Behind the Scenes at the MDA Telethon

January 7, 2021

MDA is giving DECA members an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the MDA Telethon from a marketing and communications lens and shares how the show was created collaboratively to best represent the MDA community and to appeal to a multi-generational audience.

The session is hosted by Alison Tibbits, CVA, Vice President, Volunteer Programs and Strategy, MDA and Moderated by Connor Liebman, Missouri DECA President and DECA/MDA Muscle Corp Ambassador.

Advisors: Use the Classroom Discussion Guide for a ready-made lesson plan that accompanies the video.

Meet the Panelists:

Mda Josh Ackley

Josh Ackley
Vice President, PR and Communications, MDA

Joshua Ackley is a Communications Executive with deep expertise in handling consumer press, public policy and advocacy communications, executive communications, crisis communications, and digital marketing for leading brands. He is a strategic and dynamic leader recognized for his ability to elevate and differentiate a brand’s standing in the marketplace. Ackley is also a well-established musician, and has released music on Warner, BMG, and has toured extensively with various projects. Currently, Ackley is the Senior Vice President of Communications at the MDA and has been instrumental in re-launching the organization’s iconic telethon. Ackley raised the organization’s profile by delivering over 6 billion earned media impressions in 2020, as compared to the MDA’s 750 million earned impressions the year prior. Ackley also authored the organization’s digital brand campaign “Covid-19 Can’t Stop Us” in March 2020.

Mda Lindsey Baker

Lindsey Baker
Quest Editor-in-Chief and General Manager, MDA

Lindsey Anne Baker is the editor-in-chief of Quest Magazine, the nationally distributed flagship print publication of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Strongly, MDA’s national blog. Lindsey earned a bachelor’s degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2004 and has written and edited for numerous local and national publications, including the Omaha World-Herald, the Omaha Reader, Omaha Magazine, and AAA’s Home & Away Magazine. In 2015, she received an Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Nebraska Arts Council. Her most recent collection of poetry was published in a limited run by Gibraltar Editions in 2019.

Mda Jarrod Moses

Jarrod Moses
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, United Entertainment Group Inc.

Jarrod has created global entertainment, sports, lifestyle marketing agency in partnership with Public Relations powerhouse Edelman and Big 3 talent firm United Talent Agency that utilizes pop-culture as the catalyst to develop marketing communications campaigns.

He leads global operation and strategic direction with full responsibility for bottom-line factors, including long-range planning, global agency management, and unique methodology practices. Works directly with Boards of both partner agencies and day-to-day communication with global agency leadership and management teams. Lead agency and manage a team of 20 EVPs and regional Presidents. Built firm from incubation to over a 350-person team in 8 global offices with 9-figure revenue.

Mda Deb Barge

Deb Barge
Chief Operating Officer, MDA

Deb currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for MDA overseeing fundraising, philanthropy operations and donor engagement for the mission. She has spent a career in nonprofit leadership for organizations large and small to drive strategy, organizational effectiveness and philanthropic engagement with donors, corporations, foundations and celebrities.



For 70 years, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has been committed to transforming the lives of people living with muscular dystrophy, ALS, and related neuromuscular diseases. MDA funds groundbreaking research for promising treatments and provides families with the highest quality care from the best doctors in the country.The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and DECA are incredibly proud of their more than 40-year partnership to empower young people to continually impact and improve their local and broader communities. To date, DECA members have raised both awareness and more than $5 million to help MDA serve the hundreds of thousands of children and adults living with muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases.

Discussion Questions

  • 1
    Why do you think the Muscular Dystrophy Association engaged celebrities and influencers in the MDA Telethon? Do influencers have to be celebrities? Explain.
  • 2
    When working with celebrities and influencers, why was it important for MDA to provide a reference guide for messaging? What were some of the influencer groups discussed, and how do they play a role in segmenting markets?
  • 3
    Why was working with Lindsay’s committee so important in the foundation of the telethon? How did it lead to telling the story in a “people-first way,” and who were some of the groups of people telling their stories?
  • 4
    The telethon was produced in about three months and during a world-wide pandemic. Project management was an important part of the process to develop the telethon, but the many of the panelists discussed the “monitoring” phase and how flexibility was so important. List two of your favorite “lessons learned” from the panelists. Explain why they are your favorite and provide an example of how this lesson learn either has or could help you personally.

Classroom Connection

Career CLuster:


Instructional Area(s):

Performance Indicators:

Implement digital marketing campaign
Explain the use of celebrities/influencers as a word-of-mouth strategy
Identify ways to segment markets for marketing communications
Discuss the role of customer voice in word-of-mouth strategies
Explain the use of storytelling in marketing
Discuss the use of marketing briefs
Apply project-management tools to monitor and communicate process