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On International Women’s Day, TogoRun Celebrates Record Number of Female Mushers in the 2014 Iditarod®

The tenacious spirit of professional female athletes continues to inspire women across the globe and help break barriers to allow more and more women to compete in arenas, stadiums and on race tracks in events that have been historically dominated by men. In 1949, Sara Christian was the first female driver to race in NASCAR. Today, Danica Patrick has brought national attention to the sport and women’s contributions to its popularity. In 1993, Julie Krone was the first female jockey to win a triple crown race and later became the first woman inducted into national Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. And just weeks ago at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, women broke into another established “boys club” sport when the games held its first-ever female ski jumping event.

As countries around the world observe International Women’s Day on March 8, 18 trailblazing female mushers will show their determination and grit as they compete in the 2014 Iditarod® dog sled race, which spans more than 1,000 miles of the Alaskan wilderness. These fearless women make up the largest group of female participants to have ever taken on this rigorous journey. The trek can last anywhere from nine to 15 days, with mushers facing extreme temperatures and unpredictable forces of nature along the way. A they set out from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, these women will be proudly continuing the rich history of women breaking into sports that once largely excluded them.

International Women’s Day began in the early 1900s to celebrate inspirational women, the feats they’ve accomplished and their contributions to society. To commemorate this important day, the global communications firm TogoRun is honoring the courage, stamina and tenacity of these 18 mushers, including sponsoring 30-year-old Monica Zappa, a geographer and meteorologist from Kasilof, AK. Monica raised her team of dogs and trained for three years before hitting the trail for the first time this year.

Regarded as the “last great race on earth,” the Iditarod® commemorates Alaska’s rich dog sled history, particularly the emergency dog sled relay in 1925 to provide diphtheria serum to the desperately ill residents of Nome. The original mushers in that life-saving relay traveled  what now makes up a portion of the Iditarod® trail. The race as it is run today began in 1973  to honor and help preserve this history.  Although the initial field of racers was heavily dominated by men, it only took one year before Mary Shields made history by becoming the first woman to complete the race. To date only two women have won the Iditarod® —Libby Riddles in 1985 followed by the late Susan Butcher, who won an incredible four times (1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990).

TogoRun is named for the Siberian Husky sled dog Togo, who ran the longest leg of the diphtheria relay to Nome under the harshest conditions. Togo was one of the smallest dogs to lead a team, but he made up for it with fierce focus and fighting heart. While Togo is well-known in Alaska, many other Americans are more familiar with Balto, the dog that led the final team in the relay into Nome. “Togo didn’t get quite as much credit as he should have,” said Iditarod® veteran DeeDee Jonrowe, who is competing in this year’s race. “I think of a brave little dog.” As for Zappa, she’s excited to carry on the spirit of this unsung hero. “The Iditarod® is the ultimate test…I’m very honored to carry the Togo name,” she said.

Gloria Janata, President and Senior Partner of TogoRun, is elated to shine a light on Monica’s story as well as the participation of all the women making history this year by hitting the trail. “We’re thrilled to recognize these outstanding women mushers. The strength, determination and drive they all show truly embody the spirit of our namesake, the Siberian Husky sled dog Togo.”

International Women’s Day began at a time when women had few opportunities.  But over the years as women have ascended the ranks of prime ministers, astronauts, surgeons and positions in other male-dominated fields such as sports, International Women’s Day has become a celebration of what women have and continue to accomplish – including those who are taking on the adventure of a lifetime by participating in the Iditarod®.

Today, the Iditarod® represents one of the most physically grueling and strenuous tests of women’s determination and grit. Join us in saluting this year’s field of female mushers and cheering them on to the finish line!

As the tradition continues and grows, so too does the number of female mushers hitting the trail. This YEAR’S roster includes 14 Americans as well as women from Canada and Norway, including: Anna Berington, Kristy Berington, Paige Drobny, Cindy Gallea, Ellen Halverson, Karin Hendrickson, DeeDee Jonrowe, Katherine Keith (Rookie), Lisbet Norris (Rookie), Jessie Royer, Jan Steves, Abbie West (Rookie), Monica Zappa (Rookie), Aily Zirkle, Marcelle Fressineau (Canada, Rookie), Michelle Philips (Canada), Karen Ramstead (Canada) and Yvonne Dabbak (Norway, Rookie).

To learn more about the race and its participants, including Monica Zappa, contact Andrew White at TogoRun in Washington, D.C. at 202-909-5864 or a.white@togorun.com. Also, please visit http://togorun.com/women-Iditarod® to learn about the history of women in the Iditarod®.

