Like any organization out there, JSI has a brand that we promote using social media: we’re hard-working, mission-oriented public health experts! We are also tech savvy, using social media channels to share our work, and advising clients globally to help them strategize and implement strategies that ultimately improve public health outcomes. But it’s not just about what we say to the outside world. Social media is also an excellent tool to help keep our own employees connected to the company, our mission, and each other.
Recently, we celebrated the 200th birthday of our namesake, John Snow. Unlike the Game of Thrones version (Did you see our spoof on April Fool’s Day?), our John Snow is considered one of the fathers of modern epidemiology, in part because of his work in tracing the source of a cholera outbreak to a water pump in Soho, London, in 1854. (Incidentally, that is why our blog is called “The Pump.”)
We see ourselves as furthering John Snow’s work in public health in his name, and thought it would be both fun and exciting to showcase how that work has expanded on a geographical and technical level since that localized cholera outbreak almost two centuries ago.
We mimicked the “Flat Stanley” model initiated by a teacher in Ontario and emailed a picture of John Snow (or “Flat Snow” as we came to call him) to all of our offices around the world, with this simple guidance: Take a picture with Flat Snow and post it to our Facebook page. As an extra incentive, the Flat Snow with the most Facebook “likes” would win a small prize.
We sent out the photo, and waited. The first one came in right away from a staffer on vacation in Brazil.
Then, a lull.
A few days later, the pictures came flooding in to Facebook and our inbox. We got photos from staff in Tanzania and the Ukraine, from our San Francisco and Denver offices, from Russia all the way down to South Africa. Some were very creative – like the staffer who photo-shopped himself floating in space with Flat Snow. One staffer made two hilarious animated videos. The New Hampshire office took a formal picture at a conference table, except everyone was sporting Flat Snow masks. The DC office printed out a full-size version and each staff member took a picture with him – just like the life-sized versions of politicians that tourists take their photos with in the nation’s capital. Flat Snow showed up crowd-surfing, riding a rhinoceros (among other animals), and finding modern-day public health challenges.
Our winner portrays Flat Snow snowboarding (ski wear included) alongside staffer Philippe LeMay at 10,000 feet in Gudauri, in the Republic of Georgia. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Dr. LeMay and Dr. Snow were both airlifted to the summit! No photo-shopping involved.
This activity showcased the fun side of JSI staff, but there was also a more substantial meaning. With 2,000 staff around the world, it can be challenging to feel connected to one another as colleagues, even though we share a common goal. Flat Snow provided a mechanism for all staff—whether they’re in the Boston headquarters or a small village in Nigeria—to feel attached to more than their geography or project, but to the whole JSI family. This translates into staff openly sharing project successes and lessons learned, and staying in touch even if an employee’s public health efforts lead them beyond JSI. The photo submission we received from a JSI alum captures the cohesion a campaign like this can create.
The results of the Flat Snow campaign were much more than we imagined during conception. The staff who contributed really made the campaign successful because they ran with their creative photo ideas and shared them with their networks. That’s the power of social media.