Happy Halloween!

Because sometimes we like to have fun for reasons totally unrelated to public health. Keeps our creative juices flowing! We developed this gem in 2013 – dusting it off for the Banyan blog, Throwback Thursday style. Enjoy!

Banyan Halloween_Infographic

Think Pink

Pretty in Pink

We’re in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign to remind people about this disease. You may have noticed some of our social media platforms have been cloaked in pink – it’s one way, one small contribution on behalf of our work to support public health – to help remind people that October is about more than cooler weather, falling leaves and pumpkin-flavored treats.

It’s also a chance to raise awareness about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

Activities held throughout the month also help raise funds for research, programs and services for local communities. In some cases, money raised helps people cover the cost of their treatment. This is critically important, considering breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women worldwide and the second-most common cancer overall.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about one in 8 women born today in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives[i]. Those statistics can be daunting and downright scary, but the good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.

Where Do I Start?

Doctors recommend conducting monthly self-examinations.  While mammograms – the screening test for breast cancer – can help detect cancer before you can feel a lump, the importance of breast self-exams shouldn’t be overlooked. They can help you become familiar with how your breasts look and feel so you can alert your healthcare professional if there are any changes.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. provides tips and other helpful information on how to administer self-examinations.

It is also important to talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast cancer.

In addition to getting mammograms, adopting a healthy lifestyle in general may help lower the risk of other types of cancer. This includes things like:

  • Being physically active,
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight,
  • Limiting alcohol intake, and
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a chance to spread the word about mammograms and encourage communities, organizations, families – everyone – to get involved. How will you help create Change for Good?





[i] Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, et. al. (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2009 (Vintage 2009 Populations), National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2014.

Read this Blog

Why You Won’t Read This Blog

A blog post has a lot of competition for attention online, whether it be wiki wars, celebrity hacks, binge-watching, or YouTube cat videos. Here are four reasons why blog posts don’t make the cut.

1. We had only 6 words to get you to click through.

We know from our lists post that you are more likely to click through on a headline that has numbers, but “Top 5 Reasons You Won’t Read This Blog” was over the recommended six-word length. According to KISSmetrics, when a headline is over six words, you will likely read the first and last three words in the headline.

Courtesy of Neilson Norman Group This is what the computer screen would look like if lasers came out of your eyes while you read.

Courtesy of Neilson Norman Group
This is what the computer screen would look like if lasers came out of your eyes while you read.

2. You won’t read. You’ll scan.

In fact, you’ll likely scan this type of blog post in a specific pattern, according to an eye-tracking study done by the Nielsen Norman Group. Most people scan across the upper part of the page, down a little, across but not as far as before, and then down again. This is called an F pattern. It varies a little with the type of post. A list of results from a search engine will be different, for example.

3. You left after 7 minutes.

Medium, a site for sharing stories, dug into the data on how people viewed the posts on their site. They found that viewing started dropping off after about 7 minutes. The average person can get through 1, 600 words in 7 minutes.

Courtesy of Medium We’re a little suspicious that it’s exactly 100,000 seconds but isn’t data cool?

Courtesy of Medium
We’re a little suspicious that it’s exactly 100,000 seconds but isn’t data cool?

4. Passive voice wasn’t used in the headline. 

Did you think active voice was always better? We did, too, but passive voice lets you bring the important words to the front of the headline. Another great tip from Jakob Nielsen at Nielson Norman Group tells us that those first 11 characters play a critical role in deciding whether to click on a link or read further. Active voice is best for most writing, but when you need to front-load keywords passive voice can be your friend.

We recommend keeping these tips in mind, but don’t forget to test them against your own web analytics. Results may vary and your audience might be the exception to the rule!

Good luck and happy posting!

Atlanta Bike Challenge

Over the last few weeks, our ATL team – and some like-minded souls in STL – have been taking part in the Atlanta Bike Challenge. It’s a free, friendly competition between area businesses, to encourage people to trade four wheels for two.

