Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday, whether your plate overflows with veggies or (gasp!) a little turkey. We’re grateful for the opportunity to support our amazing clients and work alongside such a talented team in doing so. That includes creative mastermind Bill Marchant, who deserves all the credit for the holiday gem below.

Can’t blame a turkey for trying, now can you?

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!



Anatomy of a Turducken

We originally assembled our “chicken inside of a duck inside of a turkey” infographic a couple of years ago. It remains one of our favorite holiday delights. In case you missed it the first time ’round, we’ve reheated it just in time for your Thanksgiving dinner.




Preventing Youth Violence, One Community at a Time

Brianna organized her first peace rally as a 7th grader. Having lived in Salinas, California, her whole life, she is no stranger to the effect violence has on her rural community.

Like many her age, Brianna enjoys spending time at the Bread Box. An open recreation center, Bread Box provides a safe place to meet with friends, play games, do homework, and shoot hoops. But, depending on the season, some of her friends may not even be in the country. Those who did stay year round often had problems when “The Salad Bowl of the World” wasn’t harvesting its trademark lettuce.

In this community, it’s not uncommon for an entire family to live in a single sub-rented room.

Brianna noticed when an officer-involved shooting took place not too far from the Bread Box. She also noticed when angry protests began taking place. Brianna knew that more rage and violence would not help their community. But having gone through a STRYVE provided leadership program the year before—provided by CDC’s Striving to Prevent Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE) initiative—she also knew she could do something about it.

Brianna organized a Peace Rally, gaining support from her peers and local organizations. They set up opposite the angry rallies, holding signs encouraging peaceful discussion about solutions and encouraging cars to “honk for peace.”

Sunrise in Salinas during our recent STRYVE shoot

Sunrise in Salinas during our recent STRYVE shoot

Their message gained attention and soon people in the angry protests began joining their peace rally. No hateful signs allowed. And when one person continued using negative language, Brianna made him leave.

Many challenges still face the people of Salinas, California. But spend just a few minutes with Brianna and she’ll tell you how—with their leaders working together and youth like herself stepping up—these challenges will one day be behind them.

Brianna looks forward to seeing these positive changes come to fruition in her community, so her home becomes a place where everyone can live without fear of violence.


Once Upon a Little Blue Pill…

In 1992, a group of scientists with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer launched a clinical trial of a new drug designed to help relieve the pain of recurrent angina. Focused primarily in a small Welsh village known as Merthyr Tydfil, the trials were ultimately declared a complete failure.

Not only did the drug – known at the time as UK 92480 – not work, but it caused a variety of unforeseen yet minor side effects. A decision was ultimately made to end the research, but a funny thing happened when the scientists began to inform the participants that the trial was closing down. The men in the village became very upset, begging the scientists to continue with the project. When that didn’t work, the villagers wanted to know where they could buy the drug once the scientists had gone. It seems that while UK 92480 did not help with angina pain, it did help resolve another medical issue being faced by many men in the village.

Today, that drug is known as Viagra – and when it was publically launched in 1998, Pfizer’s share price doubled in less than three days!

Now…I tell you that story so I can now tell you this one.

For years to come, (and perhaps for the rest of your life), when someone mentions the word “Viagra,” you will automatically think of the scientists and miners in that small Welsh village. It may just be for the briefest of moments—but it will happen. You won’t be able to help it. The word will evoke memories of scientists in white lab coats dispensing little blue pills to the villagers; of those same scientists and researchers wading through reams of computer print-outs and scratching their heads in confusion; and even of the coal-faced men pleading with the scientists not to end the clinical trial.

You will recall all these things because you learned how Viagra came to be through a story. Not facts, figures or business plans. A simple story—and we are learning that story-telling holds the key to creating successful learning, comprehension and long-term memory for the listener.

Basically, humans are inherently story-tellers because it is the easiest way to bring order to the chaos of our unburdened minds. From sitting around a fire 10,000 years ago recalling tales of the hunt, to the explosion of publishing and distribution of ideas through books, to sitting as a family around the radio waiting for “The Lone Ranger” to start; to standing in lines a city block long to see a movie about a giant shark terrorizing a small New England village, human beings love stories. We can’t help it—we’re drawn like a moth to a flame. And science is beginning to understand why.

