|Panelists at the recent seminar on social media included (from l) Dr. Marin Allen, NIH deputy associate director for communications and public liaison; Dr. Jonathan Cho, chief of NCI’s Communications Technology Branch; Dr. Erik Augustson of NCI; and Judy Meehan, CEO of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.
The most important elements of traditional media—the emotional power of the story and the credibility of the storyteller—are also the most important elements of new media, Dr. Marin Allen told 175 people who attended a recent seminar on social media in Lipsett Amphitheater. NIH deputy associate director for communications and public liaison, she moderated “Social Media and the NIH Mission” sponsored by the Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) as part of its Women’s Health Seminar Series.
The successful use of social media depends on people, process and technology, in that order, said Jonathan Cho, chief of the Communications Technology Branch, National Cancer Institute. Success requires commitment from an organization’s leadership and a strategy shaped by an understanding of the intended audience and purpose of the program. To employ social media platforms, NIH institutes and centers can tap current communication staff members already skilled at producing credible and engaging messages.
Social media is interactive, Cho said. When your audience asks questions, respond to them in a human, non-institutional way, he advised. He also said that organizations cannot control what people say about them in these new venues. Be prepared for some online criticism and respond to it appropriately, he said.
NCI uses the community-driven qualities of social media as an intervention tool, said Dr. Erik Augustson. NCI’s “Smokefree Women” Facebook page, for example, has become an active online community where women talk to each other about their efforts to quit smoking. NCI regularly responds to posts and offers resources and encouragement. It is important to remain an active member of the community, or you will be forgotten, he said.
Mobile applications are the wave of the future, as more people access the Internet using smart phones and other mobile devices. NCI has created a stop-smoking app for smart phones, Augustson said.
A blog by “Sara Bellum” is among several social media initiatives the National Institute on Drug Abuse has created for teenagers, said Carol Krause, NIDA communications director. The blog has engaged its audience, but requires staff time to post comments and provide information, an issue every organization must consider
Judy Meehan, chief executive officer of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, described their free text-message service for young mothers—text4baby. The program provides free mobile health information to women who are pregnant or whose children are younger than 1 year.
Laura Bartlett of the National Library of Medicine described the Women’s Health Resources web portal, Twitter and Facebook pages NLM developed with ORWH. ORWH director Dr. Vivian Pinn noted that using new communication technologies and social media to increase understanding and appreciation of women’s health is one of the goals of ORWH’s new strategic plan.