Digital campaigns: Healthcare

“Don’t Take My Care” Campaign:

A Case Study

On March 4, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federal healthcare subsidies. Essentially, this amounted to a decision on whether or not to strip away the healthcare subsidies that allowed Americans in 37 states to pay for healthcare. (If you’re interested in my take, as a designer, on how complicated it was to count the number of stakes at risk, read my blog post.)

Families USA, a national healthcare advocacy organization and a principle architect of the ACA, was in the national spotlight, leading the effort to warn the public and policymakers about this threat to the country’s healthcare system.

My role was to create and execute a digital campaign strategy to mobilize advocates, inform the public, and create a storytelling experience that authentically captured the personal stories of the people who stood to lose the most in light of an unfavorable decision.


Late January, 2015: We heard rumors that the oral arguments might take place in March. We had 5 weeks to come up with a digital experience that would convey the heart of what was at stake to as many people and advocates as possible. And then we had to launch it.


I brought my team of designers, content producers, and writers to meet with our colleagues in the Communications and Policy units. We established a timeline, working backwards from March 1. The teams gave me background on the issue and what was at stake. I asked Communications for the top-line problem, the media pitch, and our “ask” of the Supreme Court. From this, I formed a plan.

The solution was to create a digital storytelling campaign that personalized the wonky topic of “healthcare subsidies” in a way that brought the issue to life—showing the voices, faces, and fears of the 9.6 million Americans who could lose their healthcare to the public, healthcare advocates, and the media.

We boiled down the messaging to: “Don’t Take My Care,” deciding to leverage a hashtag (#DontTakeMyCare) that was already getting play on Twitter.

The key to good digital storytelling is “show, don’t tell.” My idea was to design and launch an interactive platform that would show videos of personal stories and spur viewers to engage by posting canned posts to Facebook and Twitter using our branded #DontTakeMyCare hashtag.

Social media outreach and engagement:

We gathered a list of all influencers (individuals and organizations) and tiered them into prominence and level of activity online (Twitter, Facebook, and earned media). I assigned staff to do outreach to each influencer, with the goal of having a database of people and organizations with whom we could coordinate on promotion and engagement before, during, and after the Supreme Court case. Later, we would tag influencers to each component of the digital strategy as needed.

Creating the interactive:

I contacted a digital agency (called Brink) that I knew would work fast and do great stuff. We now had 4 weeks to roll out the interactive. Brink got started by quickly traveling to four states, interviewing about 8 families to get their stories. We settled on a February 28 launch date for the interactive.

Promotion: Preparing teaser campaign content

While Brink was on the road, I got my team to start creating some engaging digital content to tease out the campaign—writing and designing shareable social media graphics, tweets, posts, and blogs.

We reviewed the stories of the healthcare consumers we were featuring and created draft social media content and graphics (using the campaign hashtag). Brink sent us video outtakes from the road, and we created some quick videos for social media, too.

I wrote and designed alongside the team, and edited and reviewed all of our web and social content (working side-by-side with my colleagues on the communications and policy side to ensure that everything was accurate).

The campaign began to take shape into these components:

  1. A campaign landing page
  2. An interactive video site with baked-in social media content for viewers to share and post and a social media “wall” showing the campaign hashtag posts (we set it up so that we could take down mean comments)
  3. Social media graphics showcasing the hashtag and personal stories/quotes
  4. A series of explainer blogs written by staff for different audiences (advocates, reporters, and the public)
  5. An email campaign comprising tailored emails to our lists and a social media toolkit

As we completed each component, we posted it and scheduled the content on Buffer according to the schedule that we had drawn up, tagging influencers and other advocacy organizations along the way to build up the drumbeat for March.

Promotion: Preparing launch day content

In tandem with the teaser content, we began producing similar content for the day of the oral arguments. We weren’t sure when they would be, but as our Communications team began to plan for earned media outreach, my team and I shadowed them closely, creating digital content to amplify reporters’ stories and the voices of the healthcare consumers who were planning to arrive on the steps of the Supreme Court on launch day. We created:

  • Social media graphic templates into which we could quickly insert quotes that were being live-tweeted that day.
  • Branded video opener slides that we could easily insert into that day’s live videos.
  • “What would you say to the Supreme Court?” We took a few individuals to the Supreme Court a week before March and filmed them as shared their stories.
  • Canned tweets and posts tailored around the day’s events.
  • Different version of a response blog based on how we projected the day would go
  • A twitter chat with like-minded allies and advocacy organizations scheduled for the day after


We had two weeks to go until March. Brink was quickly finishing up filming the videos. Over the course of a weekend, I worked with the lead communications and policy staff to review the rough cuts and suggest edits. It was a scramble.

One week later, we had a beta version of the interactive. We took a few days to test the site, and we were ready for digital launch on February 28. I grew a few gray hairs on that day, but launch was awesome!

And four days later, on March 4, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments. I assigned one designer to stay at the office to churn out graphics and videos while the rest of my team (and the staff) rushed to the Supreme Court to get an early start on live tweeting, capturing video, interviewing consumers, and demonstrating in front of the court. Below you can see some of the highlights of the campaign.

Campaign Highlights

Interactive storytelling video/social media site

KingvBurwell Interactive

We asked the public: “What would you say to the Supreme Court?”

Explainer blog series

The Affordable Care Act Is a ‘Three-Legged Stool’ (blog)

When we published this initial post by Ron Pollack, our Executive Director, I put together a visual illustration of the three-legged stool analogy that Ron used in his blog. This quick video was illustrated and produced in a day.

Five Key Points in Briefs about King v. Burwell (blog)

Branded social media graphics

These are a mix of canned and “day-of” graphics produced on launch day, thanks to the great work and easy-to-use templates that we created. Can you spot me in the orange jacket below?

King v Burwell Twitter

Live tweeting and interviews:

Journalists interviewed members of Congress, healthcare practitioners, activists, and members of the public live from the temporary “Radio Row” that our Communications team set up. You can see the branded social media graphics that we created to amplify the earned media strategy.

King v Burwell Twitter

Without the people, there is no story.

These are just a few of the amazing (and poignant) stories that we captured on our various devices on the steps of the Supreme Court.






Post-Supreme Court:

From Twitter chats to more blogs covering the pending decision, we stayed on the story, ensuring that our website and social media channels continued to inform and inspire healthcare activists and the public. Many thanks to the work and energy of Families USA staff, healthcare activists, and all the folks who cared enough to share their stories with us.

King v. Burwell at the Supreme Court: Oral Arguments (blog)

What You Need to Know about King v. Burwell (blog)

How King v. Burwell Threatens the Health and Financial Stability of Consumers (blog)


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