Research undertaken over the last two decades has consistently shown that the human mind in its natural state is disorganized. We are bombarded by random thoughts, fears and worries for the whole of our waking hours. And, in fact, the effort to make sense of these thoughts becomes the basis for most of our dreams. But listening to a story built on simple elements—cause and effect, crisis and resolution—helps bring a sense of reason and order to our minds.

That’s because listening to a story has been shown to stimulate a broad area within the brain’s frontal cortex. Not only are Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area stimulated—the language and concept translation parts of the brain—but in fact the entire cerebral cortex where important functions like memory, emotion, attention and consciousness are housed become actively involved when being told a story. This means that listening to a story actually causes your brain to become stimulated in a manner similar to what you would experience if you’d physically been present during the time and place in which the story occurred. You feel real emotions, create long-term memories, make reasoned judgments, and feel motivation to act just as if you’d been in that Welsh village with all those scientists and miners.

Not to mention that being fully engaged in a story causes our bodies to release a neurochemical called Oxytocin, which results in us feeling kindness, motivates cooperation, and promotes empathy—the ability to feel the emotions of others. This is important because, as social creatures, it allows us to understand how others may react to a given situation—and motivates us to make judgments on how we might react if faced with the same circumstances.

Naturally, this is a simplified view of the decades of research and scientific data on the impact of story-telling, especially as an educational tool. But let me ask you this…with all of these emotions being triggers, memories being stored, and motivations being promoted, imagine if you were able to use this same tool—the power of story—to engage the public about how to prevent diabetes; train medical staff on how to suit up and treat an Ebola patient; educate public health staff on how best to successfully translate evidence-based programs into their own communities; or motivate stakeholders on why support of HIV prevention is so crucial.

So, next time you open PowerPoint on your computer, or make notes for a conference at which you’ll be speaking, or even try to talk with your kids about something that’s important to you, think of those scientists and miners in the little Welsh village—and use the power of story to engage, educate and motivate your audience.

St. Louis

Five St. Louis Office Myths


Given our recent investigation into how much the Internet Loves Numbered Lists, we figured you might be interested in another one. Whether you know us well or we’ve just recently met you, here’s a little insight into what’s true – and not so much – about how we roll in STL.

1.   We’re in St. Louis

We’re in a town called St. Charles, not even in St. Louis County. A 65,000-person town with three minor league sports teams and the starting point of a 225-mile bike trail, St. Charles was the first Missouri capitol (established 1821), which is also commonly confused as having been in St. Louis.

2.   We’re a Trophy Shop

Stroll down the sidewalk in front of our office, and you can easily see our awards through the windows. Local folks have long been convinced we’re a trophy shop. In fact, some even insist we pretend to be a trophy shop but are really a top-secret covert government agency. When we tried to explain our health communications work in support of government clients, we might have inadvertently lent some credence to this theory.

3.   We Call Missouri Home

While St. Louis and St. Charles are in Missouri, 20 percent of our team commutes everyday from neighboring Illinois. Even though 32 percent live in St. Charles, the majority of us are scattered around St. Louis County. Our commutes range anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. Ironically, none of us live in the 755-acre housing development around the office.

4.   We’re all Creatives

You probably know us as the creative or production office: the place where the magic happens and things get done! And that’s definitely a big part of what we do in STL, but it’s not the full story. This office is home to 80 percent of our executive team, but 31 percent of the staff are project managers. We also claim one of the company’s strategists and consider more than a third of the Atlanta staff as key players on our creative team.

5.   We’re Independent Brokers

We made a very important commitment to ourselves in 2011 that we would be a one-office culture, despite two locations. And while we have had a number of changes over the last few years, we continue to hold true to that promise. Today, you would find it difficult to spot a single project of ours that doesn’t involve some mix of staff between both our Atlanta and St. Louis offices.