highly trafficked websites; and that it’s important to be available to help them immediately respond to comments–particularly negative comments–on their blog.

In sum, MomsRising learned that to maximize media outreach and effectively impact the national dialogue on any given topic, social media strategies and traditional media strategies can’t be developed in isolation. Rather, it’s important to note that the two strategies build on one another: Social media can generate traditional media, and traditional media can instigate a social media buzz. Now, MomsRising utilizes an integrated media strategy, encompassing both traditional and social media. This more holistic approach to media strategy is incredibly powerful and cost effective in our new media environment.

What is your takeaway from this case study?  How can your organization apply the lessons learned from Momsrising?

Donna Norton: Donna Norton is Senior Director at MomsRising. She has had over twenty years of experience in national and international advocacy on issues of women and girls. Most recently, Donna led the “We won’t be pacified!” MomsRising campaign for health reform that meets the needs of children and families. She is the mother of two fantastic boys who maintain their steadfast political and personal opposition to vegetables of all kinds.

6 Responses

  1. John Haydon says:


    First of all – great job on this article!

    Question: What did your traditional media strategy entail? I ask because it’s often impossible for small orgs to bank on a national TV opp. Did your strategy involve a plan of how to handle traditional media opps, if they arise?

    Comment: I too have seen how these two channels can dovetail. Most recently, a homeless man who has a “Golden Voice” was uploaded to YouTube. Then MSNBC hired him to work as a an announcer, creating an amazing story on TV, which now has gone viral on YouTube. The whole circle worked perfectly and organically!


  2. Jocelyn says:

    Great blog! We will be sure to share widely.

  3. Donna Norton says:

    Thanks John! We did news releases with links to our clickable map of stories and pitching. We also have a fair number of journalists who follow us on Twitter and who receive our e-alerts, which is hugely helpful. We also are in close contact with the White House, HHS, and leadership of Congress so we know when they are planning events and can suggest possible mom speakers to participate in press events that get covered by the national media.

  4. John Haydon says:

    Donna – So you do have a plan. Brilliant!

  5. I am a MomsRising activist, too, and I support and cherish the organization. So no claims of impartiality! But I do think that the organization does a good job of working WITH people to authentically share their stories, and I especially like lesson learned #3, because it can be so tempting to “shape” stories to fit the message we’d like to send, even if that’s not completely accurate, or, perhaps more commonly, to fail to really consider the implications for people in having their stories, and lives, be so public, especially in this viral age. As your organization has demonstrated on numerous occasions, though, using one’s voice, especially on behalf of one’s children, can be empowering and transformational, not exploitative. Thanks for doing it so well, and for sharing it, too.

  6. Donna Norton says:

    Thanks Melinda and John for your kind words!