HHS Pandemic Leadership Blog - The Back-story

05/29/2007

The Health and Human Services Department has taken an innovative social media approach to creating a conversation with the public about pandemic flu. The Pandemic Leadership Blog provides an opportunity to have an open conversation and shape the thinking about how to communicate the critical need for preparedness at home and within workplaces and communities.

16 business, healthcare, faith-based and community leaders were invited to particiapte in a five-week Blog Summit. I was delighted to see Nedra Klein Weinreich among the prestigious experts. Nedra brings a wealth of social marketing and social media marketing experience to the conversation. Her first post addresses both topics and ask critical questions including how to best use social media in times of a public healthcare crisis.

I was curious as to how and why HHS chose to use social media as part of its outreach. Nedra_weinreich_2 Nedra graciously explains some of the back-story and strategy behind the Pandemic Leadership Blog.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Who was behind the idea of using blogs to create a dialogue with the public about the pandemic flu?

Nedra Kline Weinreich: I’ve been impressed with the way HHS has been dipping its toe into the water with social media. I suspect that the team at Ogilvy, which has been working with HHS on getting the word out about pandemic flu preparedness, convinced the powers that be over there that blogs are a new way to engage their constituents and key advocates in a conversation about this issue.  There is already a lot going on in blogs and wikis related to pandemic flu information and discussions, so it makes sense to capitalize on this existing base of people to get the ball rolling. I know they are also hoping to engage people who are not already knowledgeable about the issue.

Toby/Diva Marketing: In addition to creativity, it takes a certain amount of courage to launch a public blog on any subject but the pandemic flu issue seems like it might be especially risky. How/where/why did the HSS find the chutzpah?

Nedra Kline Weinreich: You’re right that it is somewhat risky, given that HHS is not limiting the blogging to its own employees, and is not controlling the content of the blogs at all. Although the Secretary of Health & Human Services, Michael Leavitt, is contributing posts, the rest of the bloggers have no affiliation with the government, and may even (gasp!) say things that are critical of the administration’s policies or actions.

I have no doubt that HHS had a hard time at first agreeing to let the bloggers post directly without any intervening approval process, but to their great credit there is no moderation of our posts at all (though comments are moderated to prevent spam, offensive language and personal attacks). I don’t know where the courage came from, but I applaud their willingness to let the chips fall where they may.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How is the qualitative information being data mined and is a formal report of the feedback going to be produced?

Nedra Kline Weinreich:I don’t know what their specific plan is, but with more than 400 content-packed comments after just the first week, I sure hope they will be doing some sort of analysis to make sure the great ideas don’t get lost. They are producing a metrics report to take a look at who has been visiting the blog, but a qualitative analysis is absolutely critical as well.  Many of the people who are leaving comments are those who have been working on and thinking about this issue for a long time (professionals and private citizens), and their input is extremely valuable.

Toby/Diva Marketing: What is your role, and the other bloggers, other than to generate content?

Nedra Kline Weinreich: Many of the bloggers represent particular constituencies (e.g., business, nurses, public health professionals, nonprofits), and the hope is that the bloggers will use their networks to get the word out and bring in more diverse voices to the conversation on the blog. The blog is also an adjunct to a one-day summit that will be happening in Washington, DC, and it allows HHS to get the discussion going prior to the event and continue it afterwards.

Toby/Diva Marketing: How will Michael Leavitt, Secretary, U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services join in on the conversation?

Nedra Kline Weinreich: So far Secretary Leavitt has written the introductory blog post, and he will be posting each week as well.  I don’t know if he has left any comments on other people’s posts, but William Raub, the Science Advisor to the Secretary, and Suzanne DeFrancis, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, both posted comments to the blog so far.  So HHS is definitely engaged in the process.

Read More: Diva Marketing: Your Tax $ At Work: Innovation In Social Media By Health and Human Services
Cross posted: Marketing Prof's Daily Fix

Your Tax $ At Work: Innovation In Social Media By Health and Human Services

05/29/2007

The Questions: What would you do if you were charged with developing a national healthcare policy that could impact millions of people? How would you involve citizens, the healthcare community and other stakeholders to ensure that their ideas and questions were heard and discussed?  That was the challenge facing the Health and Human Services Department as it prepared for an important Leadership Forum on pandemic preparedness.

The Solution: The Health and Human Services Department stepped into the world of Computerdoc social media and invited 16 business, healthcare, faith-based and community leaders to particiapte in a five-week Blog Summit. The blog summit provides an opportunity to have an open conversation and shape the thinking about how to communicate the critical need for preparedness at home and within workplaces and communities.

Each week the Pandemic Leadership Blog will address a different question, the Leadership  Forum will be live blogged and follow-up conversations to discuss lessons learned and next steps will be continued on the blog.

Sidebar: I call this a short-term campaign blog. It has a specific purpose and limited time period when blogging activity will occur.

Week 1: The Need to Prepare
Why is it critical for each of us to prepare for the threat of pandemic influenza?

Week 2: My Role as a Leader
What are my constituents concerns? How can I play an important role in communicating the need to prepare?

Week 3: Getting the Job Done
What do I need to succeed in communicating the importance of preparing for a pandemic?

June 13th - Leadership Forum
Live blogging from the Leadership Forum

Week 4: Forum Results
Report out from the Leadership Forum

Week 5: Making it Happen
What steps do we need to take to successfully move forward?

“The conversation about individual preparedness for pandemic flu must extend nationwide through all possible channels, including social media and the Internet. The blog summit is an innovative and efficient forum for bringing together leaders for a lively discussion on the pandemic-preparedness movement."" HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt

I was delighted to see Nedra Klein Weinreich among the prestigious experts. Nedra brings a wealth of social marketing and social media marketing experience to the conversation. Her first post addresses both topics and ask critical questions including how to best use social media in times of a public healthcare crisis.

  • What are some of the methods we can use to reach each of the audiences with our messages? (e.g., online social networks, blogs, Oprah, school district newsletters)
  • Who are the spokespeople that are seen as most credible by each audience? (e.g., local officials, doctors, peers)
  • Who are the partners that we need to hook up with in order to best reach each audience? (e.g., doctors, “mommy bloggers,” media organizations)

Sidebar: Can bloggers make a difference? Read the story of how 2 mommy bloggers used their blog to help Katrina people.

Check out the How The Blog Works page for ideas if your readers are not blog savvy. There is also a Comment Policy page.
Sidebar: HHS an RSS feed unique to each blogger would be nice.

Bravo and congrats to the Health and Human Services Department .. or should I say Pink_boa" toss of a pink boa?" .. for its innovation and courage. If a government agency can step out of its comfort zone and explore avenues to engage and leverage conversations online think of what a Big Brand or medical center, or non profit or school or business or .. or .. or .. As the saying goes, you are limited by only your imagination and a little bit of chutzpah.

Read more about at PandemicFlu.gov