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Marketing Whiz Samantha Russell Rallies Social Media Support in Medical Crisis

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A digital marketing specialist with a big following among investment professionals recently put her expertise to work to tackle a family health crisis — and learned just how supportive people in the industry and beyond can be.

Samantha Russell, chief evangelist at financial advisor marketing firm FMG Suite, turned to LinkedIn and Twitter on May 23 with an urgent call on behalf of her husband, Ryan Russell, who has been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“Friends, I desperately need your help,” she started her LinkedIn post, asking for contacts at the Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo, which has developed a promising glioblastoma treatment, or at one of the few hospitals in Japan where it’s available.

Samantha, a 2021 ThinkAdvisor LUMINARIES winner in thought leadership who has more than 26,600 LinkedIn followers, also told her audience that she’d been pursuing potential treatment for her husband at brain tumor centers at Duke University and the University of Florida. 

“Ryan is 39 years old, an associate professor at Penn State University, and co-founder of Twenty Over Ten, an FMG Company,” she wrote, citing the digital marketing platform that she helped to launch.

“Most importantly, he is the dad to 3 great kiddos under 6 years old, and the love of my life. I wouldn’t normally go to LinkedIn for help – but in this case, with the urgency of the situation combined with us not speaking/writing/reading Japanese, I thought it couldn’t hurt.”

Three days later, Samantha announced that she and Ryan had gotten all the help they needed and had received a massive response to the LinkedIn post. 

More than 10 Million Views

“We have no words. ‘Thank you’ does not feel like nearly enough,” she wrote on May 26, providing written and video updates and thanks.

“The last 48 hours have been nothing short of a miracle – this amazing community has come together and you have all shared our story over and over again – and as of this morning, over 10 MILLION people have now read it,” she added.

“As we watched thousands and thousands of messages come in from people from around the world – Ryan Russell and I just kept saying ‘This is incredible.’ We wish more people could read all of the encouraging, uplifting, helpful notes that we are reading.”

“At our core – humans are inherently good,” she added.

The institutions she had mentioned were flooded with messages and Daiichi Sankyo had called and spoken with Samantha. The couple also had connected with a cancer team at Duke.

The Russells shared more of their experience via email with ThinkAdvisor this week.

Samantha said she received more than 3,000 private messages, over 7,000 people left comments on her original post, hundreds of people tracked down her email and sent messages, and over 13,000 people shared the original post. Those 13,000 shares all had their own string of comments as well, she added.

“I tried to ‘triage’ the responses as best I could by quickly reviewing them as they came in – and marking the ones that seemed promising or like they had a lead as such. Then I went back and replied to those who seemed to have the best chances of connecting us with the right people quickly,” Samantha explained.

“I feel bad as there are still thousands of people I have not responded to. That’s what prompted us to make the ‘thank you’ follow up video actually,” she said. “We were just so touched with all of the thoughtful responses and wished we could have thanked every single person individually. It is truly humbling to see how many people want to help a complete stranger.”

Staying Positive

“The sheer size of the response was humbling to say the least. 10M views in a week? Truly remarkable. I credit this to Samantha and her approach to social media as a means to bring out the power of huge communities,” Ryan said.

“When she approached me about a blog and posting across social media, I wasn’t immediately onboard – shocking I know for someone who created a content engine for social and web. It was incredibly difficult for me to go public with this diagnosis – I tend to be a much more private person. But Samantha was right, what else is new?” 

The attention gave the Russells access to “some incredible doctors, professionals, supporters, and opportunities,” Ryan added. “We are in touch with people from around the world who are working on cutting edge clinical trials to fight this beast. We are in conversations with multiple folks trying to figure out what will be the best next steps for our particular situation.” 

This week the pair were heading to Duke in the hope the oncology team there has a battle plan for them.

“I went public because of Sam,” Ryan said. “This sounds a bit sappy but she’s been the greatest thing that has happened to me personally in all aspects of my life. This experience has been no different.”

While receiving initial treatment a few weeks ago at the University of Pennsylvania, he said, ‘”I just need a little bit of hope.’ At that moment the mood in the room almost immediately shifted. Sam took over and went to work. It was astounding. Even now I feel it’s impossible to reciprocate what has poured in for us.”

The most surprising aspect of this experience have been the connections made to others in similar situations, Ryan said. 

“Being able to connect with others, hear their stories, successes and challenges has been so uplifting. I believe in the mind body connections and am determined to stay positive through this, although admittedly at times this is very difficult,” he said. “It’s important to us that others see me well and we make it a goal to celebrate this battle in 10 years, 20 years, and then again in 40 years.”