Chapter 14: Public Affairs and Communication Tools

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Chapter 14: Public Affairs and Communication Tools

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Mr. Stuyck first talks about The Messenger, the first employee communication tool, which has been published for forty years. Next he discusses Conquest, a publication designed to generate awareness of MD Anderson among opinion leaders, donors, and corporate executives.

Mr. Stuyck talks about how Conquest was started and how it tells the MD Anderson story. He tells an anecdote about putting a donor envelope inside of Conquest with no accompanying solicitation for funds: the envelope alone has generated three million dollars (never less than $25,000 per issue). Next Mr. Stuyck talks about Cancer NewsLine, a series of video news releases launched in 1986 to provide media with news about cancer research and treatment. He describes the impact of these on the institution's reputation. He then talks about the Network Newsletter, launched in 1988 and mailed to all former patients ("a lifeline to the institution"), then moves on to the CancerWise Community Speaker's Bureau and MD Anderson Ambassadors programs, through which MD Anderson employees go into the community to talk about cancer issues. He notes that many within higher levels of the institution were at first suspicious of employees going out into the community.

Mr. Stuyck then talks about the "Too Cool to Smoke" program for kindergarten through fourth graders. Lastly he talks about Contributions to Making Cancer History (first published in 2007), launched because Dr. John Mendelsohn wanted to address the frequent question What are specific advances that MD Anderson has made against cancer? Mr. Stuyck explains how the approximately 100 advances were compiled and selected, and how Scientific Publications helped edit it to ensure its credibility.

Mr. Stuyck notes that this is a unique document among academic institutions: the content is now on the website, with about 150 advances included. At the end of this session, Mr. Stuyck tells a story to demonstrate Dr. John Mendelsohn's communication skills.

Identifier

StuyckSC_02_20130613_C14

Publication Date

7-13-2013

Topics Covered

Overview; Building/Transforming the Institution; Overview; Institutional Processes; Philanthropy, Fundraising, Donations, Volunteers; Discovery and Success; Discovery, Creativity and Innovation; Information for Patients and the Public; Education; Portraits; Institutional Mission and Values; MD Anderson Culture; This is MD Anderson

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Tell me about Tthe Messenger.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The Messenger was started one or two issues before I arrived here. In fact, I see we have some of them—bound copies of it over there on the cart.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What was the purpose of the Messenger?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It was designed as really our first employee communications tool. It has certainly evolved and changed dramatically over the years. It was every two months and every month and then it became a newspaper tabloid for a while, and now under the leadership of Sarah Newson and others it’s been cut back to an online version and a paper version six times a year. I think it’s a terrific magazine, and all I would say about The Messenger, and what I would take credit for, is that it’s very easy to do the first issue of a newsletter. It’s more challenging to do the second, third, fourth. The Messenger, for about forty years now, has come out regularly, and we’ve never missed whatever the agreed upon publication schedule was in that forty years. We tried several times to come up with a better, more modern, more contemporary sort of name for it, and people more creative and younger than I just threw their hands up and said it’s got all this track record. It’s got this long history of brand identity as Messenger. Let’s just leave it that way.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah because I have redesigns in ’86, ’98, 2002. (laughs)

