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Applying Lessons Learned from South by Southwest (SXSW) to HIV


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We’re changing our tone here at, increasing our transparency and letting you know just who “we” are. Stay tuned for more…and let us know what you think!

Last week was the annual South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) conference Exit Disclaimer in Austin, Texas. Our HHS colleague Andrew Wilson attended nearly 25 panels and presentations on new and social media. I sat down with Andrew to find out what he learned – what themes emerged and how they can be applied to our HIV work. Andrew told me:


“SXSW participants reinforced the message that new media tools are only part of the conversation and that collaboration, stakeholder engagement, and customer centricity equal effective communication.

Presentations highlighted the fact that new media offers tremendous opportunities for organizations of all sizes to engage stakeholders and their own staff members, to collaborate in creative ways, and to solicit feedback that will help improve the organization.”

This message about being responsive to stakeholders can apply to our own commitments and obligations to our patients and clients. Andrew mentioned that many people spoke about Twitter as an effective engagement tool –– and I followed some of the SXSW dialogue via Twitter Exit Disclaimer. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, Twitter can help us engage in an honest and open dialogue about risk, stigma, and other issues facing the HIV community.

Andrew went on to say:

Beth Kanter Exit Disclaimer moderated a memorable presentation on the Social Media Nonprofit Return on Investment (ROI) Poetry Slam Exit Disclaimer, and representatives from The Humane Society Exit Disclaimer, the American Red Cross Exit Disclaimer, the National Wildlife Federation Exit Disclaimer, and American Cancer Society Exit Disclaimer spoke about their experiences with social media and how it has helped them achieve their missions.

Not surprisingly, the panelist turned to some of the same tools they use to communicate with the public (Facebook, Twitter Exit Disclaimer, Google docs Exit Disclaimer, and wikis) to help organize and plan the panel. A lesson for everyone using social media is to consider how these tools can be used internally, to improve project management and collaboration.”

The nonprofit panel’s use of new media to collaborate internally is a lesson for all of us. The team uses a wiki to collaborate on internal documents – and we connect with each other and our colleagues on our Facebook Group Exit Disclaimer and Twitter Exit Disclaimer account.

Finally, Andrew told me:

At the New Think for Old Publishers Exit Disclaimer presentation on how the publishing industry could use social media, the panel opened up the floor for discussion and a flood of ideas, comments, and criticism came from the audience. The panel listened intently, engaged where appropriate, and appeared to take the best ideas to heart. The significance was that organizations that are willing to ask their customers, clients, and stakeholders for input will invariably get ideas that will help make the organization better. Fortunately, social media provides tools that can facilitate soliciting and collecting feedback in ways not previously possible.

SXSW offered insight into many of the technologies shaping the world today. The message that I left with was simple and clear – connecting with stakeholders, customers, and partners will make your organization stronger. This sentiment was eloquently captured by a speaker who quoted this African proverb: ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go farther, go together.’”

Using these tools to listen to our clients, patients, and partners can make us all better at what we do.

Speaking of listening…we’re redesigning We’d love to hear what you think and how we can better serve you!