Thanks to the fine folks at NPHIC, I had the
rare pleasure of participating in the 2011 National Conference on
Health Communication, Marketing and Media,
sponsored by SAMHSA, the
NCI and NPHIC. What
an amazing conference!
My first reaction to attending this conference was, “Wow, look at all
of the women!” I’m used to attending emergency management conferences
full of men and this was quite a change, to say the least. While there
certainly were men there, and there certainly are women at my EM
conferences, I wonder why the gender balance is so severe. Especially
when there is so much GREAT information that we can learn from
different conferences. I learned so much from all of these amazing
communicators that was completely relevant to my everyday work that,
frankly, it reinvigorated me. I can’t WAIT to try some of this stuff.
The theme of the conference was “Listening for Change,” and that
simple idea, listening, was a common thread throughout the week.
Listening to one’s audience is important to ensure that our messages
are getting through, that we can tweak our messaging to make sure that
it addresses the needs we are looking to work on and to preemptively
develop messages and campaigns that actually work! Too often, I think,
our messages (both in public health AND public information) are
developed in a vacuum and released into the ether. Listening rarely
The sessions I attended touch on a wide variety of subjects, but I
think I can distill them down to two: full-throated use of social
media networks and identifying and relating to the many audiences you
strive to meet, which is fun, because I tend to talk about those two
subjects lots here.
I can succintly put three ideas out there that I really consider takeaways.
Your audience is varied. Every time you push a message out, it will
reach different ears and eyes. Is a message pushed to the media
appropriate for the public? Is a message pushed to the media
structured in such a way for them to pick it up? Is a message
appropriate to mothers or fathers and why? Does that “why” influence
whether or not they will successfully receive your message? There was
an amazing session called, “Not All Parents Are The Same,” that talked
about just that.
Consider unusual uses of social media. These ideas came from a
session called, “Using Twitter as a Tool for Community Engagement and
Collaboration,” and focused on the hows and whys of Twitter chats,
townhalls and “Twitter-views.” Twitter is not just a push tool, but an
opportunity to interact very, very closely with a potentially WIDE
range of people. The White House, HHS Office of Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion, Health Literacy Missouri and CDC National Prevention
Information Network have used these types of tools to make Twitter
MORE useful, both to themselves and their publics.
Fail fast. Kevin Dame and Chris Waugh of
IDEO took part in an extremely well put
together session using the common issue of childhood obesity and how
to reduce or prevent it as each presenter’s point of departure. Their
presentation took the stand that we’re too invested in what we do.
Consider your latest big project. How many years should it take to
implement? How many tens of thousands of dollars? By the time that
project is ready to go, you’re most likely wed to it and it’s success.
You will do backflips to ensure that the last three years of your life
(or so) haven’t been wasted. Even if they may have been. The IDEO
folks advocated that we should instead be looking to design
“sacrificial projects.” These are projects that are put together in
hours and with minimal budgets. That way, if they fail, who cares,
because it’s only been two days worth of time. And undoubtedly the
project designers learned something from the exercise, so it’s not a
complete waste. Try. Fail. Try again, but in a slightly (or vastly)
different way. Eventually you’ll succeed, or learn enough to advance
the science of what you’re doing. (And frankly, think how interesting
your job would be if you had new projects every couple of weeks.)
Thank you to every amazing person I met in Atlanta at the conference.
Thank you to all of the great Tweeters that live-tweeted every session
well enough that I always regreted that I chose a particular session
and wished that I was in the other one (and likely they felt the
same about the session I was in). And once again, thank you NPHIC for
the wonderful opportunity.