“ Don’t worry. They have never dropped a potential protector… yet.”
A young marketing director, a middle-aged health communicator, and a college student are gripped in the talons of a trio of giant falcons. This isn’t the start of a bizarre bar-joke, it’s a scene from Fard Johnmar’s web-comic “ The Path of the Blue Eye,” a tale focusing on the dimension-hopping Specto Laurus and his vendetta against the evil Davos.
But the mystical back-story and six cryptic pillars of wisdom isn’t just the latest graphical novel. It’s the background for an ambitious networking project reaching out to all corners of the health communication community.
The project stems from two statements Johnmar came across in his experience as a healthcare marketing consultant and prolific blogger: “I wish I knew that” and “I wish we had a place to collect this information”-suggesting a widespread desire for communication and sharing across the increasingly fragmented and insular “silos” of the industry.
Social marketers, public relations professionals, advertisers, pharmaceutical/biotech marketers, public health communicators, academics and others were working, innovating, making breakthroughs within the confines of their own specific communities-but not broadcasting any of this outside of those borders.
Why start with comics? The comic serves as a flashy and visceral gateway to the nitty-gritty of the project as a whole, and while he says it has puzzled some audiences, it has reached out to even more. “The key word here is interdisciplinary. We are trying to reach across silos and centers of practice rather than working within them.”
“ I prefer to ‘nest’ key real-world themes into the story rather than let them drive it,” says Johnmar, referring to the six pillars of Specto’s “Path.” “Requiring hidden knowledge requires exceptional stamina”; “A flexible mind is capable of great insight”; “Rigorous and objective measurement is a prerequisite for measurement.” These and the rest, he says, apply equally well to Specto’s chosen trio and real world health communications success.
“Perhaps the most difficult thing to figure out has been striking the balance between using mystery to spark people’s curiosity versus laying everything out on a platter. Ultimately, I decided to be a bit mysterious about how the whole thing fits together (the comic, the movement and the community).”
He believes that this kind of renaissance approach to the field is vital as, paradoxically, specialists become ever more specialized: “With events and trends moving so rapidly, it is imperative that health marketing communications professionals be open to ideas and information from diverse sources. In the past, one could focus almost exclusively on non-profit communications, PR, advertising or social marketing. Today, that’s no longer an option. Our profession is becoming tactically agnostic. If you aren’t open to new perspectives, you’re going to fail.”
What implications does Johnmar’s mission have for the e-patient? He responds in three parts:
1) “If people in public health understand why and how patients are consuming information online, they will be better able to reach people seeking credible medical content
2) If social marketers understand how mobile technologies are being used by poor and underserved populations, they will be able to communicate with them more effectively
3) If a non-profit communicator is struggling to understand how to produce and distribute an online PSA and they have an easy way to ask a seasoned digital marketer for advice, patients ultimately benefit.”
“Information is power. We’re collecting and surfacing content that will make health marketers more powerful at what they do. I believe e-patients will benefit from this.”