Insights into Digital Health: Erin Enke on Health Campaigns and Social Media

TogoRun’s Erin Enke was recently interviewed by Andre Blackman, the man behind Pulse + Signal, a public health focused blog. Andre and Erin recently chatted about the digital revolution and its implications for health focused communications campaigns. Below you’ll find their conversation which originally appeared on Pulse + Signal.

Pulse + Signal: You mentioned during the Public Health: What’s Digital Got to Do With It? event that companies should not just jump haphazardly into conversations that are already happening in the blogosphere. What advice would you give an organization just entering the space to take part in the ongoing conversation and engage with their audience?

Erin Enke: LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Too often, we excitedly jump online attempting to join conversations without paying respect to those currently talking. It is their conversation, and we should respect that and not interrupt with our own agenda. If an organization wants to join the conversation, it should take the time to read the conversation threads, regularly follow the various conversations, and then, when appropriate, ask questions about the topic at hand, and contribute and respond.

P/S: What are some of the pros and cons to greater access to information and everyone having a voice to share thoughts?

EE: PROS – Authenticity, marketplace of ideas, multiple opinions. CONS—Misinformation, intimidation and information overload.

P/S: How do you feel this greater access to information impacts the public health world?

EE: Education has always been critical to public health and, without a doubt, this accessibility greatly expands our opportunity to educate and inform using multiple channels.

P/S: Describe the goals for the Hepatitis campaign you discussed during the event and how you came up with them.

EE: The main goal of the hepatitis B campaign was to increase awareness of the various aspects of the disease, including signs and symptoms, and, by doing so, encourage those at-risk to self identify and get tested and, if appropriate, treated. Early treatment can delay, or even stop, disease progression. We knew it might be hard to reach certain demographics and identified online as a way to extend the reach of our message through building a hepatitis B information portal online.

 P/S:  The Hepatitis campaign was launched globally in countries in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. What are the challenges of designing a global health campaign and how did you meet them?

EE:  Whenever you work on a global campaign, you are naturally going to face cultural and economic and social differences. But what makes a multi-country digital campaign complicated is that you are dealing with vastly different levels of access and literacy. (Some regions are still predominately using dial-up.)  In the end, we kept the language simple and the graphics bold and inviting, and thus were able to reach across audiences.  We credit this approach with the site’s success.

P/S: How did you use social media in the Hepatitis campaign to get the word out?

EE: We worked with regional team members to help them identify and connect with local press and health organizations who helped promote the link on blogs, Facebook pages, and even YouTube campaigns.

P/S: Were you able to reach more people than if you used only traditional methods?

EE: Yes, especially in the last year, as social media has grown in popularity.

P/S: Some social media networks fizzle out or lose momentum while others like Facebook and Twitter seem to have more staying power. Can you share your thoughts on what impacts longevity and relevance in this fast paced and often times temperamental social environment?

EE: In my opinion, the reason Facebook and other popular social media sites endure are because they are so incredibly user friendly. It is that simple. There were other sites before Facebook that, in essence, did the same thing, but Facebook took a good idea and made it amazing. It even made photo-sharing easier and more fun than the actual photo-sharing sites.

P/S: How would this have an impact on areas such as healthcare and social change?

EE: I think we often are looking for the next great amazing thing. Why not look at what is already out there and pick something that is good and make it great.

This interview originally appeared on Pulse + Signal. You can find Andre on Twitter here.