Advice From Digital Thought Leaders

Many know that digital tools have become indispensable for connecting with many audiences—but we also know that what’s available in the digital realm is always changing. So how do you know what tools are best for your purpose? And how do you plan for your organization’s digital future when the pace of change is so rapid? Recently, we asked colleagues what advice they would give for developing a digital media strategy.


Digital Strategy

“The digital future is not tomorrow—it’s here already and if organizations don’t embrace digital tools and solutions and get good at it, they run the danger of getting left behind. [You should] integrate your digital strategy with the organization’s overall strategy. Keep a close watch on where your clients are and build a presence on those platforms to reach and engage them. And be flexible and willing to adapt to new technologies as they become mainstream.”

– Bhupendra Sheoran, Executive Director, YTH

“One piece of advice for organizations who are not yet fully using social media is to develop a strategic plan – even if it’s simple one. That’s one of the first things that needs to happen. You may think that you’re doing it well because you’re using the most popular tool but you have to think about what you’re trying to do within the sphere of digital health, so that you choose your tools based on what you want to do strategically.”

– Cheryl Smith, Associate Medical Director for Clinical Care and Services, AIDS Institute, New York State Department of Health

Digital Tools

“New York state is so large, it can be geographically challenging for providers to participate in training and conferences, so we try to provide as many distance learning tools as possible. We’re providing video conferencing options and looking into virtual reality. Currently, we’re exploring using virtual reality or augmented reality solutions – like Google Cardboard – with our providers to help them learn more before they are face-to-face with patients. It humanizes and maximizes the patient-provider experience.”

– Cheryl Smith, Associate Medical Director for Clinical Care and Services, AIDS Institute, New York State Department of Health

“Through our Clinical Education Initiative, we’re using a variety of digital platforms for education and distance learning, we’re exploring MOOCs [massively open online course] because they allow multiple users to talk and engage about different topics online. Additionally, we’re using short animations as training tools to move away from the traditional classroom setting. We think this will be useful to help people with short attention spans. It’s HIV education but done differently.”

– Beatrice Aladin, Director, Clinical Education & Digital Health Initiatives, AIDS Institute, New York State Department of Health

Facebook Live videos can be amazing. Organizations can post about an upcoming Facebook Live video to drive up interest. Presenters can be interviewed live at conferences, providers can answer commonly asked questions, events can be broadcasted, and advocates can be given access to go live from your page as Live Contributors. [You can:]

  • Join Facebook groups related to advocacy and by and for people living with and affected by HIV;
  • Partner with advocates and people in the community who are active online to spread the word about your organization;
  • Use Facebook ads to reach your audience effectively and inexpensively; and
  • Use video content with captions; and
  • Feature people who are members of the community you are trying to reach.”

– Caroline Watson, Social Justice and Communications Coordinator at HIVE

“When I think about the potential of digital communication in the coming years, I think one of the great health communication opportunities is to reach populations that have been underserved or almost entirely ignored previously. Digital health communication tools can reach that kind of audience, engage them in their care, and sometimes offer tools and resources that wouldn’t even be available without newer tools like mobile apps or social networks.”

– Mike Mackert, Director, Director of UT Center for Health Communication

“Digital, mobile, and social media have great potential for increasing the research and impact of public health and medical interventions, but only if they remain evidence-based, theoretically informed, audience-centered, creatively designed, and sufficiently dosed to result in a level of exposure that has a chance of influencing behaviors. If all of these requirements are not addressed, then digital interventions are not likely to be much more effective than mass-media interventions, which is not very much.”

– Jay M. Bernhardt, Dean, Moody College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin.

“The prediction I’m most confident in is that we’ll be encountering new and disruptive innovations in media and tech that will affect our field in ways that we haven’t even imagined yet. That said, one of the most important trends will be our increasingly sophisticated use of data, particularly in digital health communications. That will improve our abilities to: reach audiences with relevant messages; tailor digital solutions that not only inform but empower people to change; and establish new performance indicators that will help us continuously optimize our initiatives.”

– Tony Foleno, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Evaluation, The Ad Council

We remain committed to advocating for and participating in the future of digital media, and we know that that many of our partners are also using innovative communication tools.

We want to hear from you. Join the discussion on Facebook and share your ideas.This post was originally published on the blog.

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