The Power of Storytelling

Every year, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship holds the International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival to celebrate not only the great work that companies are doing to achieve social, environmental, and business value, but also the creative methods in which they communicate their efforts. Public voting for the 2017 Film Festival—presented by FedEx—is now open. Vote for the winning video before February 17, 2017. Winners will be announced during the 2017 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, held in Boston on March 26-28.

For the 2016 competition, the Center introduced compe­tition categories for the first time to recognize a wider selection of terrific programs. The award ceremony, sponsored by Mary Kay Inc., was held during the 2016 International Corporate Citizenship Conference in Atlanta. There, Kirsten Gappelberg, director of corporate social responsibility & sustainability at Mary Kay, shared the mindset that enables her team to create award-winning videos that increase engagement around their signature cause—domestic violence.

2016_film_festival_winners.jpgFrom left to right: Jamie Mercurio of athenahealth, Catherine McGlown of Humana, Chandra Gruber of St. Jude Medical, and Sarah Andersen of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

“Our brains process visual information 60,000 times faster than words,” said Gappelberg. “A one minute video would then be considered equivalent to about 1.8 million words. At Mary Kay, we use the power of video to engage more than 600,000 individuals who have their own Mary Kay business. We want them to know and their customers to know that Mary Kay is about so much more than lipstick and pink Cadillacs.”

Gappelberg outlined five principles that Mary Kay employs to ensure that their videos are on message and appealing to their intended audiences. To engage stakeholders, she argued, effective videos should:

  • Show your personality
  • Transport your audience to the front lines of your project
  • Be humble and get to the point
  • Give your audience a call to action
  • Have a distribution strategy

Her remarks featured not only Mary Kay cause videos, but also those that their team admired from several other companies and NGOs. She provided examples of a few ways organizations have opened a dialogue on important issues using the following tools:

  • Humor. Gappelberg made the point that when hu­mor or other emotions are activated with the audi­ence, messages are recalled more easily.
  • Activation. Giving your audience a job to do or a way to help can be a powerful draw. If people feel like the opportunity to act is time-limited, the draw to act can be even more powerful.
  • Social experiment. We’ve seen Always do this so well with their “Like a Girl” campaign or even Italian NGO asking young boys to hit a girl. Mary Kay heard from partners in the domestic violence movement loud and clear—the group that has been missing from this im­portant conversation—was the men! This year, Mary Kay conducted a social experiment. They recruited about 50 men, young men and boys to ask them one question: What does it mean to “man up”?

During her remarks, Gappelberg summed up what is at the heart of storytelling’s transformative ability to engage and activate an audience in a corporate citizen­ship issue—the human element. “Storytelling makes your business more human,” she said. “We’re social creatures, and we’re emotionally influenced by stories of other people. If you make your business more human, you’ll help the audience connect with your organiza­tion. It’s that connection that will make them want to work with you and share that story with their friends.”

Gappelberg, along with Center Executive Director Katherine V. Smith, then announced the winners of the following categories:

  • Fan Favorite (largest number of public votes)
  • Company size
    • Large company (employee size 30,000 +)
    • Medium company (employee size 5,000 - 30,000)
    • Small company (employee size 1- 5,000)
  • Best in Show (selected by a jury of experts)

In total, four companies took home trophies, with athenahealth winning both the small companies and Best in Show categories. Here, we take a deeper dive into their winning programs.

Fan Favorite Winner: Thermo Fisher Scientific

Give Us Hope



Through educational programs and outreach efforts, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, is encouraging young people worldwide to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. The company’s mission—to enable its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner, and safer—defines its corporate responsibility efforts and is the foundation for creative, community-based programs that inspire young scientists to tackle society’s most pressing challenges.

“STEM education will be important for the next generation of innovators, business leaders, and entrepre­neurs,” said Fred Lowery, senior vice president and presi­dent of laboratory products at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “The time to start this education is now, and we’re com­mitted to playing a major role in making this happen.”

As an example of these programs in action, 60 employees from Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Boston-area offices recently visited Boston Renaissance Public Charter School to present students with “STEM-credible” lab safety kits. These kits enabled students to learn about DNA through lab experiments, where they extracted DNA from strawberries using professional lab supplies provided by the company.

“Someday these students may be our employees, customers, and partners, so we’re committed to building passion within them now,” said Carlos Sevilla, direc­tor of corporate social responsibility at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “By making STEM education more accessible for some of the brightest young minds, we hope to have a positive impact on industries that rely on science to improve health care, the environment, and public safety.”

Small Companies and Best in Show Winner: athenahealth, Inc.