The 2014 challenge wrapped up yesterday. Banyan fared pretty well, considering it was our first year tossing our bike helmet in the ring.

We found a way to incorporate riding into our workday, mix it in with a chili cook-off, and celebrate it during a company happy hour. And while I didn’t hop on a bike – I still have nightmares from a childhood accident that resulted in the loss of my two front teeth – I was more than happy to serve as a bike challenge cheerleader, photographer, and online photo album organizer.

Behold some of Banyan’s brilliance best effort in bike riding:

Atlanta's Freedom Parkway Trail

Atlanta’s Freedom Parkway Trail


Coasting by the Carter Center

Coasting by the Carter Center

The Atlanta BeltLine

The Atlanta BeltLine

Downtown ATL, as viewed from a Banyanite bike seat

Downtown ATL, as viewed from a Banyanite bike seat

People who ride bikes gotta eat, too!

People who ride bikes gotta eat, too!

Scene from an ATL ride

Scene from an ATL ride

STL folks getting ready to ride

STL folks getting ready to ride


Safety first -- well, two out of three ain't bad.

Safety first — well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Why not chase a little bike riding with a chili feast?

Why not chase a little bike riding with a chili feast?

More riding, less talking folks!

More riding, less talking folks!

Bike Challenge meets Happy Hour

Bike Challenge meets Happy Hour


Banyanite Amanda Jones rocks it out

Mile marker along the Atlanta BeltLine

Mile marker along the Atlanta BeltLine

Bikes, bikes and more bikes!

Bikes, bikes and more bikes!



Great Banyan Bosses

It’s Boss’s Day, and though the holiday is traditionally one where employees appreciate their supervisors, we would like to do things a little differently. As a company, we would like to recognize a few members of our team who wear many hats, including those of “boss.”

Since stepping into new positions this June, our Team Leads have done an incredible job, allowing us to use our time more efficiently, accomplish more of our goals, increase our focus, and be more effective at the things we do.

So, as a company, we would like to offer this little tribute to our Team Leads as our way of saying thank you for all you’ve done for us.

Erica Mizelle, Marketing Director

Erica Mizelle, Marketing Director

Erica Mizelle (VetoViolence, Heads Up!, OADP, CICP)

  • starting position: Communications Strategist
  • current position: Marketing Director

A journalist by trade, Erica was one of the first Atlanta-based employees. She immediately became an instrumental leader in the office, playing a huge role in building it into the vibrant workforce it is today. She was also one of the first employees to carry the title “strategist” and consequently has been a vital champion in helping to establish the strategy team.

Her interest in marketing started early, performing an analysis of Banyan’s social media channels “for fun.” She has since grown Banyan’s presence across numerous social media platforms and made it an integral part of the company’s marketing and promotional strategy.

All of this done, of course, while working with clients on numerous projects covering concussion awareness and prevention, countermeasures, evaluation, violence prevention, and policy-level impacts. In 2013, she took over the mantle of Project Director for VetoViolence’s various prevention efforts.

Jacob Heberlie, Creative Director

Jacob Heberlie, Creative Director

Jacob Heberlie (EvaluACTION, d-up!, Bionic Man)

  • starting position: Digital Strategist
  • current position: Creative Director

A talented and passionate interactive designer, Jacob led company executives through problem solving exercises via visual workshops (among other things) before joining the Banyan team. Starting in motion graphics, he quickly took on additional creative challenges that allowed him to lead the development of Banyan’s longest-training-to-date and the redesign of the company website—all within his first year onboard.

In 2014 he became Creative Director of a revitalized squad containing a unique mix of designers, developers, content specialists, and video production experts. Under his leadership, projects adapted leaner development methods and agile approaches, all in the spirit of the team’s motto of “making it better.”

Jacob has been a lead on many memories Banyan projects, ranging from simple things like his holiday Turdunken infographic to complex challenges like adapting a multi-day in-person training to an effective online experience.

