Up Close With: GMAC’s Chair Lisa McAlister on the ‘Sight Sanctuaries’ Campaign

August 1, 2023

The Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) is in the midst of its most recent campaign, Sight Sanctuaries, in which it asks parents to encourage their children to get outside and away from their screens. To find out how the campaign is going and to check in with GMAC chair Lisa McAlister at about six months into her tenure leading the organization, John Sailer, Editor-in-Chief of Review of Myopia Management, conducted the following interview:

John Sailer, Editor-in-Chief, Review of Myopia Management: Hello and welcome to Review of Myopia Management‘s interview series. Today we are here with Lisa McAlister, Global Myopia Lead of Johnson and Johnson Vision, and the Chair of GMAC, the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition. We are here to discuss GMAC’s current consumer campaign Sight Sanctuaries So, thank you for being here, Lisa.

Lisa McAlister, Chair, Global Myopia Awareness Coalition: Thanks for having me, John. I’m happy to be here.

RMM/Sailer: So, GMAC’s current consumer campaign is called Sight Sanctuaries, and it encourages families to, and this is how it’s described, ‘prioritize eye health by creating their very own sight sanctuaries, such as a treehouse, fort, dedicated space for sports, et cetera, and highlighting the importance of spending time in these spaces instead of indoors on screens or doing near work.’ So, how is the campaign going, what results have you had so far, and what has been the reaction from parents and their children as well as from eye care professionals? I know that’s a big question.

Lisa McAlister

GMAC/McAlister: The campaign’s going wonderfully. Thank you first of all for having me on to be able to talk about this. We’re really excited at GMAC, or the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition, to be in yet another year of putting out content to raise the awareness of myopia, that all kids should get comprehensive eye exams, and that if they are myopic that there are new treatment options available that can slow down the progression of myopia. Those are our key messages we’re constantly driving to. But the way we’ve done campaigns is that we always love to have a reason for families and parents to get involved with that. One of the things we’ve talked about is getting outdoors and taking a break from screens is really critical for your entire health, not just the health of your eyes, but we also know that it can benefit the health of your eyes, right? More outdoor time, less time doing near work, especially in the summer when the weather’s great to support that. So that’s what we’re focused on this year. Overall, the campaign’s going really well. We’re seeing a great amount of traffic to our website, which is MyopiaAwareness.org. We’ve launched a new Instagram page to try and take advantage of some of the influencer content that’s being put out there and make sure that parents have a place to go to see more information. In general, the engagement with our influencer content, both with ECPs and pediatricians, as well as with parents, is really high. So, we’re very happy with how the campaign’s gone thus far, and I know you’ll have a few specific questions for me so we can jump into those specificities as well.

RMM/Sailer: Okay, great. Yeah, I know that was a big question to ask at first. Thank you for all the background. So, you mentioned the influencers you’re using. What insight can you give us into the social media influencers?

GMAC/McAlister: We at GMAC have been very purposeful in partnering with parent influencers who have been impacted by myopia in some way. So, whether they have myopia themselves or someone in their family has it, we want to make sure that their experiences and connections to myopia and slowing its progression are very authentic, right? So, that’s what we’re looking for from a parent influencers’ perspective. We’ve also looked at different eye care professional influencers, and we’ve collaborated with a pediatrician, Dr. Natasha Burgert, the last two years. We did that specifically to help spread the news to parents and other physicians about the importance of comprehensive vision and early exams, not just screenings. With our pediatrician, Dr. Natasha Burgert, her message is clear, go get a comprehensive eye exam. And she’s partnering with ECPs around her to do so. So, in general, we’re trying to find influencers who are really relevant to our audience, which is parents of children who may be myopic.

RMM/Sailer: Okay, great. So, I know when you measure the results of your campaign, you count the number of impressions it’s made, and part of the goal is to increase traffic to your website, www.MyopiaAwareness.org. Has there been a measurable increase in traffic to www.Myopia Awareness.org, and is there a way to measure an increase in eye care appointments as a result?

GMAC/McAlister: I’ll take three different approaches to those questions. First, you mentioned impressions, and impressions are great, very much a marketing and PR metric that we look at, and that’s how many people might see your content. But we want to look very specifically at other measures too. So, we’re looking at two other kinds of measures. One is more about general awareness, and the other set is about consideration, which shows us that people have moved beyond being aware of myopia and new treatment options, and they are actually considering taking a step towards care. Right? So, from a general awareness metric perspective, we’re measuring things like influencer content, video views, and engagement rates, which is people liking, commenting, et cetera, website visits that are driven by the influencer content. Once they get to our site, we’re looking at downloads of resources housed on MyopiaAwareness.org. We’re looking for those messages that I mentioned at the beginning to be pulled through in any earned media coverage we get from a public relations perspective. We’re also looking at views and clicks on sponsored content. The most recent one would’ve been an article we had in Huff Post. So, those are about the general awareness.