Connecting Care for the Uninsured



Thirty-one million Americans are currently living with­out health insurance, yet only 1,200 free medical clinics are able to offer them much-needed clinical care. Health IT company athenahealth has stepped in to provide its network-enabled services free of charge to these clinics dedicated to serving America’s uninsured.

“athenahealth is committed to connecting care, not just among our traditional client base, but for all segments of the communities in which we live and work,” said Jonathan Bush, chief executive officer of athenahealth.

Through athenaGives, the company’s corporate social responsibility program, athenahealth has provided industry-leading IT services to free and charitable clinics across the country, with the clinics treating more than 45,000 unique patients since 2010. These services have allowed clinicians to send and receive medical records and monitor patient progress and outcomes in the same manner of today’s top medical centers. The collaboration between these clinics and athenahealth goes beyond simply providing technology.

“Clinics receive more than just the software,” explains athenaGives Manager Jamie Mercurio. “They also receive the lessons and knowledge that we’re learning from our providers across the country. In addition, they get the benefit of athena employees working behind the scenes and really supporting their mission to provide quality care.”

For providers in these free clinics, having a way to collect and analyze patient data and demonstrate the effectiveness of the care provided can help secure much needed grant funding.

“We at athenahealth are grateful to maximize the impact of our service by providing the tools these leaders need to execute their missions,” said Bush.

Medium Companies Winner: St. Jude Medical

St. Jude Medical and Children’s HeartLink



“At St. Jude Medical, we take on some of the world’s biggest health care challenges. We are focused on trans­forming the treatment of expensive epidemic diseases where medical device innovation can save and improve lives,” said St. Jude Medical Chief Executive Officer and President Michael Rousseau, speaking to the company’s enduring commitment to bettering health outcomes for all patients.

St. Jude Medical brings this promise to life through their longstanding partnership with international non­profit Children’s HeartLink. Knowing that one in 120 children worldwide experience congenital heart disease and 90 percent of these young children live where access to quality cardiac care is not easily accessible, St. Jude Medical saw a need for an increase in affordable and accessible care within the field of pediatric cardiology.

The St. Jude Medical Foundation began its partner­ship with Children’s HeartLink to improve access and quality of pediatric heart condition treatment in select high-need hospitals around the world by offering medi­cal expertise and life-changing treatment to previously underserved families and pediatric congenital heart defect patients. The partnership incorporates intensive training for local doctors and nurses to both diagnose and treat pediatric heart disease while working collaboratively with local governments, community organiza­tions, and medical volunteers in the 10 Children’s HeartLink partner hospitals throughout Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, Ukraine, and Vietnam. This partnership has been invaluable in connecting families with free or reduced price care, engaging with underserved communities, and coordinating the donation of lifesaving St. Jude Medical devices to patients in need.

“At St. Jude Medical, we believe that one of the greatest societal impacts you can have is on elevating care and standards of care in a way that makes health care sustainable,” said Rachel Ellingson, vice president of corporate strategy at St. Jude Medical and St. Jude Medical Foundation president. “Every mom wants their kid to have a chance. Every mom thinks their kid is special and unique. To give kids a chance and allow them the opportunity to grow up and be the kid you hope they’ll be is just an incredible opportunity.”

Large Companies Winner: Humana 2015

National Senior Games: Inspiring Generations of Better Health



As the presenting sponsor of the 2015 National Senior Games, health and well-being provider Humana motivated people of all ages to stay active and achieve lifelong health.

The National Senior Games provides an arena for athletes over the age of 50 to compete in sporting events while proving that age does not have to serve as a barrier to physical activity. More than 10,000 seniors participate in the biannual event and inspire many along the way.

At the 2015 games, Humana recognized select senior athletes that embody the spirit of determina­tion and dedication as “Humana Game Changers.” These athletes were awarded medals and were given the opportunity to share their stories at the games. Humana also provided educational resources for athletes and attendees. Humana activated countless employee volunteers and maintained an interac­tive video booth so that athletes could record and share their unique journeys of health and fitness.

“It takes a few small steps to start the journey to a healthier life, but these athletes are doing it in laps, jumps, throws, and volleys,” said Humana President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Broussard. “As the presenting sponsor of the National Senior Games, Humana is proud to salute the athletes and celebrate this generation for the active lifestyles they maintain.”

Since 2007, Humana has been the presenting sponsor of the Games and each athlete has a story that is a meaningful example of what is possible when you “Start With Healthy”—making conscious healthy choices each day. Their collective dedication to their sport sets a positive example for all—young and old—that it’s never too late to pursue an active lifestyle.

Public voting for the 2017 Film Festival—presented by FedEx—is now open. Vote for the winning video before February 17, 2017. Winners will be announced during the 2017 International Corporate Citizenship Conference, held in Boston on March 26-28.