In 2019, Bristol Myers Squibb launched Survivorship Today: What It’s Like to Live with Cancer to fill a void in the cancer community for the millions of survivors in the U.S. in need of support to prepare them for life after active treatment. At the core of this program is an episodic film series featuring individuals affected by cancer from across the country, which spotlights the raw, diverse experiences of survivorship. As Bristol Myers Squibb was in the midst of transcending the program in its newest chapter to spotlight new patient voices and timely themes, COVID-19 hit. While the world shifted its focus to the acute crisis at hand, cancer didn’t stop and those living with cancer were impacted with a host of new challenges. More than ever, cancer survivors were looking for support.
In addition to health concerns, the pandemic ushered in added stressors with feelings of isolation and loneliness as survivors struggled to stay safe at home. As many survivors know first-hand, the disease can have lasting impacts on a person’s health and well-being and life doesn’t return to “normal” even in remission. This was compounded when thinking about the challenges COVID-19 brings to “a new normal.” These realities needed a spotlight and Bristol Myers Squibb quickly pivoted its approach for Survivorship Today to address the coronavirus as the most pressing challenge of the moment with a nimble and timely approach to give patients and the community relevant content and resources during a time of need.
- In 2020, Survivorship Today leveraged authentic storytelling to enlighten people about life with cancer through COVID-19 while also providing helpful resources and driving action to address gaps in survivorship support across platforms. Two-time Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown was the series narrator, serving as a curious, empathetic and compassionate interviewer who navigated each survivor’s personal story. The series lives on a dynamic microsite on BMS.com, keeping visitors engaged with the company’s mission and commitment while connecting them to relevant advocacy-owned resources for more support. Timely survivor stories and content were amplified through a surround-sound approach, including robust social and traditional media efforts and unique content partnerships with ABC and National Geographic that reached audiences via grassroots and top-tier global forums. Social media was the crux of our communication strategy, with monthly paid social campaigns unveiling new perspectives strategically targeted to patient, caregiver and health influencer audiences and multiple third-party channels playing a key role in amplifying the content reach. Most specifically, the team executed the following:
- Created Real-Time Content to Capture Evolving Patient Needs: Bristol Myers Squibb quickly pivoted to capture new content that reflected COVID-specific challenges via virtual means as the environment was evolving. This included new videos – often in “selfie” or “Zoom-style” format from Sterling, the survivors and healthcare experts who shared their experiences in nearly real time. The shift provided timely content that shed light on the perspectives, emotions and experiences of people affected by cancer in the era of COVID-19, many of whom found themselves reliving aspects of their cancer journey such as fear, stress, anxiety and isolation.
- Provided a Virtual Platform for Vulnerable Voices: As Bristol Myers Squibb captured these stories, the team enhanced the Survivorship Today website and social channels’ strategy to be more nimble to accommodate the steady flow of new content, using a combination of organic and paid strategies to target content by audience demographic, helping ensure the most resonant content reached each viewer. In addition, the program website housed a compilation of virtual resources available to help individuals impacted by cancer navigate the new environment with direct links to organizations that offered COVID-specific cancer support.
- Amplifying Content Across Credible Third-Party Platforms: To further extend the reach of the content and make it more accessible to those seeking support and resources, Bristol Myers Squibb forged relationships with partners to leverage the content on their platforms. Following pulses of new content and media interviews, Sterling shared content across his personal social media channels, helping to broaden awareness of survivorship issues across the general population and his fans. Similarly, the survivors and healthcare providers featured shared their stories on their own social channels as their respective episodes were posted on the Survivorship Today website. By tapping into a highly engaged national audience through the unique and credible storytelling of National Geographic, and familiar local extensions of ABC-affiliate websites, the team was able to further extend the program by reaching audiences where they already go for news and human-interest stories.
- Bristol Myers Squibb successfully served as a leader in the conversation about survivorship during the pandemic and educated the public about the support that survivors need, as evidenced by the resulting community response, media coverage and social engagement.
- People Sought More Information: BMS.com traffic (93.2K visits), video views (231K), resource downloads (1.25K) and social engagement (3.9M) suggested receptivity and demand. Brown's posts reached 2.6M+ with 66K+ engagements. Notably, strategic partnerships for sponsored content drove significant visits to BMS.com, generating 29M+ impressions. Additionally, the team saw an increase from Survivorship Today's inaugural year with a 39% increase in social media engagements and 38% increase in video views in 2020 compared to 2019.
- Patients and Advocates Were Inspired to Act: Many advocacy groups organically shared the program content online, and hundreds of survivors have provided positive unsolicited feedback.
- Media Recognized the Relevance: 25 placements reached 83.8M+, including interviews on TODAY, Rachael Ray, Dr. Oz, The Talk, Prevention, Parade, People and Good Housekeeping. The virtual SMT also generated 1,300+ placements, reaching 20.4M.
- Increased Awareness: Content distributed through paid social campaigns generated 19.4M impressions. Also, according to a survey conducted in November 2020, 1 out of 4 people said they have seen something in the media recently regarding cancer survivorship, while the number of people saying they specifically recalled Sterling K. Brown talking about cancer survivorship also increased by 3%.
 Survivorship Campaign Awareness Survey, Facilitated by Ipsos. November 2020. Data on file.