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, there’s been a lot. Yeah. Absolutely. If you look at the first issue, the tall thin volumes you see over there are the newspaper editions, but there’s a smaller different kind of edition before that. We tried all kinds of things, and I personally, and I’ve told Laura Harvey the executive editor this, I think it’s some of the best and most entertaining writing about MD Anderson that I see. It’s my favorite read.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. Then in 1986 was the launch of Conquest magazine, and what was that all about?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well it was part of an initiative at the time to generate greater awareness of MD Anderson among the opinion leaders and influential people. It also became a wonderful publication, and it’s been going on—you said ’86 was when it started? I know it was in the LeMaistre years. I remember making the pitch to the President's Management Committee at the time for it—the approval of the concept and funds, and it was endorsed. It’s evolved over time too, and it’s very sophisticated now I think. One of the things we did was it comes out four times a year, and the winter issue doubles as the institution’s annual report. So we killed two birds with one stone, and over a period of time we developed quite a database for receiving opinion leaders, corporate executives, donors, potential donors, people like that. It does a very good job of telling the MD Anderson story in a dramatic and interesting sort of way. When you look at the early issues of Conquest it’s pretty rudimentary compared to the way it looks today. We have a lot more resources and a lot more sophistication than in the early days, but it also has come out since 1986 four times a year without fail. You can’t go through and find oh, they skipped the fall issue of 1993 or something like that which happens sometimes with publications. Keeping up with deadlines is always challenging.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It is. Now you said its mission was—part of the mission was to tell the MD Anderson story. What are the components of the story that the Conquest covers?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Of course we look at all aspects of the mission, and basically I think it’s fair to say that we are looking for good stories the way any magazine or newspaper would, that we’re looking for things that are interesting, that set MD Anderson apart from others, that are compelling, that show the breadth of our mission, that sort of thing. There are some standing features about research advances and things like that, and also we tinker with that from time to time with all different sorts of approaches.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What did you—?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Mary Jane wrote a lot of Conquest stories. It was one of her specialties.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You’re referring to Mary Jane Schier?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Mary Jane Schier—yes—who you worked with on another project.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yep. Let’s see. Oh I wanted to ask you after it was launched in ’86, what did you do to determine the impact of that on the opinion leaders that you were—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

That’s a good question. Well I can’t cite results because it’s been too long ago, but we do periodic readership surveys of both Conquest and Messenger and look for feedback that way. The one thing about Conquest that I think is especially interesting is that about in 19—the early 1990s we started sticking a donor envelope in each issue. There’s no request for funds. It’s just there, and there’s a little information on the envelope, but there’s no article that says please give. It’s just stuck in there. Now I’m going to be weak on my figures, but the results have been phenomenal. We get between $25,000 and $100,000 per issue. It’s well over a couple million dollars. About three million dollars has come in unsolicited other than there’s an envelope for you to do something with if you choose. Now who ever does anything with those but throw them away? But we’ve got a loyal following, and we carefully document—the Development Office tells us the feedback of how much money they get from the coded envelopes that clearly identifies the source, and there are great supporters in this because it helps convey the develop mission, and it generates this revenue just by being there.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s amazing.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah. Absolutely.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It really is amazing.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I think it’s amazing too. I couldn’t believe it, but we’ve never gotten less than $25,000 on an issue, but some of them, depending on what the topic is—the distribution for the annual report issue is much broader. It’s about 50,000 people. So it helps pay its own way.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

When did you start that? I missed the date.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I think in the early 1990s. We didn’t do it right away, but we’ve probably been doing it for the last twenty years.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Whose bright idea was that?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well I don’t remember. It might have been the Development Office. It might have been ours. I’m not sure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s a great idea. Especially not to have a solicitation with it.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Nothing else in there.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Just—yeah.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Not another word.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How neat. Let’s see then also in ’86 was the launch of Cancer NewsLine. What was that about?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well Cancer NewsLine was—or were—was a series of what they called video news releases. Television stations always have—let me say this. The latest Gallup poll that I saw shows that local television news is still for most Americans their primary source of news and information. Despite the web, despite national things, local TV news is primary. So we are not alone in this at all. We decided to create our own news releases but video news releases from MD Anderson so that television stations could have them. We would send them news, because they could never afford to come here except for the local stations with rare exceptions. So a video news release includes a video, a canned story, and it includes a script so their own anchors can intro the story and exit it and narrate it so it’s just like their news, and it includes some extra footage—some B roll—in case they want to change things up.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

