Covering Alzheimer's disease carries a great responsibility. The disease affects at least 5 million people in the U.S., so it’s our duty to sort myth from fact when it comes to risk factors, prevention and treatment options.
But revealing that Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of America’s preeminent medical figures, missed the signs of his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease — that brings an entirely different level of responsibility.
Dr. Oz’s news, revealed on our Facebook page, unleashed a tidal wave of interest. Google searches for “Alzheimer’s disease” spiked to a 2019 high.
We received thousands of comments across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, making this the “most engaged-with” segment in the 11-year history of The Doctor Oz Show. The articles produced around this segment garnered over 254,000 page views. Our social posts performed at levels previously unseen by our brand. The Facebook post that revealed Dr. Oz’s news saw 30x the engagement (likes, shares and comments) than our daily average. It was a similar story on Twitter and Instagram, where thousands of replies, shares and likes led to posts that performed far above their average. In total, our coverage of the news was seen over 30M times across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — the single largest footprint we’ve had on a story. But while the size of the response was impressive, it wasn’t what truly stunned us.
A majority of the comments shared a common theme: they were from people who went through – or were presently going through – similar trials with family members. They too were battling one of America’s most feared diseases and saw us as a beacon in the night.
- “I lost my partner in May of this year. 35 years of love gone.”
- “Our family is going through the same with our mom. Prayers for strength for you and your family.”
- “For a while I’ve realized something is not right with me. Seeing you this week made me sit with my husband and son to discuss my concerns with my health. I’m going to go get tested! Thank you.”
We knew what we had to do. We set out to provide comfort and community — and whenever possible, answers — to the people who commented on our social posts. Sometimes we thanked someone for being lovely — “beautifully said, thank you.” — other times we leveled with readers. We pointed people towards answers, like a first-step test that can be done online, and realized there’s power in making people feel safe. Giving small, tangible ways to get started (like the signs of disease, the test), goes a long way to making people feel comfortable taking this more seriously.
We produced content based on the desire of our fans — the latest on a blood test for the disease and 5 Alzheimer’s prevention tips you can start today — and devised a strategy that allowed us to reply to as many people as possible. Dividing up the day, a small team responded to hundreds of comments, doing everything we could to point people to resources.
Dr. Oz’s admission set off a week-long conversation between us and fans on social media. We realized this was a unique moment — a moment we stepped into proudly. We care deeply about our fans, and this was the time to show it.