Healthy Communications, Marketing and Media: A Review of the CDC’s Fifth Annual Confernece on How to Harness the Power of VariousMedia for Health Promotion
Pregnancy and childbirth exploded onto the web scene in the very early 90s. I know because I was here participating in that explosion. I had no idea how dramatically it would change the way I worked as a childbirth educator and how it would alter how women received information about birth.
One of the most amazing things is how it’s brought so many like-minded individuals together and brought them into some amazing groups. I had a chance to spend some time with a group of people that felt very similarly to the way I feel about using technology as a part of health education, but a group that just a few years ago I never would have seen myself as a part of – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
They recently hosted their fifth annual Healthy Communications, Marketing and Media conference in Atlanta. It was so amazing to be there with 1200 others and all talking about how to use the power of the Internet to reach more and more people and to do so effectively. I learned many amazing things while I was there and met some amazing people, but I wanted to share some really interesting points from the conference:
- Parents are all different.There was a whole session on how different parents are as individuals in a group. This is one of those duh moments; of course parents are different. But stop and ask yourself, is your class or is your information set up to recognize, celebrate and accommodate these differences? Or are your classes and messages the same all the time? These differences go beyond the obvious, moms are different than dads, but even within a group of mothers, you’ll have significant differences that should dictate how you convey information. Knowing what to do will depend on how well you know your audience. Examples might include a different reading level or health literacy levels; written and verbal information; online and in class and many other types of interactions.
- It’s not enough just to show up.Sometimes we think that simply owning a Twitter account or a Facebook account is enough. We put out a tidbit or fact and call it a day. Sure, someone is going to see that and perhaps even forward it on, but your reach will be very limited. What really matters is conversation. Having that conversation about a subject is key. If a user has a question and you discuss that question and answer, that’s going to go much further than you simply putting a posted fact on your Facebook wall. So engage people around your topics.
- Storytelling is important.In birth work, telling stories has always been something that we do. In childbirth class, I’ll share a snippet of a birth story to illustrate a point. It’s natural and works well with what my goals are for class. But how does this translate to the web? Storytelling has some really neat applications on the web, particularly through transmedia storytelling, the use of multiple platforms to tell a single story.
- Fail faster. The original intent of this message was that we spend a lot of time, perhaps years, on a project and then go overboard trying to make it succeed. This can be problematic because we don’t stick to the original outline and therefore can’t really figure out if the plan really worked or if it was the modification, etc. What I’m using this for in my world is that I should branch out and try different things. Don’t get comfortable or complacent. If something doesn’t work, it’s okay. Failure is a lesson and only a problem when you repeatedly do the same thing, failing over and over without making changes.
- Above all, listen. The theme for the conference was “Listen for Change.” And the message of listening really permeated the sessions. This is truly a key element. If we aren’t listening to those we are serving, are we really serving them? Do you ask your childbirth classes what information they want? Or do you simply serve up what’s on your curriculum? While it is certainly important to have the basics covered, have you considered adding a component of choice in? Perhaps allot a 15 minutes segment at the end of each class and allow students to choose from a variety of topics. While I wouldn’t put something core like comfort measures here, perhaps you have segments like baby wearing and anatomy of a breast pump as examples of options. The first night of class have 8-10 options, allow everyone 2-3 dots to “vote” for their favorites, and the “winners” are the topics taught. This is just one example of how to listen.
Overall this conference was an amazing and inspiring adventure. I would highly recommend that you attend this conference next year if you have any interest in media and health, from social media, to commercials, to news – there was something for everyone. The pace was very fast with 3 presenters for every 90 minute session, a definite change. The Twitter stream was lively, something I’m not used to for my usual conference attendings, but it really helped me feel like I was able to listen to many more sessions. So help me out on this last point and help me rip up the Twitter stream for the upcoming Lamaze Conference (#lamazemeet). I’ll look for you there.
Posted by: Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE, FACCE is a childbirth educator in Louisville, KY. She lives there with her husband and eight children. While not playing with the kids she’s writing books and hanging out on Twitter. You can find her at http://pregnancy.about.com and @RobinPregnancy.