Costco Enters the Realm of PBM (Pharmacy Benefit Manager)
Chanelle buys her pistachios in bulk
Chanelle buys her pistachios in bulk

To kick start 2013, Costco made an announcement in its monthly newsletter that its new health program offers employees of small and mid-sized companies discounted prescription medicines through Costco’s in-warehouse pharmacies. Costco has reached out to its network of 64,000 independent pharmacies, and negotiated prices of certain drugs in hopes of benefiting the public while increasing its membership, as well as increasing purchases from those walking through its aisles to get to the pharmacy. With these prices in place, participants will reap significant savings of 10 to 15 percent over other drug prescription plans. Since Costco is one of the leading wholesale superstores, PBM category leaders such as CVS Caremark will likely pay close attention to Costco’s next moves, as well as how this move pans out. Continue reading

WWAD? What would Ariana do
Well-Connected Monica
Well-connected Monica

At the beginning of the year, many of us were making promises to eat better, exercise more and finally drop those last five pounds. In today’s Pinterest-obsessed world, a healthy meal recipe or new workout regimen isn’t far from reach. But what about another important piece of the feel-good puzzle: our mind and mental health?

 

Numerous studies show the negative reactions our bodies have to stress, and experts cite that for many, some of this stress is related to smartphones and mobile devices. We are fortunate to live in a world that’s connected 24-7, but that makes it much harder to “turn off”: shut down the email, put the iPhone away and focus on our surroundings.

 

Last year, Ariana Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group, launched “GPS for the Soul,” an app that serves as a “course-correcting mechanism” to help you find balance.

Continue reading

Telling Togo’s Tale: The quest for untold stories
Richie Diehl. Photo by Marc Heft.
Richie Diehl. Photo by Marc Heft.

“The last guy coming in has a story just like the first guy,” said Howard Farley, a former Iditarod musher and resident of Nome. This sentiment rings true to the spirit of Togo, just as it does today for every Iditarod competitor.

While in the great state of Alaska, I have been on a quest for just that—untold stories—whether it be from a rookie musher or seasoned veteran. These stories are helping us better define Togo’s legacy.

My adventures in Alaska brought me all the way from Anchorage to Nome and cities in between, where I was given the chance to live the trail and retrace some of Togo’s steps. Continue reading

Telling Togo’s Tale: Seppala’s legacy lives on
Leonhard Seppala and his beloved lead dog, Togo
Leonhard Seppala and his beloved lead dog, Togo

Leonhard Seppala, originally from a small fishing village in Norway, came to Alaska in the early in 1900s, and was immediately drawn to caring for, training and racing dogs; Siberian Huskies to be precise, a new breed brought over from Russia only years before. Seppala transformed his dogs into racing champions through the years, culminating in three consecutive dominating victories at the All Alaska Sweepstakes.   

Seppala’s determination, spirit, courage and love for his dogs, which he displayed throughout his life, are the criteria used to award the Seppala Heritage grant, to help a new and upcoming musher leave his own mark at the Iditarod.

Being on assignment for TogoRun in Anchorage has given me the opportunity to speak to this year’s Seppala Heritage grant recipient, Mike Ellis. Continue reading

Cancer Support Community Benefit Concert Event on March 4
Brian D'Arcy James

In July 2009, The Wellness Community and Gilda’s Club Worldwide joined forces to become the Cancer Support Community (CSC), an international non-profit providing support, education and hope to millions of people touched by cancer. Likely the largest employer of psychosocial oncology mental health professionals in the U.S., CSC offers a menu of personalized services through a network of professionally-led, community-based centers, hospitals, community oncology practices and online, so that no one has to face cancer alone.

 

If you are in the NYC area, please join TogoRun in supporting CSC’s work by attending an intimate concert event featuring Tony-nominated, Broadway (Next to Normal) and TV (Smash) star, Brian d’Arcy James, on Monday, March 4, between 6:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Tickets are available online or by contacting Christina Raia at 646-600-7560.

Ed Koch, The Great Communicator

KochFormer New York City Mayor Ed Koch was celebrated, mourned and buried this week. During his three terms as mayor (1978-1989), he was called the quintessential New Yorker. He was. But, I believe Ed Koch was also one of the greatest communicators. I have thought often in the past few days about what were the best—and most timeless—lessons that we, as communicators, can learn from him. Here are some of my favorites.

1)      Communications is not just a process, but often the end product. A former New York Daily News reporter, who covered the political beat during Koch’s tenure, remembers the former mayor spending hours with him and his fellow journalists in legendary City Hall Room 9. He sometimes wondered how Koch found the time to be mayor when he was spending so much time with reporters; then he realized that was being mayor.

Continue reading

A New Reality for Health Communicators

Anne Woodbury and Steve Arnoff

It has been one historic week in Washington! The passage of health reform presents a wide range of opportunities for stakeholders industrywide. For now, a new regulatory framework and seismic shifts in the marketplace open the door to many more questions than answers. One thing is certain; the role of the health communicator has never been more complex—or more important.

