Making Choices: A Strategic Approach to New Media (Part I)


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New Media, Part I: Where To Begin

In this blog, we explore a wide array of new media tools and technologies, and how they can be used in response to HIV/AIDS. From wikis to webinars, video-sharing to virtual worlds, texting to Twitter, the possibilities seem endless, and the next “new thing” is just around the corner. Often, the challenge we face is not the availability of options – it is how to choose. In this occasional strategy series, we explore ways to develop an effective new media plan that considers available resources, integrates with existing services, and uses the right tools for the job.

Part 1: Where to Begin?
With the explosion of new media, tasks are often framed in reaction to the latest trend, rather than addressing a strategic goal. “We need a Facebook page.”  “We’ve got to get on Twitter.”  “Why don’t we have a blog?”  The pressure to be a part of each new development is considerable. It helps to remember that new media is a means to an end. The means may evolve, but the mission remains the same. New media often offers cost-effective ways for resource-constrained organizations to:

  • Connect: people with information and other resources; individuals in need with health care providers; and people living with HIV/AIDS, and their families, friends and caregivers, with one another;
  • Collaborate: on internal projects, with cross-organizational teams and in public communities;
  • Create: new content, new services, new communities and new channels of communication that help you deliver information and services.

From this point of view, the first steps of a new media strategy are clear:
Before we decide on tools, we need to know who we intend to reach, and why. In other words, identify audiences and needs.

When faced with this kind of decision process, it can be helpful to use an existing pattern, or framework. One such pattern that we have found helpful here at is Forrester Research’s POST Exit Disclaimer strategy. POST stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology (the order matters!). You can read more about POST in our blog post, “People Before Technology”.

Another best-practices approach to service organizations is OBFE – Outcomes-Based Planning and Evaluation. Using OBPE, you develop a logic model Exit Disclaimer (a planning and evaluation tool) that helps:

  1. Identify specific individuals or groups with a need you can define concretely and which falls within your institutional mission;
  2. Decide on clear program outcomes (benefits) to meet that need;
  3. Develop program activities (in the context of new media, this means, “choose and implement the appropriate new media tools” ) to provide services for your audience to bring about the desired result; and
  4. Establish ways to measure whether you’ve achieved those results/outcomes.

You can learn more about OPBE using Shaping Outcomes Exit Disclaimer, a self-guided online tutorial that teaches OBPE principles and practice. A project of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) & Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), OPBE was originally developed for libraries and museums. However, its lessons are broadly applicable and the course uses many examples from a variety of public service organizations.

We spoke to Monica Nuño, Capacity Building Assistance Specialist, of AIDS Project Los Angeles, about how she thinks about and makes plans to reach a specific audience. Monica reminded us that when we consider who we are trying to reach, it’s important to carefully identify and segment populations so that we are using the right tool for different audiences. For example, the needs of 18-year-old men who have sex with men (MSM) may be different than those for 35-year-old MSM. You can find more tips and discussion about planning and strategy in our blog post, “Conference Highlights How to Use New Media Tools”.

How have you approached the challenge of making choices about new media? If you know of other effective patterns or approaches to planning a new media strategy, please share them in the comments.

The next post in this strategy series will explore using the principle of appropriate technology to choose the “right” new media tool for the job.