Starting a Word-of-Mouth Campaign

Janet Nevala, RN

In January, 2006, Cancer Care Ontario published a fact sheet entitled “Lung cancer rates now higher in young women than young men”. The document states that “More young women are now getting lung cancer and dying from it than young men. For young women, the anticipated decline in lung cancer incidence rates, following a decline in smoking in the early 1980s, is not yet evident in 2002.”

Months later in April 2006, The Cancer Society published a newsletter with these key points:

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Ontario and is responsible for approximately one-third of all cancers and cancer deaths.
  • Lung cancer is one of the most fatal cancers; most lung cancers can be attributed to tobacco.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in Ontario.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

Around the same time, I was facilitating a workplace smoking cessation workshop in Sault Ste Marie. During my time there, I went for a walk with a friend of mine named Mary Ellen. We both graduated from Laurentian University in 1985 and she was now working in Oncology. Coincidentally, during our talk Mary Ellen remarked on the number of lung cancer cases among young women!

After reflecting on the above, I decided to start my own “Word-of-Mouth campaign”. The focus of my campaign is women and the rising incidence of lung cancer primarily caused by smoking.

Now, my campaign is not as “loosey goosey” as it may sound. According to the experts, creating a word-of-mouth explosion cannot be done piecemeal. It requires some major commitment from a network of friends and colleagues and ideas must be organized.

Here are a few steps that I picked up from the Market Navigator. I have already started incorporating these steps into my campaign!

For a successful campaign, one must:

  • Figure out how to describe the issue in a way that is easily repeatable, compelling and persuasive.  My description sounds something like this:
    • “There is a crucial need for continued research to provide support for women with lung cancer. We need to understand why women are getting lung cancer. We need to double our efforts related to preventing the uptake of smoking among young adult women. We need to promote smoking cessation. We need to continue to talk about the dangers of light and mild cigarettes.”
  • Collect the right testimonials/endorsements at all levels. Such as women with lung cancer, Influencers and experts.
  • Tell a friend and bring in new people to talk about the issue
  • Support colleagues by providing them with good information. Such as:
    • The Cancer Care Ontario website
    • The online report from the United States Department of Health and Human Studies’ Surgeon General report on Women and Smoking.
    •  Articles published by Lorraine Greaves, a Canadian expert on women and tobacco use.
    • The World Health Organization’s report: “Women and the Tobacco Epidemic”
  • “Market seed” by telling key Influencers in the field and get them to recommend follow-up on this issue to their sphere of influence.
  • Use canned word-of-mouth — videos, audio, etc. In 2007 I viewed a television ad from Massachusetts that focused on this very topic!
  •   Stimulate discussion groups and get some feedback. Like on this website!
  •   Increase your use of internet programs to amplify word-of-mouth. I use e-mail and list groups to regularly communicate with colleagues and encourage them to circulate information to their sphere of influence.
  • Use Training programs to spread word-of-mouth. I have started mentioning the need for female nurses to talk to female patients and friends about the rise in lung cancer rates. Using a woman-to-woman approach may work!
  • Actively use existing networks (including your own ad hoc networks) to stimulate referrals.

My word-of-mouth campaign is currently underway, but I still have a long way to go!

Women deserve information about lung cancer rates, and women who have lung cancer deserve our attention and a caring approach. Women also need to know about the dangers of light and mild cigarettes and those who want to quit, need access to information about smoking cessation.  Our young adult women also need to hear and understand that the tobacco industry is still targeting them as a vulnerable group.


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