There’s More Than One Way to …

When I was younger I was involved in the mapping and ground verification of satellite images of a UNESCO biosphere reserve.  This allowed me at the tender ages of 16, 17 and 18 to see, first hand, the methods and reasoning of world-class scientists.  It was fascinating and offered me a glimpse into how two intelligent people can both be right while adamantly believing the other is wrong.

One hot summer day we were in a planning session, in a room cooled only by a small oscillating fan, and two of the scientists disagreed on a method.  One of them became rather upset over the disagreement and made an impassioned case for her preferred method, outlining the consequences of using the other proposed method.  At the end of her speech she stood up and left the room.  After an awkward silence the other scientist sighed and said, “Jane needs to realize there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Horrified, I gasped and said, “why do we need to skin a cat?!  Why would anyone ever do that?!”  It was quickly explained that no cats would be skinned and that the phrase was an idiom that meant the problem had more than one acceptable solution.*

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Why What Doesn’t Work Matters: The Importance of Failure

In May, after what seemed like an eternity, I finished up my graduate work.  The university I attended was research-heavy and encouraged their graduate students to publish and conduct experimental research.  Over three years and seemingly endless lecture hours as professors urged us to publish, they repeated what seemed likea mantra: “you learn something from failure.”

Each time this was repeated I thought, “Yes, if you’re the first one to conduct research into a field or if you’re trying to replicate someone’s results for the first time, yes, you learn something from failure. But if you do all the necessary research your hypothesis and your results should align.”

Then I failed. Continue reading

Don’t Do What I Did: The Abbreviated Guide to Online Reputation Management

Since my post on transparency and authenticity for Mark Shaefer’s blog {grow} went up three months ago, I’ve received several emails from individuals who have either gone through what I did, or have had their reputations threatened with ruin.  Most of us have heard horror stories of a Google or Facebook search losing someone a prized position.  The bad guys out there know this, know that reputations and online identities are powerful and capitalize on that.

When I’m asked what advice I have to give, I usually begin the same way: Don’t do what I did.

I got scared, I felt alone, I felt a deep loss of identity and instead of standing my ground I hid.  This did the trick in the short-term, but in the long-term has caused significant problems.  I cannot be clearer on this: Do not do what I did.

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Why Vaccine Advocates Don’t Need Google to Police the Internet

On Monday, Slate ran an article from Future Tense by Evgeny Morozov called Warning: This Site Contains Conspiracy Theories – Anti-vaccine activists, 9/11 deniers and Google’s social search.  The article is based on a recent study in Vaccine that examined the strategies, tactics and content of several anti-vaccination websites.  I would highly recommend reading the study if you have an interest in online science-based communication.

The study’s author, Anna Kata of the department of anthropology at McMaster University, outlines how anti-vaccination websites increase their own relevancy in Google search results through a myriad of what is essentially SEO, one-way and three-way link exchanges.

While Kata briefly notes possible solutions to the SEO issue, Morozov goes a step further by recommending two possible solutions: 1. A browser extension that would ‘red flag’ websites that use anti-science keywords and 2. For Google to “exercise a heavier curatorial control in presenting search results.”

I take issue with both of these proposed solutions.  Before I go forward, in order to ward off starting any conspiracy theories of my own, I would like to state explicitly that to the best of my knowledge Google isn’t investigating or implementing either of the options suggested by Morozov. Continue reading

Why Digital Health Communication Campaigns Measure the Wrong Things

I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that social media marketers get a little defensive when asked to quantify the ROI on their campaigns.  Often because those at the helm feel social media is asked to defend its use, where traditional media is not, but more frequently the defensiveness comes from an inability to measure.

Those in the non-profit realm are faced with another layer of complexity on top of the ROI question: public health and social marketing campaigns are typically difficult to measure and assign a “dollars saved” amount to, especially for short campaigns.  Despite this, health communication and social marketing campaigns have a greater responsibility to measure our campaigns and we need to do so honestly, accurately and transparently.

I’ve recently been able to review a handful of health digital media campaigns and it shouldn’t be shocking that they were either measured using the wrong metrics or have been declared successes using the right measures, when they were anything but. Continue reading

7 Digital Media Resolutions (Minus the Buzz Words)

2012 has arrived and the internet has been inundated with social media marketing resolutions posts.*  After reading a handful, I feel like I’m suffering from a buzz word hangover.

I love my digital media colleagues, and sometimes we’re all guilty of throwing in one too many industry buzz words where just one would do. *Cough*Cough* influence, tribe, engagement, sentiment, optimization, monetization, synergy, innovative.

As a professional resolution for 2012 I have resolved to use fewer buzz words, and more plain language. With this in mind, as my first test, I’ve put together a few resolutions for those running digital public health and social marketing campaigns to consider this new year.

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How Social Media Is Turning Us All Into First Responders

I’m not a doctor or a grief counselor but social media has turned me into one and it is turning us all into first responders, for better or worse.

Last year a friend posted Facebook that she was going to take her daughter, who had a fever, to a minute clinic to get her annual flu shot.  Her reasoning seemed sound at first blush: She was tight on time and her daughter was already sick and already miserable, so why not bite the bullet and do it now?

Several friends had weighed in on her status empathizing with her predicament.  I jumped in an urged her to wait at least 48 hours after her daughter’s fever had broken to have her vaccinated, or at least take her daughter to a walk-in clinic that night where a physician would oversee the immunization.  After my comment, my friend called the on-call nurse who told her the same thing. Continue reading