Healthy Journalism

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I'm with the band, part 1

Our fall tour schedule was nothing compared to the itinerary for the Rolling Stones, Beyoncé or even
Former Vermont Gov. Madeline Kunin at JAWS Camp 2013
 with Pat Thomas. 
Kenny Chesney. But performers aren’t the only ones who need to hit the road if they want to build successful careers.

Health and medical journalism graduate students traveled frequently during fall semester, making short road trips to Atlanta and Gainesville, FL, and longer ones to Burlington, VT, and Irvine, CA. At professional meetings they met online innovators, established scientists and science writers, and top women journalists.

Members of the HMJ crew helped organize and lead workshops, wrote reports for a top science organization, blogged sessions for conference organizers, used what they heard to launch stories of their own, and had real-life conversations with people who had previously been distant, bold-faced names. (Such as Jill Abramson and Nate Silver.)

They learned lessons large and small, as two blog posts by Ian Branam illustrate.

LinkedIn for Journalists
By Ian Branam
As a journalist, I’ve learned to get creative on a deadline. I’ve used Facebook pages, YouTube videos and research articles to assist me in my reporting.
At the Online News Association (ONA) conference this October, I acquired another resource to help me grow as a journalist: LinkedIn.
I learned that LinkedIn can be much more than a digital space to store your résumé. The LinkedIn for Journalists tutorial taught me not only the most effective way to set up your LinkedIn profile to attract prospective employers, but also, more intriguingly, how to find sources for stories.
By using the alumni tool, you can find people that worked for a certain company that might have gone to the same college as you.
For example, if there’s a breaking story that Google is releasing a new smartphone, I might want to contact a Google employee to get some exclusive information like when it’s being released or what features it will have.
By using LinkedIn’s alumni tool, I can select Google employees that graduated from UGA, and an entire list of people that fit those criteria would show up in the search results. This gives me a chance to find contact information on their LinkedIn profile or to send them a direct message on LinkedIn.
But, here comes the most important part. When I do make the decision to contact the person, I can use that connection we have as UGA alumni. By referencing the fact that we both went to the same school, this provides a sense of commonality.
People are much more inclined to talk to you if they feel like they can relate to you, which makes this a vital tool for finding experts to interview. Simply signing off with a “Go Dawgs!” can go a long way in connecting with people who might have otherwise brushed off your request to interview.
I’ve been fairly successful getting professors to set aside time to speak with me. When dealing with a busy physician or hospital executive, however, I haven’t been as lucky. This is where something like having an Alma Mater in common can make the difference.
Another helpful tool I learned from this seminar is how to go into stealth mode through the privacy settings. If I’m interested in working for a particular employer, but I don’t want them to see that I viewed their LinkedIn page, I can make myself appear anonymous when that employer pulls up who’s viewed their profile.

Lessons from the Meatless Mondays Campaign
By Ian Branam
Meatless Mondays began during World War II to save key foods for the military. Since then, Meatless Mondays have taken on a different purpose.
In 2003, Sid Lerner, a former ad man, revived the Meatless Monday in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Meatless Mondays weren’t intended to save food for the military but rather to adopt healthier eating habits by going meatless one day a week.
In 2006, the campaign expanded to include other health behaviors like tobacco cessation. In short, Meatless Mondays became about dedicating the first day of every week to health.
This campaign was one of three health communication campaigns included in the “Lessons from Mature Health Communication Campaigns” session at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media this past August. The lessons from this campaign taught me a great deal about how disseminating messages at the beginning of the week can make health communication more effective.
The shared experience of Mondays provides people with context for change. Monday represents a fresh start to adopt healthy behaviors.
We break our lives down into weeks. We plan meals by the week rather than by the month. It’s more effective to give someone a list of healthy meals at the beginning of the week before they’ve gone grocery shopping than at the end.
People also exhibit healthier behaviors at the beginning of the week.
Researchers from the Meatless Monday campaign noticed a spike in calls to smoking cessation help lines on Mondays and a gradual decline throughout the week. Every state has noticed this trend in calling patterns to quit-smoking lines.
People are more likely to start diets, exercise regimens, quit smoking and schedule doctor’s appointments on Monday than any other day according to a 2012 survey by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. People also search the word “healthy” more often on Monday than any other day of the week according to a 2011 survey by Google. Put simply, people are more open to healthy behaviors on Mondays.
Finally, many acute events including heart attacks and strokes happen on Monday, which researchers from Johns Hopkins believe is caused by stress and unhealthy weekend behaviors.
This is incredible insight for health communicators. As social media continues to play a greater role in communicating health information due to its cost-effectiveness and ability to directly engage with intended audiences, knowledge of trends like this is vital.
The Meatless Monday campaign also found that engagement with audiences on social media spiked on Mondays and gradually decreased throughout the week.
With programs out there like Hootsuite and SproutSocial that allow you to schedule tweets and Facebook posts in advance, this knowledge is helpful for disseminating health information that can be seamlessly integrated into peoples’ daily lives.