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Highlights From the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media

By Venton Jones

August 30, 2011

Venton Jones

Venton Jones

Earlier this month, attended the 5th Annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference was hosted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Cancer Institute (NCI). Naima Cozier, Trainer, presented on geolocation and the HIV/AIDS Prevention & Service Provider Locator. She told us, "As public health professionals, HIV/AIDS activists and providers, we can become engulfed in our work and can lose sight of the reality around us. Listening for the day-to-day context of the audience we are trying to reach, can inspire of innovation and new ideas that will hopefully lead to an increased impact of our health messages."

We asked Venton Jones from the National Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition to share some of his thoughts for the HIV Community. Here's what he had to say:

The theme was "Listening for Change." The theme resonated with me as an activist working in communications for the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition. In the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we must work to discover new and creative ways of engaging communities we serve in order to prevent new HIV infections and link HIV positive individuals to life-saving care. In order to be able to effectively listen to our communities, we must have the tools to effectively communicate with a wide variety of audiences. This also means utilizing new media outlets and combining it with traditional media (e-mail, press releases, TV, newspaper). With the emergence of new media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging) and public health's acknowledgment of its importance in our communication efforts, it is critical that we not only use it as a tool to disseminate messages, but also to listen.

In this resource-tapped environment, many community organizations only have a small number of staff, or even one staff person, to manage communications for their entire organization. Alone, this can be a challenging task having to manage a web site, blog, press releases, traditional media, social media etc. In addition to communication objectives, staff quite often juggle additional job responsibilities. Thankfully technology is on our side. Many new services and inexpensive gadgets have been created to help assist communication efforts. A helpful tool I took from the conference was a communications resource list developed by communications guru Kerry Shearer. Another helpful tool for communicators is the CDC's Social Media Toolkit (PDF 3.8 MB).

As we move forward in addressing HIV, it is critical that we continue to utilize our complete toolkit of resources creating bilateral relationships, disseminating a variety of multimedia messages and gathering community feedback as we continue to listen, take action and make change a reality.

Venton Jones is senior program associate for communications and member education at the National Black Gay Men's Advocacy Coalition (NBGMAC).

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