TV in a box. That’s great.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

TV in a box. Many institutions and organizations did this. We started that. It went for quite a number of years producing three or four television news stories about four times a year which we mailed to an increasingly large number of television stations.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What kind of stories would you provide?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well they would be either research stories or human interest stories or things that we thought television stations would be interested in, and they could customize it depending on how much effort they wanted to invest. We were targeting smaller television markets. A lot of relatively small towns have television stations these days. We started with Texas, and then we expanded beyond that. It was in an era when we were mailing all of this stuff—postage kind of thing. Video news releases came and went. We don’t do them anymore. We actually post a lot of video online on the web, and that’s taken its place. They came in for some criticism as being manufactured news, not ours but just nationwide. Television stations began to shy away from them, but for a while—it’s one of those—in a career as long as mine here you have techniques that come and go, come and go. We try this, and then we move onto the next change in technology or the next innovation. That was the case with Cancer NewsLine. But for quite some time we produced those, and they started in the ‘80s I think.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Eighty-six. ’86 is when you launched that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Later on we were able to use a television monitoring service to give us feedback of what was being used. Some video news releases weren’t used at all, and some got huge pickup.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So you never really knew.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Usually more of the human interest sorts of stories did that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What was the impact of those?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well I think that they introduced MD Anderson to television markets where we didn’t have presence before them. That’s the impact. If you’re in Wichita Falls or Laredo or places like Appleton, Wisconsin, or places like that that are mid-market television stations, all they can use is your wire service copy or local stuff. So this gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves and provide cancer information in those markets.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Also have the Network Newsletter. Is that connected with the Anderson Network?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I can’t remember when we started the Network Newsletter, but it was part of the Network.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It would be ’88 was when it was launched.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The notion behind it was that networkers who are by and large MD Anderson patients would want to keep up with what’s going on at MD Anderson, that lifeline to the institution. The Network is now mailed to all living patients since I think 1980. So it has a circulation of about 100,000. The notion is to keep our current patient population informed of what’s new here and what’s going on. So that’s the purpose of that. I think it goes out four times a year if my memory serves me right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I want to pause the recorder just for a second. It’s 11:44. (end of audio session) (Begin Audio Session)

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. All right. Okay. We are back on. So let’s see the next initiative I have is in 1992—the CancerWISE Community Speakers Bureau. I really didn’t know anything about that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

They’re now called MD Anderson Ambassadors.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The notion was that we would train employees in how to go out and give talks about MD Anderson in the community. This is another example of education being good PR. Jo Ann Ward and the Public Education staff are in charge of this, but it’s evolved over the years too. We worked hard at keeping it fresh and making it more valued. We have about seven or eight modules on cancer topics that were created with PowerPoint and talking points and of that sort of thing, and we train employees to go out in the community to give these talks. So they’re on tobacco and sun exposure and clinical trials and several things like that—a general overview of MD Anderson. They get thousands of requests for these from all kinds of church groups, school groups, PTAs, that sort of thing each year. Every request is documented, and every requesting organization receives a survey after the program has been done in order to evaluate the talk. Did it meet your needs, was it professionally done, that sort of thing. We have about 150 employees who are trained in how to give these talks. We have periodic continuing education programs for them, and we have an annual recognition event which I think they just had this spring. It would be after I left. Then it became challenging so actually we pay retired employees to go out who want to go—especially nurses. We like to recruit nurses, and I think they pay them fifty or one hundred dollars a talk when they do that. The working employees we just reimburse them for their mileage expenses and that sort of thing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I’m just struck at how something like this can really just enhance the credibility of the institution. As your describing the training process and the care with which all the materials are presented, I mean that will communicate itself to an audience that’s listening and watching the professionalism of the information.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Right, and you know it was a challenge in the early years for Jo Ann, for me that people in high positions, faculty members and others, didn’t think that we were up to the task. Like you’re going to train an employee to go out and give information about cancer? Just like the Cancer Information Service phone numbers. You’re going to have volunteers answer the phone and answer these questions? It’s different now. We’ve proven that it can be done without incident or problem if it’s done intelligently and well, but it was quite a little challenging. Even Dr. LeMaistre thought the idea back—the CancerWISE Speakers Bureau, which is now Anderson Ambassadors—I could tell he was dubious about it when I first discussed it with him.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

