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Associations Learn to Tap Social Media to Broaden Engagement in Grand Challenges

Strategist and Thought Leader, Seth Kahan conducted a workshop for associations embarking on Grand Challenges. Guest speaker Heather Holdridge, director of digital strategy for Planned Parenthood, described how her organization builds support through social media.

Washington, DC, October 29, 2015 --( Under the sponsorship of the American Nurses Association, Seth Kahan led a meeting of associations launching Grand Challenges. A Grand Challenge is an opportunity for organizations to dedicate their knowledge and resources to a noble purpose with the goal of making a socially beneficial contribution.

According to Kahan, a Grand Challenge that captures the public imagination has the potential to grow an association’s influence and sustainability. “A Grand Challenge is the skeleton key that opens three doors: growth; mission impact; and profitable revenue.”

Launching a successful Grand Challenge requires an organization to earn favorable public sentiment, reach stakeholders and potential partners, and focus media attention on their goal. Achieving this visibility and viral appeal requires a mastery of social media, which was addressed by guest presenter Heather Holdridge, director of digital strategy for Planned Parenthood.

Holdridge shared the evolution of the organization’s social media strategy dating back to initial defunding threats in 2011 to current opposition. She described how Planned Parenthood learned how to create momentum – then let it go. They did this by recognizing that while they may create a hashtag, such as #Standwith PP, they do not own it. Rather than try to exercise control, they boosted the visibility of positive tweets and posts by sharing them on their platforms. To encourage people to express their fervor and outrage over attacks on the organization, they created a menu of simple ways people could channel their energy and demonstrate support. Holdridge says that messages from the public have a powerful authenticity an organization cannot match.

The immediacy of social media requires organizations to be more vigilant and nimble, according to Holdridge. That requires a willingness to dispense with rigorous reviews and approvals for social media messages, which slow their distribution. A lagging response can easily be lost or overshadowed as trending topics inevitably shift. She acknowledged that Planned Parenthood was prepared for a swift response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, but was caught off-guard by the recent release of videos by an anti-abortion group, and failed to respond quickly enough.

Holdridge praised nursing organizations for immediately embracing the #showmeyourstethocope” and “shareyourstethoscope” hashtags created after hosts on ABC’s The View mocked a Miss America contestant for delivering a monologue on her contribution as a nurse while wearing scrubs and a stethoscope.

This meeting was part of an ongoing series of invitation-only events. Participants include organizations pursuing Grand Challenges, such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association, American Association of University Women, Canadian Nurses Association, Meducate, National Affordable Housing Management Association Board of Certification/Accreditation, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, and YWCA USA.

“I appreciate that ANA generously opened this workshop to my clients who have embarked on similar journeys. These gatherings give CEOs who are leading Grand Challenges an opportunity to learn from each other and guest experts and discover productive ways to tackle the challenges of change and growth,” says Kahan.

If your organization is embarking on Grand Challenge, Kahan welcomes you to contact him at

About Seth Kahan
Kahan has worked with more than 100 CEOs and leaders from the private and public sectors. He has led change initiatives within cultures as diverse as the Peace Corps ad World Bank to Shell and Prudential. He is a recognized innovator in change leadership and the author of the bestsellers Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out (ISBN-10:0470550481) and Getting Innovation Right: How Leaders Leverage Inflection Points to Drive Success (ISBN-13:978118378335.
Contact Information
Visionary Leadership
Seth Kahan

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