What we say

Influencing the Conversation

Roland Barter

March 6, 2019

Influencers: what used to be a relatively unknown term a few years ago, has grown into a bona fide job for many. In fact, Google Trends shows a peak in the search term ‘influencer’ in early February 2019, when the Fyre Festival documentaries made their way into mainstream media.

For those that haven’t watched the films (or heard about the monumental flop), Fyre Festival was promoted as a luxury music festival with tickets costing up to £75,000. High-profile influencers were used to promote the festival and create a social media buzz to help sell the costly tickets. However when the festival guests arrived, they found themselves in a building site, sleeping in tents and eating pre-packaged sandwiches. Whilst a disaster for Fyre Festival, the concept showed the true power of ‘the influencer’.

While we could go on for hours about the marketing strategies used by the organisers of Fyre, we’re here to talk healthcare and ask an important question: Why are influencers so underutilised in our industry?

One, relatively obvious reason, is that the strict regulation in the industry undoubtedly makes people nervous. As the main influencer marketing channel, social media is often considered an uncontrollable minefield in healthcare communications. However by exploring a variety of the examples in CHC’s Library of Change, we’ve been able to identify how to use more authentic forms of influencer marketing to great effect.


As more and more people turn to the internet for medical advice,1 Johnson & Johnson decided to facilitate an online conversation so patients could access reliable sources of health information and support.

HealtheVoices brings patient advocates together with other patients to discuss experiences and provide support. The community has grown since it started and as well as the webinars, forums and radio shows, the 5th HealtheVoices Conference will be hosted in 2019. The resource demonstrates the importance of authenticity. HealtheVoices works well because it utilises a network of genuine patient advocates who want to support their peers.


L’eau D’Chris

Influencers are often used as the face of a campaign, to help raise wider awareness. However in order for it to appear genuine, it’s vital that the influencer’s values are aligned to those of the campaign.

For World Mental Health Day 2017, CALM enlisted the help of Chris Hughes, a popular Love Island Contestant, to raise awareness of male suicide. The campaign involved a hoax launch of a bottled-water brand called ‘L’eau D’Chris’, which ‘infused Chris’ tears with drinking water’. The next day, the concept was revealed as a way to reflect the ludicrous and needless nature of males bottling up their emotions.

The campaign was covered in the media and delivered a 1800% increase in traffic to the CALM website, where resources are available to help men in a mental health crisis.3 The success of the campaign hinged on the fact that Chris speaks openly about his emotions, both on and off screen, and therefore the campaign was seen as sincere and relatable by the target audience.


Louise Delage

Addict Aide, a French organisation set on tackling addiction, used a fake Instagram account and harnessed influencer culture to highlight how alcoholism is so easily overlooked.

They created an Instagram account for a woman called Louise Delage, who appeared to have the ‘perfect Insta-life’. Her photos in exotic locations and having fun with friends attracted hordes of Instagram followers and 50k likes in no time.3 Then the account’s final post revealed that Louise Delage suffered from alcoholism and all the signs had been hidden in plain sight, with the majority of her photos usually including an alcoholic drink.

The account was a tool to demonstrate how easy it is to over-look the signs of alcoholism and to raise awareness of the condition. The feature of this campaign that made it resonate with audiences was that Louise Delage’s Instagram account seemed familiar and probably not too different from some of the influencers we follow ourselves.


The examples featured here show, firstly, that influencers can be used in healthcare without fear of breaking the rules; secondly, how influencers are successful when they are used in creative ways. We shouldn’t fear including influencers in our plans and should come up with imaginative ways to harness their power. The content they produce is far more trustworthy than anything a company can produce about itself or its products – that’s the power of third party endorsement.



  1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/15/the-social-life-of-health-information/
  2. http://www.prweekawards.com/finalists/leau-de-chris/
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp81af73keA