Malaysian Walk organiser explains how to succeed in 2014

How do you attract VIPs, media, and thousands of participants to your Walk? Nathalie Seroux offers her tips for Global Diabetes Walk success.

Nathalie Seroux (right) and Vina, Columbia Asia's ambassador, who lives with type 1 diabetes.

As regional marketing manager for Columbia Asia Hospitals in Malaysia, Nathalie Seroux has planned successful Global Diabetes Walks for the past three years – and has a few tips to share with other Walk organisers worldwide.

The Malaysian Walk, which the hospital group calls ‘Walk for Cure’, will begin at 7 am on 16 November in Titiwangsa Park in Kuala Lumpur. Activities to ensure that participants enjoy themselves are key, Nathalie says: activities this year in Malaysia include limbo rock, Zumba, an Instagram wall and a hand-painting activity, allowing walkers to leave a ‘high five’ to defeating Diabetes. “We are hoping some of the participants will go crazy and also get their footprint on this wall,” she says. The fun will continue after the Walk, she adds, at an after party.

Three thousand walkers are expected and for each of them, Columbia Asia Hospitals will make a donation to the children’s fund of the Malaysia Diabetes Association. The Walk for Cure campaign raised RM 25.000 in 2012, and RM 30.000 in 2013, money that has been used to provide 280 children with lancets, needles, strips, alcohol swabs and meters.

“We are hoping for plenty of participants this year, to get the collection the Diabetes Malaysia Association deserves,” she says.

Focus on media and staff

To achieve this, Nathalie and her team have put a lot of energy into a month-long media campaign drawing attention to the 2014 Walk.

“We just had the press conference launching the programme - next are the radio and TV programmes discussing diabetes and Walk for a Cure 2014. The last two weeks before the event, we will have radio campaigns on 3 to 4 channels, and extra articles will be published (testimonials from families of little type 1 diabetes children),” Nathalie says.

“Then on the day itself, we are looking at a famous radio DJ as emcee, with radio cruisers going around the park to have live interviews with the participants…  and hopefully we will have all TV and written press media with us to interview our Minister of Health,” she adds.

Columbia Asia hospitals also have an internal plan for communicating about the campaign.

“The six hospitals’ staff should be the first ones to know about diabetes and the first ones to register for the Walk,” says Nathalie Seroux, who recommends using social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, website) to engage staff.

Her other tips include:

-Plan a budget, and stick to it

-Recruit an event management company, if you need one and can afford it:

“On the first year, we organised the event on our own but since it was taking a lot of our time, when we had other marketing projects to deal with, we decided to outsource the organization of the event,” Nathalie explains.

- Look for win-win situations: “A nice twist is that the event management company decided to become the official partner of the event and as a result, there is no management fee, as they are using the event as their CSR project,” Nathalie says.

- Make sure the media campaign and internal promotion are running smoothly

- Get the right VIP guests: “When you have an important guest, the press will come or else it is hard to get coverage for your event.  For the third year, the Minister of Health has dedicated his time to the Walk. He has even recommended Columbia Asia this year for a long term project with the MOH,” Nathalie says.

The Malaysian national blind football team and the Malaysian national wheelchair badminton team have also been invited, and Nathalie is also trying to get famous people living with diabetes to walk this year. “But this is difficult because in Malaysia people do not want to say that they have diabetes,” she says.

-Plan fun activities after the walk to make the event more interesting: “Last year, we received feedback that the walk event was boring. It was just a walk nothing else,” Nathalie says. That led to this year’s after party with booths from sponsors, music on stage and a football field for blind players, where walkers can play a match against the Malaysian national blind football team.

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