Jared Gordon, Vice President of Culture

Jared Gordon, Vice President of Culture

Jared Gordon (STRYVE, Positive Parenting, ACEs Snapshot, VetoViolence)

  • starting position: Client Support Specialist
  • current position: Vice President of Culture

Coming from the nonprofit sector, Jared’s connection to Banyan’s mission to create change for good was immediate. In his first year, he took over many of the company’s writing needs and expanded their online marketing efforts for clients before progressing to promotions, training development, interactive tools, and ultimately project strategy.

For no known reason, Jared started showing interest in organizational leadership and when the company starting gaining more work, he was one of the minds behind Banyan’s team based structure. For equally unknown reasons, he started gathering staff input and in 2013 began outlining plans to further support and build Banyan’s company culture. His contributions have fundamentally changed how the ATL and STL offices interact with one another. His ability to work well with staff and leaders across the company is invaluable; he works tirelessly on behalf of his colleagues and in support of client work.

Jared’s first project was helping teens get help through YourLifeYourVoice, which he still remains an active part of today. He considers Heads Up Clinicians and Cutting Back to be significant projects where he first started flexing some of his strategic talents. He is currently the strategist for STRYVE, a project he has worked on consistently since his first year at Banyan.

Chris Koch, Vice President of Strategy

Chris Koch, Vice President of Strategy

Chris Koch (VetoViolence, Act Against AIDS, Finding Leverage)

  • starting position: Digital Media Producer
  • current position: Vice President of Strategy

Having worked in creative agencies and Hollywood previously, Chris joined the St. Louis office in 2008. Driven by his desire to see media do good things to enhance people’s lives, Chris shepherded Banyan’s movement toward digital offerings—such as motion graphic videos and websites—as additional ways to motivate change behavior.

In 2011, Chris volunteered to start the Atlanta office and departed when his lease was up with just a computer, cell phone, and vision for the future. He grew the office from one person working in his apartment to an office of 12 employees and counting (roughly the size of the entire company when he first joined). While in Atlanta, he furthered Banyan’s offerings once more by not only adding strategic services but making it a core part of Banyan’s DNA.

Many Banyan projects have benefited from Chris’s insights and talents. He played a major role in the restructuring efforts that led to the revised VetoViolence launching this fall, the evolution of Banyan’s application of learning theories in projects like Understanding Evidence, and campaign work in efforts such as Act Against AIDS.


“Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”- Reed Markham

Photo by: Yoko Inoue. Source: Art Works for Change, www.artworksforchange.org

A Pan Heard Round the World

I have a friend whose grandmother once reasoned that people can’t hear a woman unless she has her lips on. The southern, self-proclaimed sage was referring to the power of lipstick, and I remember feeling like the statement relegated my paintless adolescent face to that of a Ms. Potato Head whose mouthpiece must have gotten knocked off in a neighborhood football game.

Fortunately, I have a mom who never liked putting bows in my hair growing up, because she didn’t want me to look like a present. Instead, she taught me that I was a gift as I was—with or without makeup—and how I chose to speak about others and myself would be what defined my features. As a result, my voice became my vogue. Eventually, so did my writing.

Now that I work for Banyan Communications, I have the privilege and responsibility of using my words to shape healthier conversations about serious issues affecting everyday people. As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a project of particular importance to our company is VetoViolence.

Created by Banyan for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), VetoViolence is an online, interactive portal that helps individuals and communities learn how to stop violence before it begins. Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, CDC and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women launched a social media movement over the summer: “1 Photo. 6 Words. #VetoViolence.”

VetoViolence Against WomenThe project invited people to share their commitment to preventing violence against women, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #VetoViolence. Pictures collected in August will be showcased on the VetoViolence Facebook page throughout the fall.