For consideration, we’re looking at people who are actually taking an additional step. We wanted to inspire parents to create this sight sanctuary and encourage them and other health care professionals to leverage MyopiaAwareness.org as a resource in the myopia management journey with their patients.

Looking at our influencers, we’re looking at how many of the comments on their posts acknowledge our campaign, and in previous years as well as this year, we’re far beyond benchmarks that were given to us. For us, we would be looking at somewhere under 10% would acknowledge the campaign, and we’re seeing anywhere from 10% to 20%, depending on the influencer, of people who are commenting, acknowledging some part of the campaign, which is really exciting. We’re seeing really great click-through rates that I mentioned on the Huff Post article. We also are looking at our website and the percentage of website visits that lead to either our eye doctor discussion guide or our new infographic download. So, to summarize, we’re looking at a variety of different things.

While impressions are wonderful, we want to actually make sure that people are taking away our key message and trying to do something about it. So, the second part of your question was, ‘Has there been an increase in traffic to our website?’ The simple answer is yes, and I would say very excitingly, yes! We’ve seen incredible engagement as a result of this campaign. As a reminder, this website is new. We launched this less than a year ago. We had a different site before, and we established our own separate site just about a year ago. We are so glad that we did. Just under 50% of our traffic is coming from Instagram right now, which shows that our parents and our target parents and other health care professionals are engaging with the content that we’re putting out there.

That’s coming both through influencers as well as our new Instagram page, which is @MyopiaAwareness. The Huff Post article we released is also generating traffic to the site and conversation on social. So, we’re really happy with the traffic we’re seeing and the engagement on the site and actually using the resources we have available. 

The last part of your question, you asked, ‘Is there a way to determine an increase in eye care appointments?’ Unfortunately, no, there’s not, but we know qualitatively that feedback suggests that this campaign is making a difference. I mentioned Dr. Natasha Burgert, and here’s a quote from her that we’re really excited about. Since her content went live: ‘I’ve had five families ask for ECP referrals during office visits, and three families say they saw the post and already had eye appointments set up. The message of the campaign seems very actionable to get families making appointments. My local eye care professional also shared that she had taken the current patient-facing GMAC flyer along with some of her group’s business cards to her family pediatrician during her child’s summer checkup. She talked with her pediatrician about spreading the GMAC message and getting more kids to see their eye doctors.’ So, that’s really great feedback that we hear pretty consistently across the board, but I love that that’s coming from a pediatrician who most parents see as the primary health care provider for their kids. The pediatrician is saying, ‘Hey, you need to go see an eye doctor and make sure you get a comprehensive exam.’ And that’s working, right? So, we’re really excited about that.

RMM/Sailer: Excellent, Lisa, very exciting. You’re really having an impact, whether it’s something you can measure or anecdotally referrals from a pediatrician. Very exciting. So, you mentioned your new website and the resources. Can you tell us a little bit more about the resources that you can download at MyopiaAwareness.org

GMAC/McAlister: I’ll talk about the discussion guide first. We launched that last year, and we continue to see great usage and downloads of that. It’s a great piece to help facilitate the discussion between parents and eye doctors. We’ve translated it this year into three additional languages, Spanish, French Canadian, and Chinese. The new piece we developed is the Pediatric Eye Health Insights infographic, and it just serves as another resource for parents. I would encourage everyone to go to MyopiaAwareness.org and download the pieces themselves to determine how those could be used in your practice, or at least be cognizant that some of your parents may see this so you can understand that it’s available if a parent comes in asking some questions that may be reminiscent of one of these resources.

RMM/Sailer: One of the interesting aspects of GMAC is the fact that a number of companies that would typically be competitors are working together for the purpose of spreading awareness about the fact that there are treatments available to slow the progression of myopia. So recently, some other companies have launched campaigns also in the myopia management space, consumer campaigns, just before the back-to-school season. Is there anything you could tell us about those and how they might complement GMAC’s consumer campaign?

GMAC/McAlister: The goal of all GMAC member companies, associations, groups, et cetera, is to promote awareness, knowledge, and be a part of the fight against myopia, right, and to slow down the trajectory of myopia. I truly believe that each of the campaigns, whether it’s from one of our member companies or from GMAC, really only serves to build upon each other, right? Part of our strategy is actually to have them in the marketplace at the same time because we believe it’s beneficial to actually have complementary messages out where parents can see them. Because the more a parent sees, the more likely they are to take action. We’re very cognizant about making sure that we don’t step on toes, right? GMAC has one goal, and that’s to raise awareness of myopia, and that there’s something you can do about it, and there’s new treatment options available. We’re never going talk about particular treatments, get into which doctor you should go to, et cetera, because we are here to raise awareness, but it’s actually great and very complementary that other campaigns are existing out in the marketplace at the same time so that parents or even other health care professionals can take that information in and maybe even make a more informed decision to take action. So, we believe it’s really complementary

RMM/Sailer: Okay, working together to raise awareness. That’s the goal of GMAC.