Each of us will need to focus on reaching new audiences with more clarity, timeliness and personalization. Understanding the unique needs of federal and state government will be crucial. Strong third-party alliances will take a central role for those of us within or outside the Beltway. And of course, doing it all with a patient-centered approach is a must.

Regardless of your political leaning, if you plan to work in health communication you’ll need to incorporate these indispensable tactics:

Target government decision-makers

Ensure every communications plan you develop includes the government policymakers and their influencers as a specific audience. If your issue or product is relevant to the poor, disabled, or chronically sick, chances are you should be thinking beyond Washington, D.C. and strategize to reach state capitals as well. With 50 different state governments getting even more complex, their expertise and perspective has never been more important to your communication goals.

Customize messages

The system is not going to get any simpler. There will be different policy makers, different processes and different influencers in each state.  Public affairs pros will need to think about each current state gubernatorial administration’s approach to implementation while keeping a keen eye on the politics and leanings of any potential new administration. This type of complexity breeds customization. Understanding how best to reach different audiences with targeted and customized messages will be critical.

Reach third-party allies

Stakeholders will continue to play an elevated role in shaping policy. It will be essential for companies to have strong allies and be well-aligned with medical societies, consumer advocacy groups, NGOs, and trade associations with shared interests. If you are a healthcare company and you don’t have someone accountable for managing your most important third party relationships, you will soon be in trouble.  If you don’t know which third parties are most important to you, then you will soon be in big trouble.

Don’t wait

I’ve worked in Washington for 18 years. The first half, I was on the policy side as an advocate, the second half on the communications side as a consultant.  I’ll let you in on secret – until they absolutely have to, government relations and regulatory teams at your companies don’t typically like to involve communications people. They like to keep the lines of communications with policy makers and influencers limited to controlled conversations.  By the time they call you in, you are likely in hot water or expected to work miracles.

To gain a firm understanding of your government and regulatory team’s priorities you will want to engage early and often. Don’t be surprised when your communication expertise helps them be more successful.  Effective policy making will continue to be infused with compelling emotion, effective storytelling and smart rhetoric — all areas where communicators excel.
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Effective healthcare communicators will be indispensable for the foreseeable future. Whether you advocate for policy change or augment messages for updated programs or new customers, health communicators face a new reality. Are you prepared?

TEDMED and TogoRun: Asking the Bold Questions

Anne Woodbury is Partner and Managing Director of the TogoRun DC office.

This week, I will join approximately 4,000 people at the Davos of health care – TEDMED.

Everything about TEDMED is unconventional. Over the span of three days, The Kennedy Center Opera House plays host to the chief of CDC, the Director of the Institute of Medicine, Momix, a group of dance illusionists, and yes, even an appearance by a great health care thought leader, Cookie Monster.

Every TEDMED speaker poses a bold question. What would you decide if 311 million lives depended on it? (Peggy Hamburg, FDA Commissioner)

·         Was Einstein right about imagination? (E.O. Wilson, Famous Biologist)

·         When you finally find your voice, what do you most want to say? (Virginia Breen and Elizabeth Bonker)

Like those attending TEDMED, TogoRun believes the magic is in the bold question. The road to health innovation is paved by those smart enough and brave enough to pose the big questions and bring – bright minds together to uncover solutions.

At TogoRun, we do this by helping our clients reach the pinnacle of leadership—thought partnership.

What is thought partnership?

Thought partnership is TogoRun’s evolution of thought leadership. The difference is so much more than semantics. A thought leader is somebody with a strong position that advocates and leads the charge toward wide acceptance. A thought partner asks a big question and works with you to uncover the solution.  (Read my PR WEEK editorial on the difference between thought partnership and thought leadership).

It is only through thought partnership that companies build trusted third party relationships.

Thought partnership is a quest

Have you noticed the word “question” begins with “quest”? As consultants, we regularly find ourselves side-by-side with clients on what at first seems to be an impossible quest—whether the challenge presents itself as a steep timeline or a tight budget, we find ways to differentiate our clients in a very crowded space.

Nothing forges a stronger agency/client bond than being in the trenches together. Our most successful partnerships are marked with fidelity and endurance. We not only achieve success for our clients, but we form bonds that extend beyond the life of the project.

The quest is where connections are made and a brand affinity develops.  When thought partners joining your quest include grass tops leaders such as academics, consumer groups, medical societies or NGOs, you develop powerful brand advocates who care about the same things you do, seek to do the right thing and remain steadfast for the long haul.

To paraphrase my former boss Newt Gingrich, “… the difference between a Nobel Laureate and a non-acclaimed scientist is not their work ethic, their intelligence, or their passion. It is the size of the question they ask.”

What quest are you on? If you need some inspiration, start by looking at the 50 Great Challenges outlined by TEDMED and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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