As I’ve thought about this movement, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first visit to CDC several years ago when I was a graduate student. At the time, I was studying a stack of academic research about the relationship between language, gender and identity and had gone to the David J. Sencer CDC Museum to see “Off the Beaten Path: Violence, Women, and Art.” The multimedia exhibition utilized artists from around the world to promote awareness, create empathy and foster dialogue about violence against women.

Of the exhibit, curator Randy Jayne Rosenberg wrote, “The stories that underlie these artworks help us feel and understand the essence of the problem of violence against women around the world. Can art foment social change? We hope that the artworks in this show can push the door open a little wider, and, in the process, shed new light on an old problem as we begin to forge a new journey—off the beaten path.”

The image shared at the top of this post is one that has stayed with me since touring the museum and one that I believe accomplished exactly what Rosenberg had hoped for with the traveling exhibit by Art Works for Change. Although it simply appears to be a woman holding a large steel pan, the context behind Yoko Inoue’s work is what speaks to my core:

“In some communities, where direct intervention is culturally impossible, women respond to severe domestic violence by assembling outside of the household in question and banging out an alarm on pots and pans. This informs the man that the spirit he attempts to break belongs to many, not one.”

Do you hear these women as I have? If so, sound off in solidarity. You only need one photo and six words.

Happy Columbus Day!

A national holiday since 1937, Columbus Day commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World on October 12, 1492.

It also provides our creative department with another excuse to have a little fun (not that it takes much).

Hope you enjoy the day!

Happy Columbus Day!

Applying Baseball to Business

5 Leadership Lessons

Gleaned from the Cardinals-Dodgers divisional series, these lessons apply to just about any organization: big or small, well known or under-the-radar, sports-oriented or public health-focused.

5. Great contributions can come from anywhere

The first run of the divisional series came in the top of the first inning, courtesy of a home run by rookie outfielder Randall Grichuk. The feat alone is impressive enough; it’s even more so when you consider Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had allowed only nine home runs in the regular season. Not to mention there’s only one other Cardinal ever (as in ever) to hit a home run in his first postseason at-bat.

But the biggest surprise? That Grichuk was in the line-up at all, something that was not in the cards (excuse the pun) mere months ago when Oscar Taveras appeared to be the go-to-guy for that position. You can add Jon Jay (who batted .455 this series) to that same list, playing backup to Peter Bourjos the first half of the season.

Lesson: Involve your team with the problems you’re facing and give them opportunities to contribute. Like a first inning home run by Grichuk, a great solution can come from some very unexpected places in some very unexpected situations. 

4. Take smart chances

Dodgers All-Star outfield Yasiel Puig was plugged as a potential new “Mr. October” for an expected, explosive post season. But after Puig struck out eight times in his last 12 plate appearances, the Dodgers decided not to include him in their do-or-die Game 4 line-up.

We have good reason to believe that – while the Dodgers didn’t win that game – they made the right choice. Replacement Andre Ethier reached base in two of his four opportunities.

Lesson: It takes courage to change course when things aren’t working, especially when we’ve put great investment into it. And even though we may be asked questions and feelings may be hurt, we must remember that we are answering to the higher needs and mission of our team.

3. Great people can be great in unexpected ways

It’s not a surprise that two-time All-Star Matt Carpenter had a big presence in the Cardinals division series win. But the way he contributed was unexpected. Carpenter hit a home run in each of the first three games of the series. No player in post-season history has done this, especially one that only hit eight home runs in the 158 games he played in the regular season.

Fresh in our minds is another unexpected home run, the three-run blast by Matt Adams that gave the Cards the lead in Game 4. Home runs aren’t rare to this slugger (15 in the regular season) but power against left-handed pitchers has been. He batted .190 with just three home runs all regular season against lefties.

Lesson: When it comes our own teams, we may realize how much we’re going to depend on some great people for a tough project, but we also have to remember that great people constantly surprise us. It’s important we continue to give them the freedom to do something unexpected.

