31092 Going Viral Cdc's Zombie Apocalypse

Margaret Silver, MPH, CHES, Office of the Director/Communications Office, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA

Background: CDC plays a key role in preparing the nation for all types of public health threats, including natural, biological, or man-made incidents. CDC works with national, state, and local partners to prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health emergencies.  PHPR provides strategic direction, support, and coordination for CDC’s preparedness and response activities. These activities include educating the public on important preparedness and response messages using print and online materials, as well as social media outlets like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

Program background: After the 2011 Japan earthquake, PHPR used social media to asked users questions and seed discussion on preparedness. One such question was, “What types of emergencies are you prepared for?” Most respondents said that they were prepared for general emergencies, like floods or hurricanes, but some also mentioned zombies. PHPR communicators decided to create a social media campaign on zombie preparedness to raise awareness for the upcoming hurricane season (June 1 – November 30). The objectives of the campaign were to raise awareness about personal preparedness, attract new audiences, and use existing platforms and content to keep costs down.

Evaluation Methods and Results: Communicators used the CDC blog, Public Health Matters, as the foundation for the campaign, melding existing messaging about getting a kit, making a plan, and being informed with the more sensational idea of a zombie apocalypse. The campaign used listserves, websites, and social media channels to promote the blog post. After posting the blow received over 2 million page views in one week. A year after the launch, the post still receives an average 160,000 views a month. In addition to the blog site, CDC’s Emergency Preparedness & Response Website (http://emergency.cdc.gov) also received increased traffic, 3.9 million page views in 3 weeks (420,000 previous year). The initial tweet, sent out Wednesday morning received 70,426 clicks. By Thursday, May 19, “CDC” and “Zombie Apocalypse” had trended worldwide on Twitter. The CDC Emergency Facebook page garnered more than 7,000 fans within the first month of it's launch. The campaign spilled into mainstream media (MSM) with over 3,000 articles, broadcasts, and other media, published about the blog. The campaign made an estimated 3.6 billion impressions and had a marketing worth of $3.4 million (total cost for the campaign was $87.00).

Conclusions: The purpose of this campaign was to garner attention from the public in light of hurricane season. On the surface zombies and hurricanes have little to nothing in common, but through engagement with the public CDC found these were both emergencies people were preparing for (realistic or not). Staff used input from social media users to tailor their message. The popularity of the post allowed them to establish partnerships and expand the campaign.

Implications for research and/or practice: The campaign's success demonstrates the importance of listening to your audience and harnessing the power of social media to deliver your message.  Zombies worked here because they were a fictitious emergency that people were interested in. Future campaigns must look at what is relevant to their organization’s mission and the audience they are trying to reach.