According to the World Health Organization, more than 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, a disease that, if not controlled, can lead to blindness, loss of limb, and ultimately, loss of life. In fact, in 2004, the latest year for which numbers are available, an estimated 3.4 million people died from consequences of high fasting blood sugar.
It is against this backdrop that the Association Française des Diabétiques (AFD), headquartered in Paris, France, works. Founded in 1938, AFD is a federation of associations that includes 110 local associations spread over the country and 130,000 members. AFD is the only national French association for diabetes which represents the patients, actively seeking to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes or at risk for the disease.
But as the global economic downturn continued to have repercussions and French regulatory rules changed who can donate to AFD, the organization lost the funding it needed to host seminars and an exhibit on World Diabetes Day. That’s when IBMer Florence Calvez, a member of Anne Barthelet-Mollard’s team suggested that IBM help the AFD with communications and marketing to increase awareness of diabetes—including reaching those newly diagnosed, as well as the estimated 600-700,000 French people who ignore their diabetes diagnoses and symptoms.
Anne, a Sales and Distribution marketing manager for IBM France, said, “We are a marketing team and I was convinced we could join together and use our experience to work on a common project. Most of us knew very little about diabetes, but 90% of the team wanted to participate in this challenge.”
Understanding the disease
First, Gérard Raymond, President of the AFD, and three of his staff came to IBM and educated the team about diabetes, the challenges of living with and treating the disease, the disease’s impact—both socially and financially—and the challenges the AFD faced.
“We proposed that our marketing agencies, Ogilvy and George P. Johnson, participate and they immediately joined the project with us. The exchange was so rich, the IBMers—and the agencies we invited—were very interested and motivated by this subject! At the end of this first day, we agreed on an agenda for our full day of volunteering,” said Anne.
Twenty-six volunteers began working with AFD to build a 2012 communications plan, including a marketing plan for the 2012 World Diabetes Day, along with new ideas to reach undiagnosed diabetics.
Reaching new audiences through social networking
IBM employees presented several workshops to AFD staff, including ones on project management and social networking, using Activity Kits from the IBM On Demand Community. On Demand Community, which is IBM’s global community and resource for volunteers, includes a library of off-the-shelf Activity Kits which can be used to accelerate delivery of support to organizations and increase volunteer efficiency. The workshops helped the association to take a fresh look at its projects and apply enterprise-level working methods and ideas. In particular, the marketing plan and social networking information has helped AFD—the organization saw its number of Facebook fans rise from 800 to 2,300 in only four months.
Anne said, “I was so proud of our team and what we accomplished together, applying our business skills on a subject so different from our day-to-day challenges.”