You have a secretary go out and give at talk? Not necessarily. We would target the kind of employees who we thought had the background to do it. We would make sure that they were well trained and prepared before they went. You’ve seen our offices before over in the FHB where Mary Jane—there’s a small reception area, and day after day I would come in, and there would be lined up three or four of these poll cards stuffed with brochures. Maybe there’s one of those banners that is rolled up in a canister, and they’re lined up waiting for employees. You’re going to this health fair in Clearlake, and you’re going to give a talk in Channelview. You’re going to do this. There’d be these people, employees, coming in and out of our office all the time picking up these things for public education—just very cool. I sometimes wish more people appreciated and understood what these educators do on behalf of MD Anderson. I never was quite able to rest assured that everybody understood all that we’re doing. You could probably make the same claim about the Research Medical Library. People don’t understand all the services we provide.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Right. I’m also just thinking too that there’s some kind of theme here of we have patients taking charge of their own health care decisions, we have volunteers being trained to give cancer information on the telephone, and now people who are not the highest-level professionals going out and providing cancer information. There’s this sort of democratization, if you will, of the people who are bringing the information about cancer to the public, and there’s something really neat about that. It’s working well.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes, and I think it has to do with the singularity of our mission, that this model might not work at another sort of an institution, but it works here, and it’s been a gradual evolution over a long period of time. It didn’t happen quickly but a little step at a time.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It takes a lot of dedication. I mean even if you’re paying someone to go and give those talks,

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

That’s right. I think that’s right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

People are doing it out of the appreciation for the institution.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Jo Ann and her group have this “Too Cool to Smoke.” I don’t know if that’s on your list or not. It’s puppets, large puppets, and it’s a program designed for K-four students. It takes two actors behind a set with these puppets who just happen to be named Jo Ann and Eric, and they talk about tobacco and not smoking. The target is prevention among small children. Now the first thing that any researcher here would say was well you have no data that shows that your program works. I think that that’s probably—the honest answer is that that’s correct. We cannot document this, but it’s a good program, and if you go as I have gone to a couple of schools and watched it being performed and see these kids get all involved in it and be so knowledgeable about tobacco at such a young age already. We hire students who are trained from U of H who get paid fifty dollars for each performance, and now I think they’re going to up it to one hundred dollars because you got to drive and all this. You’ve got to come pick up your puppets, and we only have a limited number of Jo Anns and Erics that we can—and they’re huge. They’re like about this big, and they put their hands in behind them and move them like Sesame Street kind of. So that’s another example of that. They reach about 4,000 students a year.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How long has that been going on?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It’s been going on for five or more years.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Somehow I think I may have read a little article about that in Conquest or something. I remember that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The program has been funded by a grateful patient of Dr. Garrett Walsh—a lung cancer patient—who has given us quite a bit of money in order to make this happen.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Are there plans to document the effect of that on little kids?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I don’t know.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’d be kind of neat.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It would be good if we could find a scientist who could come up with a methodology to do it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Let’s see. We’ve got about seven minutes left unless you need to leave a few minutes before.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

No, I don’t. I don’t need to be upstairs until 12:15.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So maybe we’ll—oh well. This is a good thing to finish this about. We have the first edition of contributions to Making Cancer History, which is the research milestone. What was that about?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

We are now in our fourth edition.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, really?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

