Health With a Capital H
Inspire Health: Key Takeaways From the 2012 CDC Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media
August 20, 2012
Contributed by Arlene Remick, Senior Interactive Communications Manager
& Ellen Robinson, Project Manager
One day, a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking up something and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” The man said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”
The story was recounted during a breakout session at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) 2012 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media. The story reminds us of the impact that we can have through our work as public health and communications professionals. On days when it may seem like no one is listening, we need to remember that if even one person finds hope and help through our campaigns and initiatives, we have succeeded.
During this session, one by one, people came to the microphone to talk about who or what inspires them. Some people talked about a family member, while others talked about individuals who started organizations to help people in need. Another person spoke about a coworker who overcame his struggle with mental illness. The conversation continued beyond the conference on Twitter with the hashtag, #inspirehealth.
During other conference sessions, a variety of presenters offered tools for more effective communications. Some of the best tips:
- Use storytelling to communicate health messages. Stories generate interest, stimulate conversation, and increase individual and collective engagement.
- Social media is for more than promotion. It's an opportunity to continue the conversation with your stakeholders.
- Some people make decisions based on emotions, not facts. Personalizing your life experience helps people relate to an issue.
- When addressing a controversial issue, state your points in the positive versus only responding to negative remarks.
- When developing health programs, focus on messaging that resonates with your audience.
- Government clearinghouses should strive to be proactive—don’t wait for the public to come to you.
- Know when to use messages of hope versus messages of fear.
- If you’re developing an emergency communications strategy, include social media so that you can respond to emerging issues.
- Social media initiatives require planning and management as part of an overall communications strategy. CDC will release a tool in fall 2012 to help health communicators with this process.
Above all: Find your inspiration. Tell us in comments: What inspires you to work for greater public health?