Powerful testimonials for a good cause with I Challenge Diabetes

Content Strategy Inc co-founder Kathy Wagner first met Olympic rower Chris Jarvis in 2010. Like Chris, Kathy’s daughter, Tanis, has type 1 diabetes, and was taking part in camps and other events that Chris organized through his foundation, I Challenge Diabetes (ICD).

Chris founded ICD in 2004 as a way for people to engage around the disease through physical activity. “When I reached the Olympic level in rowing in 2004, and started having people reach out to me all around the world, it spawned the idea in founding an organization,” said Chris.

More than a decade later, ICD offers dozens of standalone events from retreats to races to camping trips for youth, families, and adults, and ongoing programs across Canada every year, all with the aim to ‘test the limits of living with type 1 diabetes.’

ICD participants proudly displaying their cave bums and insulin pumps.
ICD participants proudly displaying their cave bums and insulin pumps.

With that growth, of course, came challenges in conveying the organization’s message to a broader audience online.

The Challenge

Chris and his team recently decided to update their current website, and initially felt they could do it on their own. But as time went on, Chris felt something was awry.

“I felt we were missing a very critical part, and that’s the user’s experience,” said Chris. “It’s not just about the technology working. It’s about how does somebody receive this information?”

Chris approached Kathy for advice, and the CSI team eagerly stepped in to support Chris.

“They want their new site to be more user-focused and streamlined for people who are looking for events, highlight their community impact better, honour their donors and sponsors better, and to showcase the advice of their successful team of athletes, Olympians, and leaders on living a really fulfilling life as someone with type 1 diabetes,” said CSI content strategist Jessica Coccimiglio.

The Strategy

“ICD needs it to be easy for people to find an event that lines up someone’s interests and skills, so we advised on a new information architecture and content model for events,” Jessica said. “But perhaps the most exciting piece was examining how they can better share testimonials on the new site.”

Chris welcomes people to reach out to ICD in any way, whether over text message, phone calls, email, video, on their Facebook or Twitter pages, to encourage connection and dialogue as part of ICD’s mission.

“They weren’t prepared to wrangle the content coming in over so many different channels,” Jessica said. “If Chris gets a text that says ‘I had a great time at this event and I feel so much more confident to hike the Grouse Grind,’ that’s really different from getting a telephone call where someone shares how ICD changed their life. So they need to manage how they can turn different kinds of positive feedback into useful testimonials for the site that will be user-friendly, organized, and impactful.”

The CSI team developed three ways for ICD to gather and showcase testimonials on their site:

  • By embedding ICD’s Facebook Reviews and posts to the page on the ICD site in testimonial areas.
  • By posting comments from other channels eg. (phone call, SMS, video, or in person) that ICD has permission to share along with related info like where the participant is from, what activity they participated in, and how long they’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for.
  • By posting video testimonials from participants speaking in a personal “vlog” format. ICD participants are invited to send their short personal “vlog style” (video log) videos where they introduce themselves, say they have type 1 diabetes, and how they’re going to climb a mountain (or paddle up a lake, hike the West Coast Trail, etc) with ICD. Videos could end with the view from the end of the journey, how it feels to be done, and encouraging other people to challenge their diabetes.

The Result

Chris is excited to have a manageable and powerful way to better communicate their story and purpose.

“This is really going to help us with sharing the outcomes and also giving a voice to people, because that’s what our organization has always been about,” he says. “Being an athlete, I could just talk about my hike up this mountain, but it’s more important to hear about the kids who came on that trip with us, or the parent who allowed their kid to climb up a mountain despite the fear they were going through. The testimonials are going to be key to expanding our mission to reach way more people than we can in one series of events.”

Kathy’s thrilled to be able to help out Chris and the ICD team. “They’ve given me and my daughter so much, and really helped Tanis to develop a positive mindset about her diabetes during her teenage years. Plus, they’re just some of the nicest, most caring people in the world. I’m so glad we could support them in this way.”