The Start Of Pink Tent- Social Media Strategies For The H Audience

The Start Of Pink Tent- Social Media Strategies For The H Audience

Guest Post by Eric Elkins

I’m pretty selective about clients my agency takes on. Not only do I want to work with organizations or products or services my team believes in, but I also know that social media strategies aren’t always the best approach, and I won’t take on a project where our expertise isn’t actually going to be helpful. I also consider the subject matter and target audiences before making a decision about working with a new client. So when I received a call about meeting with someone who was taking on herpes awareness, I had to give the matter some serious thought.

Driving to Boulder for a lunch meeting at the home of Dr. Kelly Schuh and her husband Richard (whom I knew from my startup days in Boulder), I couldn’t shake a subtle twinge of discomfort. The H word is a toughie — my friends who’ve been diagnosed with it tend to feel shame and a sense of alienation. There’s no cure, it can go undiagnosed or symptom-free, and the fear surrounding its contagious nature can go far beyond rational thought. Of course, just about anything involving genitals, pain, and sex is going to make people squirmy. But I’d read about Dr. Kelly’s background on her website, and I was taken by her open and honest language. There was something fearless in the way she embraced her story , and shared it with the world.

kelly_nepalWhen she was in her early 20s and hiking through Nepal, Kelly was diagnosed with herpes, and the news fundamentally changed her life. As a young woman far from home, she was devastated. Finding out you have herpes from a doctor in an office in your hometown would be bad enough, but imagine being 7,500 miles away from everyone and everything you knew. After returning home, she started to research herpes, only to find her fears exacerbated by the misinformation and lack of consistent, helpful content available. Would any man ever love her, now that she had herpes? Would she be able to have a healthy child someday? Was her life ruined? Nobody had definitive answers for her. But awareness about the lack of resources for women like her only gave Dr. Kelly strength. And in the years since, she not only has run a successful chiropractic and natural health practice, but she fell in love with my old pal Richard, and gave birth to a gorgeous and healthy baby girl.

50 Martin, KellyIn the last few years, Kelly and Richard have been working to fulfill her dream of creating an online community — a Pink Tent — for women with herpes; a place where women can connect, get support, and learn how to manage the disease naturally. She wants to help women with herpes learn to “live, love, and thrive.” So when I sat down with Dr. Kelly and Richard to learn more about her Pink Tent project that day, I sublimated my disquiet by asking a lot of questions — about their plans, their target audiences, their needs and goals — all the stuff that I ask every potential client before putting together a proposal. And though they were wonderfully honest and passionate about the important work they were doing, I couldn’t help wondering how we could create a plan that would resonate for women, with and without herpes, and the men who love them.

The question for me was, how can we promote the women’s health aspect of what Dr. Kelly was building, without diluting the more difficult and world-changing subject of living with herpes? Because herpes is an important global issue. Genital herpes affects at least one in four women, yet 80 percent of people who have it don’t know it. It’s not even part of a standard STD test. The more I thought about it, though, and the more time my team and I spent with Dr. Kelly, the more I believed that we needed to take on this project and help her find and inspire her community.

It hasn’t been an easy road — between researching the subject matter, trying to identify online communities, and reaching out to people to discuss a disease that many are embarrassed to talk about, getting traction has been challenging. How do you mobilize a target audience that doesn’t want to be identified? But the more we learned and were challenged, the more resolved we became to bring Pink Tent to fruition. Because the need for a safe, informative refuge for women with herpes and the people who love them became ever more evident as we worked on it.

And that’s why I wrote this piece— to inform you about a Boulder resident who is doing important work in women’s health, and to ask for your help. The first part of the Pink Tent project is Dr. Kelly’s book, “Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes; A Holistic Guide for Women,” which is written and ready for publication. Once the book is produced, work will begin on the community platform at But none of that can happen without some assistance. So we’re all helping to build donations toward that end via Dr. Kelly’s IndieGoGo campaign (, which is now in its last two weeks of fundraising.

Full disclosure — what, if anything, my company gets paid for our work on the project is based on the funds raised. I fully believe in the importance of what Dr. Kelly is building, but it’s probably important to know that we get paid based on how much money comes in from the IndieGoGo campaign. It’s a risk I was willing to take, and we’ll keep working with Pink Tent whether or not we hit Dr. Kelly’s ambitious goal. But that’s not the point.

The point is this — if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with herpes, becoming part of Dr. Kelly’s community will be a true gift to you and to others. Whether you donate to the campaign and get a copy of her book as a thank you, or add your story to her website, or just like her Facebook page , you will learn something valuable while contributing to a larger cause. You’ll help Dr. Kelly “shine a bright light on herpes, sparking conversation and eradicating the stigma of one of the most universal infections.” Not a bad thing, right?

Eric Elkins

Wide Focus


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