This is a booklet. It’s also available on our website, and it was an idea that Dr. Mendelsohn and I came up with. I can’t remember when it was but during his tenure. It was one of the most enjoyable projects I ever worked on, and this was something I did personally. Mendelsohn said that he was often—I have a great story about him doing that too by the way. Mendelsohn said that he was often asked in the community: I know MD Anderson is a great place, but what are the specifics? What are the advances against cancer you have made? So he posted this as a question to me one day. He and I together had a lot of fun working on this. We started by surveying faculty leaders asking division heads and department chairman to make suggestions either from their department or from other departments. I sent along with the request some examples of things that I already knew about that had been done here: Amphotericin B to prevent fungal infections in leukemia patients and breast conservation therapy and things like that. So we got tons of them back. I was really surprised. So Mendelsohn and I went through them, and he’d say that’s nothing or this is great. We put together a draft list, and we vetted it back and forth a number of times, and the first edition came out which was probably—I’ve got all the editions. It was probably about one hundred. I can’t remember exactly. So then we did it another time. At some point along the way I got the bright idea—I take credit for this idea—that if we’re going to claim these as research achievements, we need to give a citation for each one of them that says when it was published and where it was published. This became a huge task challenging people all over the institution. I had hundreds and hundreds of emails back from faculty members, and ultimately we produced a version that had the achievements cited in one sentence in lay language and beneath it one, two, or three citations. I don’t think we had more than three on any. I got involved with—that’s how I work with faculty. I got involved with so many faculty members because the department chair would say well, you go ask this doctor.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I bet.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The Scientific Publications was great. It helped me edit it in proper form and vet the citations. We’ve been through four editions, and I think the last one was still in the Mendelsohn years, but it’s a booklet. You can get copies from Public Affairs, and you’ll find the content on our website as I mentioned. It’s about twenty-four pages long. It’s very attractively designed—the illustrations. At one point during it just after Dr. Kripke had retired, and she was working twenty percent time. She went through the entire document for me making comments on things. This is strong, this is weak. Ultimately Mendelsohn or I took the blame or the credit for deciding what these—and it’s about one hundred and fifty or one hundred and fifty-five. I know I did it in the last year or so of my tenure here, and I think frankly, Tacey, it’s a great contribution. I hope it doesn’t get lost because I think most universities would have a lot of difficulty in producing something similarly if someone asked what are your real contributions to scholarship or science? This is it as far as I’m concerned. It got a lot of good attention. So the Mendelsohn story that was—he’s so smart. He said—it was presented at a Board of Visitors meeting, and a man named Marc Shapiro, who was a former chairman of the board, says to him, “You know John, this is great.” He said this in front of a large room of people. “This is great, but what are the two or three really, really big achievements from MD Anderson?” I go crap, how in the world do you answer something like that? Mendelsohn said, “Well, I’d say this Marc.” He said, “I would cite one of the two achievements. All of the contributions we have made toward finding cures for leukemia,” and he mentioned a few of them there in the book. He said, “Because leukemia is a devastating disease, but in truth it’s a rare disease, and any patient with leukemia needs to come to a specialized center like MD Anderson in order to treat it well, so leukemia would be one.” He said, “On the other hand, I would cite all of the contributions that we have done toward improving the therapy for breast cancer,” and he cited—there’s quite a number of them in the book about breast cancer. He said, “I pick breast cancer because that’s a common tumor type, and many, many woman cannot come to a place like MD Anderson. These contributions need to be available in the community at all kinds of centers, and they are. We made these contributions that make breast cancer therapy better all over the country and all over the world.” I thought is this guy not brilliant? It’s a great answer.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Great answer.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

So then I made some slides, some power points, where we cited five or six contributions to leukemia and breast cancer, and even I used it as a little talk I would give to volunteers and people like that. So anyway, that was how that got started. Mendelsohn raised the idea in the first place. How can we show people what specifically has been done at MD Anderson? I loved working on that project. It was a great joy to be involved in that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well thank you. We’re at noon, so why don’t we call it quits for today, and we can make another appointment to chat again.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Tacey, I’m amazed. I did not think I had so much to say on the second go around. That’s great.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

(laughs) Well thank you so much. I’m glad—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Thank you very much. I enjoyed myself tremendously.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I did too, and I am turning off the recorder at noon.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Okay, if you just want to email me and suggest what works for your schedule. I’m here for— (end of audio session)

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Chapter 14: Public Affairs and Communication Tools

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