2. Data informs, not dictates

Baseball is one of the most studied things on the planet. Stats of every player’s entire professional history? Got it. Same stats against right and left-handed pitchers? Got it. Day vs. Night games? Got it. Stats on batting in a specific spot in the lineup against a specific opponent on a specific day of the week? Yes, even that.

But no statistic would have indicated that:

  • Baseball’s two best pitchers going head-to-head in Game 1 would produce a 10-9 game
  • Not only would Cardinal rookie Marco Gonzeles make the post season roster, but get the win in two of the three Cardinal victories
  • The Cardinals would walk away with this series win in just four games (most analysts predicted both Missouri teams being eliminated by the two Los Angeles teams, not the other way around).

Lesson: Making informed decisions is crucial to the success of our teams and organizations. But despite the deepest data we have, we might find our 20-game winner starting a game where we end up giving up nine runs. In these tough situations, we need to remember the lessons we’ve learned from the data, keep our wits about us, and adapt to the challenge. A 10-9 victory may not be the same as an expected 2-1 win, but it’s still a success.

 1. Respect greatness

No one would ask a starter in the post season entering his 7th inning of work to stay in the game after failing to retire his first four batters, after his lead was cut in half, and after he still faced the bases loaded with only one out. Unless it was someone great like Clayton Kershaw.

Quickly approaching 100 pitches, and having already thrown that many a mere four days ago, no one would think about letting the pitcher bat for himself in the 7th. Unless it was someone great like Clayton Kershaw.

We look to our greatest coworkers and employees to do more than we would ever think to ask of others, at times throwing the entire weight of the team on their shoulders. But only someone as great as Clayton Kershaw would have been given the opportunity to blow a 6-2 lead in a single inning or a 2-0 lead after approaching triple digits in pitching as he did in this series.

Lesson: Respecting greatness does not always mean asking even more of great teammates; sometimes it means acknowledging our expectations are inhuman and helping those teammates do a little less so they can do what they do great. After all, it’s how we would help if they were anyone else.

Community Health

Prevention Today, Healthier Tomorrow

In my role with Banyan Communications, I have the great honor and privilege of working with communities across the country that are implementing healthy living initiatives to help improve the health of their residents.

Some of the initiatives include creating healthier environments, such as safe routes to school and farm-to-school programs, so that physical activity and good nutrition are a part of each school day for students.

Others include:

  • Local businesses implementing work-site wellness programs
  • City parks becoming tobacco-free
  • Hospitals taking a role in educating mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding

The reason that this work is so important affects each of us.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, seven out of 10 deaths in the U.S. are a result of a chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. About 80 percent of healthcare dollars are related to the treatment of a chronic disease.

The clock is ticking. At Banyan, we are driven by the fact that many of these conditions, causing death and disability, can be prevented. In partnership with CDC, Banyan staff members work to help communities across the U.S. with health promotions activities that are aimed at preventing these chronic diseases.

That’s what makes a day like September 25, 2014 so important. A day when Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced CDC funding for 193 new awards—totaling almost $212 million to all 50 states and D.C., including large and small cities, counties, tribes and national organizations—to support chronic disease prevention.

During Secretary Burwell’s announcement she said, “these grants will empower our partners to provide the tools that Americans need to help prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Today’s news is important progress in our work to transition from a health care system focused on treating the sick to one that also helps keep people well throughout their lives.”

We congratulate Secretary Burwell, CDC and these new awardees and look forward to working with them to create Change for Good.

The Power of Systems Thinking

Finding Leverage | Power of Systems Thinking

Not too long ago, we took you on a behind-the-scenes tour of our latest shoot.

We thoroughly enjoyed working with Chris Soderquist and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors on the project. Systems dynamic modeling is an interesting topic – we know a lot more about it now than we did before filming, that’s for sure – and we’re pleased with how the final product came together.

We thought you might be interested, too. Check it out and let us know what you think!