Last Tuesday I was fortunate to moderate a session on public health blogging as part of the eCDC Seminar Series sponsored by the e-Health Marketing Group in the National Center for Health Marketing. Joining me were Susan Promislo, the communications officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, Toby Bloomberg from Marketing Diva, and Marianne Richmond of Resonance Partnership. Our task was to provide an introduction and overview of blogging for the health marketing and communication community at CDC.
The issue that stood out for me among the presentations was the recurring theme of ‘telling stories’ and ideas of personality, engagment and personal. When the opening comments were completed, the first observation/question I asked the panelists to respond to went something like this:
We are at the CDC, the world of scientific publications like the MMWR - facts, charts, figures, objectivity. I often hear about how difficult it is for such an organization to consider the tactical question of whether to open up a blog to comments. Yet, there seems to be a larger issue that goes largely unnoticed; the one you have all touched upon today. How does a public health institution discover and nurture a voice for blogging that is so different, perhaps antithetical, to the usual way of doing business and communicating with the public?
The answers were not prescriptive, but recognized the need for serious internal recognition and exploration of the issue. I also talked briefly about the Fall bloggers outreach initiative the CDC did with some health and medical bloggers on a pilot basis. Several of the panelists noted how giving bloggers (and not just health and medical ones) the resources about public health issues such as was done last Fall may indeed lead to greater personalization of the ‘stories’ around the health topic. What we tried to be clear about is that CDC does not control messages anymore (if they really ever did). What they can do is monitor the blogosphere and engage in conversations and outreach wherever and whenever the needs arise (such as countering false or misleading information or recommendations for personal health and safety). In her write up of the session, Susan seemed particularly interested in the comparison I drew between the ‘then and now’ communications environment for a series of anthrax attacks.
Within the next couple of weeks the CDC will be posting more
from the meeting and I’ll make a note about its availability here.