Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) impacts more than 210 million people worldwide.

Many COPD cases are left undiagnosed because of their resemblance to a smoker’s cough

Making Twitter #COUGH with Boehringer Ingelheim

A Sound Campaign for a Worthy Cause

Affecting more than 210 million people worldwide, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) had been making its rounds across the globe, unchecked. And Boehringer Ingelheim — a leading pharmaceutical company — was committed to revoking the disease’s passport.

Why all the commotion?

Despite its often devastating impact on peoples’ lives, many COPD cases are left undiagnosed because of their resemblance to a smoker’s cough. Boehringer Ingelheim wanted to align its efforts with likeminded companies and encourage those with symptoms to take action. To accomplish this, it needed the support of hospitals, charities, the media, patients, parliament and other key influencers committed to the cause.

The solution called for fighting fire with fire, or in this case cough with #COUGH. After discovering that social media plays an important role in reaching COPD patients directly, or through friends and family, Boehringer Ingelheim was ready to make some noise. Literally.

The power behind the wave.

With explicit direction from its communications team, the pharmaceutical company was able to strike the perfect pitch and expertly key up each intended audience. The goal was to produce a spike in tweets that mirrored the sound wave of a COPD patient’s chronic cough. And what better way to sound off than with a digital megaphone like Thunderclap: an online powerhouse used for rallying support.

The first step was to create a landing page where people could gather online to share their story and engage with others. To further the impact, Boehringer Ingelheim joined forces with the British Lung Foundation to provide educational messaging on how to identify symptoms and get treatment. Relevant companies and media spokespeople were also directly contacted, and Twitter actively kept the conversation going.

Together, this made up the Make Twitter #COUGH campaign, which was strategically launched weeks prior to the internationally recognized World COPD Day.

The plan takes flight.

Boehringer Ingelheim’s campaign spiked the charts with a powerful cough that swept across the globe. While its Thunderclap page reached over half a million people through social media, its Twitter engagement catapulted, drawing the attention of over 22,000 new actively involved users, many of which were key influencers in healthcare.

As a direct result, the pharmaceutical company gained the support and attention of influential parliament members and champion nonprofits like Cancer Research UK, WeNurses, Men’s Health Forum and Krowdster.

When it came to the campaign’s success, Richard Pitt, the corporate affairs manager at Boehringer Ingelheim said it best, “Make Twitter #COUGH was an innovative and hugely successful campaign. COPD is an under-recognized problem in the UK, and the level of high- quality engagement — from stakeholders to people affected by COPD to parliamentarians to hospital foundations — was truly heartening to see.”

The message was out. All were on board. Mission accomplished. What’s next? Stay tuned.