SCF Earns Aurora Award for Flu Blues Campaign

What do you get when you strum a chord of collaboration, drop a backbeat of creativity and sing for a good cause? For Southcentral Foundation, the mix turned into an award-winning public relations song and campaign to raise awareness for flu prevention. It all began as a simple T-shirt idea.

Last fall, SCF Public Relations received a request from SCF Quality Assurance, who wanted a creative, fun shirt for employees to wear when administering flu shots to co-workers. Kathleen Bonnar, public relations specialist, took the assignment, but recognized the need for additional flu prevention awareness in the Native Community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the flu is among the top 10 causes of death among Alaska Native and American Indian people. A study appearing in the American Journal of Public Health found the death rate from influenza for Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska were more than two times higher than Caucasians.

“The flu has a huge impact on the Native Community,” Bonnar said. “But there are steps we can take to help reduce the risk of getting sick.”

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Additionally, handwashing and steering clear of others with the flu can help stop it from spreading.

Seeing an opportunity to reach beyond a T-shirt, Bonnar connected with fellow specialist, Michael Doyle, to orchestrate a broader communication plan.

“Michael was working with SCF Medical Services Division, so I thought we could get their involvement and turn it into something that had a lasting effect in the Native Community,” Bonnar said. “We started to brainstorm and ideas started rolling from there.”

It started as a joke: Maybe they could write a blues song about the flu. But the more they strummed the idea, the more things began sounding like notes in a chord.

“The Flu Blues” public service announcement and “Don’t Get the Flu Blues” campaign were born. Bonnar and Doyle enlisted the detailed eye of Jennifer Gifford, SCF graphic designer, to create the art – a band designed from actual viruses. As luck would have it Gifford’s father, Mike, played guitar and sang. Through a partnership with KNBA 90.3 FM, Doyle and Mike Gifford recorded the PSA at its studio, with Mike belting the syrupy vocals.

Along with the PSA airing on KNBA, the group created a video slideshow, poster, fliers and social media posts about the free October flu shot clinic in the Anchorage Native Primary Care Center. In total, 955 flu shots were administered during SCF’s October clinic and at the Alaska Native Medical Center’s free clinic during the 2015 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.

Seeing the positive results, SCF Public Relations entered the campaign for two Aurora Awards, the yearly honor recognized by the Public Relation Society of America Alaska Chapter. The team took home first place for multicultural public relations campaign and third for radio material.

“When we first started, we weren’t thinking of winning an award,” Bonnar said. “The intent was to raise awareness about flu prevention methods. But to be honored for your hard work feels great. Hopefully, we helped educate and encourage people to get an annual flu vaccination.”

Flu shots are available every Saturday in October and November in the Anchorage Native Primary Care Center 2 East, 4320 Diplomacy Drive. 

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