Cover Story: A Healthy Relationship
As Dr. Gregory House’s baby blues stare into the distance, presumably because his boss has just dashed his delusion that they’ve had sex, he finally sees the same reality as those watching the season finale of “House” on Fox—he needs mental help.
The lovable curmudgeon’s psychiatric care will undoubtedly be explored as the series continues. But for those interested in an uninterrupted conversation, “House” is referring them to nami.org. The show does this through display advertisements on the official site for “House” and on the site for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which features the show’s stars garbed in black T-shirts bearing the “House-ism” that “Normal’s Overrated.” In both locations, visitors learn that proceeds from T-shirt sales will benefit the Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit charged with a mission of improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.
It’s this type of partnership that typifies the integrated approach NAMI is taking with its communications efforts. Each smaller effort is part of a larger whole—the goal of making NAMI a household name, says NAMI Communications Director Katrina Gay. And an integral part of that integrated effort is nami.org’s data collection.
To that end, NAMI takes a drip irrigation approach to gathering information. Starting with something as basic as understanding its nameless, unique visitor traffic—such as a “House” site referral—the organization then builds audience trust. Once nami.org visitors reach the member stage, they’ve often revealed as much about themselves as their exact relationships with specific diagnoses (i.e., a veteran reveals he has post-traumatic stress disorder or a woman says she’s been raised by a schizophrenic mother). NAMI then tailors its site and outreach to fit this information, continuing the cycle of gathering more data.
In all, the integrated efforts really have seemed to gel since January and result in large increases in many metrics, Gay says. For instance, April brought NAMI a 71 percent year-over-year increase in monthly online donations. (That’s often due to clickthroughs from NAMI’s e-mailed appeals and does not count donations from NAMIWalks, Gay points out. That effort, in which volunteers walk to raise money for NAMI, experienced 15 percent more donations than the previous April.)