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April 15, 2008


People Before Technology

At AIDS.gov, we've learned that new media is exciting and many of us want to incorporate these tools into our programs before we have a plan. To prevent this from happening, our AIDS.gov New Media Strategist has urged us and others to use Forrester Research's POST strategy Exit Disclaimer to stay on track.

POST Strategy--The order is important!

  • P = People. Who is your target audience? What tools are they using?
  • O = Objectives. Pick one. Are you starting an application to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? To support them, or to energize your best customers to evangelize others? Or are you trying to collaborate with them?
  • S = Strategy. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want increase testing rates? Increase awareness?
  • T = Technology. This might be a podcast, wiki, social networking site, or a blog Exit Disclaimer. Once you've defined your people/audiences, your objectives, and strategy, then you can choose the most appropriate technology.

New Media Planning and AIDS Service Organizations
To get a better idea of how we can all use the POST strategy to promote HIV information and services, we talked again with Erik Ireland from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) Exit Disclaimer, and Mark Clark, of New Mexico AIDS Services (NMAS) Exit Disclaimer, about how the strategy guides their new media work.

Along with SFAF clients and people at-risk for HIV, Erik says that Foundation staff have identified their colleagues and peers as one of their target audiences. At NMAS, Mark and his colleagues have identified two main audiences for their new media work: 1) People living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), many of whom have dual diagnoses (i.e., HIV with substance abuse or mental health issues); and 2) People at risk for HIV (late-testers).

Mark says "We know folks are going online. Many of them are in rural areas and they rely on the Internet to communicate with other people and find services. Our clients see the Internet as a safe and private way to get information."

Because SFAF has identified professional peers and colleagues as one of their target audiences, Erik says one of their objectives is to "stay in touch with [them] and keep them abreast of important HIV information."

Mark says that NMAS' objectives include linking PLWHA with services (e.g., health education classes) and encouraging people to get an HIV test. "We also want to encourage clients to talk with their providers about who and what they are all about," he says.

"Our strategy is to provide people with the most timely and easily-digestible information," Erik says. "We want to give them a short synopsis so they can dig deeper if they are interested."

Mark says that NMAS has a similar strategy. "We try to bring the information to our target audience, and give them the newest information in the timeliest way possible. We want to offer information that grabs their attention." To do that, Mark says, "We involve folks where they are (the Internet), 24-7."

Erik says that SFAF uses podcasts Exit Disclaimer because "they are a 'short and sweet' way to bring HIV information to our audience. People can listen to them when and where they want to."

During SFAF's planning process, everyone agreed podcasts would be the most appropriate new media tool. "We've gotten great feedback from our listeners...And now people are coming to us with content ideas!" Erik tells us.

Mark and NMAS use the NMAS MySpace page Exit Disclaimer as a way to reach their target audience where they are: "It's an immediate way to get the word out, and it's convenient."

It is important to note that the best technology choice may be the simplest. For example, e-mail or text messaging may be the best way to reach a specific audience. Avoid the temptation to choose the technology first and be lured by the "cool" factor.

Avoid the temptation to choose the technology first and be lured by the "cool" factor.

Bottom-line: There are many new media-planning strategies out there, including POST. No matter what strategy you use, it should always be about your target audience--what they need and want.

Please let us know what you think of today's post!


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As a college professor, I repeatedly evaluate the 'cool' factor of technology in the classroom. Will an animation further my learning objectives? Or will the animation simply look neat? Obviously, furthering my learning objectives takes precedence. But, as you note, technology can help you reach your target audience and engage them more fully. At Davidson College, students in my HIV/AIDS class have been developing installments for an HIV/AIDS blog and podcast (The AIDS Pandemic) for the past two years. In this case, the use of technology serves two purposes. First, we are effectively reaching our target audience. We now have subscribers from all over the world. Second, my students feel a deep-seated ownership in the project. They realize that their class assignment may profoundly affect other people. As a result, they have a strong desire to provide useful, informative content. Thus, their educational experience has been enriched.

Thank you for your comment, David. We're very familiar with your work and it's an inspiration to see how you're using new media to reach your target audience AND engage and enrich students. As you mentioned, the "cool" factor can, and often does, help engage audiences. We're striving to strike that balance and hope that tools like the POST method, will help us all to be a more strategic in how and when we use new media.

Too often people forget to focus their energies on the target audience, and just incorporate the "WOW" factor instead. In the end everything comes down to how well you convey your message to the audience. If your message is lost no amount of "cool" will bring it back.

I think with all the new technology options springing up, it's important to stay on the ball. It's easier to reach an audience by speaking their language, and that language may just be through an iPhone or Twitter.

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