GMAC/McAlister: It is! You mentioned that it’s very unique, and I’m still so impressed and excited about the way this organization operates. You’re right, many of the players could seem like competitors, but we really, truly do have a purpose to all work together to raise awareness because there’s so much need out there. There are so many kids who are myopic or will be myopic soon that there’s something we can do about it, right? So, I love the fact that we’re working together to impact these kids today and tomorrow. And if we’re raising awareness for parents or older adults who are also myopic so that they’re aware that there might be challenges coming as a result of something that previously we thought just happened — that your refractive error or your axial length just got higher every year. So, I’m still very fortunate to be able to serve as a part of this group and really believe in the mission we have together.

RMM/Sailer: Absolutely. We’re happy to be a part of the goals as well. So, you’ve been chair of GMAC for a little over half a year now. What can you tell us about your experience, what you’ve accomplished, and what plans you still have?

GMAC/McAlister: I’m very excited about what we’ve accomplished so far this year. We’ve had several new members join the organization, which we will announce here eminently, so look out for some announcements from us of organizations that are joining. We’ve had this campaign go live. We’ve got new resources available. We’re making a lot of effort through partners like yourselves and other partners in the media industry to really get the word out, not only to parents and health care professionals outside of vision, but also to get optometrists and ophthalmologists aware of the efforts we’re making, right? So that’s been a huge change this year. We’re really excited about continuing to raise the impact that we can make.

We’ve also expanded this year to Canada, so we have three countries where we’re currently having campaigns. That’s the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. We’re incredibly excited about that. Where are we going next? We’ll continue to do campaigns this year. We’re continuing to ask for more and more industry, companies, partners, associations to join so that we can make a bigger collective impact. We plan to expand to other countries and regions over the next several years. We’re putting our strategic plan and map together for that right now. Every year we’ve seen growth and change and more excitement. This year is no exception, but I also know going forward, our impact will continue to grow. I’m excited to be a part of the group today, and it’s fantastic to be board chair, but I also look forward to continuing to help this organization grow in the future regardless of the role I play, right? This is a long-term commitment for everyone involved, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

RMM/Sailer: Very exciting, Lisa. You’ve been doing a great job since you’ve been involved, and thank you for doing that.

GMAC/McAlister: Of course, and thank you again to RMM for continuing to help us raise awareness of our efforts and make sure that everyone out there who consumes your content is also aware of what we’re doing. We appreciate that. We’re excited to continue to grow, and we’re thankful to have partners like yourselves to grow with us.

RMM/Sailer: Well, thank you for that. We’re thrilled to be a part of it and to help spread awareness. So, anything else you want to add?

GMAC/McAlister: Just another new thing for us this year that I thought I would mention. If you’ve been wondering how to get involved, we actually have some new things that are going to happen in the second half of the year and early next year. We’re actually going to have a presence at the American Academy of Optometry meeting and at the Global Specialty Lens Symposium with a booth, and many of our member companies, board members, et cetera, will be there on hand to answer questions, talk to you about how you can get involved, et cetera. So, please stop by and visit us. We’d love to have a conversation, and we’d love for more people to get involved. So, it’s another new opportunity to connect with us, and we’d love to meet you and talk about how we can better be supporting each other.

RMM/Sailer: Okay. Looking forward to it. We’ll definitely be there, and everyone listening, take some advice and get involved with GMAC.

GMAC/McAlister: Perfect. Thank you so much for having me.

RMM/Sailer: Thank you, Lisa McAlister, Chair of GMAC, the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition, and the Global Myopia Lead of Johnson & Johnson Vision. And thank you for listening to Review of Myopia Management’s interview series with the leadership of GMAC.

For more on GMAC from this year’s interview series of the organization’s new leadership, Review of Myopia Management interviewed Membership Committee Chair Rajeev Garg, Global Head of Myopia Management Strategy for CooperVision; Advisory Board Committee Chair Kovin Naidoo, the Global Head of Advocacy and Partnerships for the OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation and former CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute; the new co-chairs of the Marketing Committee, Layna Mendlinger, Global Head of Marketing for Visioneering Technologies, and Nitin Jain, Chief Commercial Officer at Euclid; and Lisa McAlister, when she was first named the new GMAC Board Chair.


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