Vaccine Policy Advocacy, Journalism & Social Media Engagement


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This talk was developed for graduate students in a vaccines policy course at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The talk centered on how the students - from disciplines including public health, immunology and epidemiology - could effectively communicate to the public about vaccines and vaccination policy. Audiences for this communication might include parents, school nurses, legislators, other policy makers or just the general public.

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Vaccine Policy Advocacy, Journalism & Social Media Engagement

  1. 1. Vaccine Advocacy, Journalism & Social Media Engagement Tara Haelle
  2. 2. Overview  Familiarize yourself with the landscape  Recognize the different media and opportunities for engagement  Op-Eds and Blogging  Become a false balance detective  Know your audience  General communication tips
  3. 3. Learn the Landscape  Mainstream   USA Today, WSJ, NYT, major network TV news Local newspaper, local news  Online  media media Slate, Salon, Jezebel  Specialty/science/health  WebMD, SciAm, LiveScience  “Alternative  media health” news sites Natural News, GreenMedInfo, Mercola
  4. 4. Learn the Landscape   Professional organizations (AAP, FAAP) Vaccine advocacy groups (avoid “pro-vaccine”)   Anti-vaccine advocacy groups   Voices for Vaccines, PKIDs, Immunization Partnership NVIC, AVN, Age of Autism, SafeMinds, Generation Rescue Facebook pages   Informed Parents of Vaccinated Children, COVRAC, Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes, Nurses Who Vaccinate, Every Child By Two Vaccination Information Network (VINE), Sherri Tenpenny
  5. 5. Learn the Landscape  “Paul Offit”  “Barbara Loe Fisher”  “Geiers”  “Russell Blaylock”  “Robert F. Kennedy”  “Sherri Tenpenny”  “Louise Habakus”
  6. 6. Ways to Engage  Op-eds  Letters, commentaries  Blogging (including guest posts)  Twitter  Facebook  Pinterest  Comments sections of articles (ewww…)  Be available to journalists  Connecting others – be a hub
  7. 7. Why Social Media?  Pediatrics: “The Impact of Social Networks on Parents’ Vaccination Decisions”  What are this study findings’ implications?  Studies on Twitter  Sharing articles, op-eds, blogs, etc.  “Memes”
  8. 8. Op-eds  Traditional vs. Blog posts media (newspapers)  ≤1000 words  Expert authors, advocates, etc.  Specific audience  Online only  Variable length  Can be written by anyone  Variable audience  May be responding to other media
  9. 9. Op-ed characteristics  Addresses a timely issue of public interest  Clearly defined audience  Author’s credentials or perspective or personal experience  Clear structure  Structure easily applied/adapted to blogs
  10. 10. Op-ed Structure  What’s the issue?  What’s the problem?  Who’s affected?  What’s been done?  What remains to be done?  How can it be done?  Call to action  Optional: author’s stakes/involvement
  11. 11. Example: Op-Ed  LA Times: "Public Health: Not vaccinated? Not acceptable”  Who is the intended audience?  What is the problem?  How does the author build his case?  What’s the call to action?
  12. 12. Example: Personal Column  New Republic: “I’ve Got Whooping Cough. Thanks a Lot, Jenny McCarthy”  How does this differ from an op-ed?  How is it similar?  How effectively does this article communicate its message?  How does this message stumble in communicating its message?
  13. 13. Example: Blog post  RWAS: “Oversimplification and hubris can backfire: For once, it wasn’t actually Jenny McCarthy’s fault”  What is the goal of this response?  How does the writer attempt to accomplish this goal?  How is this post similar/different from op-eds?
  14. 14. False Balance/Equivalence  What is it?  Why does it occur?  When you’re a source…  When you see it in the media…  When you see it in social media…
  15. 15. Example: General Commentary  Politico: “Why is Katie Couric Promoting Vaccine Skeptics?”  Who is the audience?  How does this differ from an op-ed?  What is the call to action?  What valuable key points or impressions might a lay reader take away from this piece?
  16. 16. General communication tips  Have a “time peg” (be current)  Be concise and direct  Keep it simple  Use clear language, short sentences  AVOID JARGON  Choose (only a few) numbers strategically  Use active voice  Start strong (hook), finish strong  KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
  17. 17. Know Your Audience  Understand their values, beliefs, trust, fears  Validate potential reader concerns/fears  Don’t assume they share your trust/beliefs, especially in traditional institutions  Be careful not to make assumptions about their knowledge/experience OR to patronize  Educate but don’t overwhelm or condescend – What do they NEED to know?  Always speak to the middle, not the extremes
  18. 18. Audience on Social Media  Becomes polarizing quickly (duh)  Comments are very influential (Science study)  Understand “lurkers” and 90-9-1 rule  The way you engage with those on the extremes influences the way the silently observing fencesitters view the issue (and the evidence)
  19. 19. What Makes for Viral Pieces?  Personal stories  Ultra timely issues (the faster, the better)  Celebrities  Quickly digestible  Edgy or surprising (the hook)  Good image can help  Big numbers
  20. 20. Your Voice Matters  Communication  Parents, legislators, advocacy groups, academics, the media, manufacturers  Decision-makers    is essential consider multiple voices Vaccine programs Recommendations for vaccines Research priorities