State, local and federal health agencies the country share a common goal to improve the health and well being of all people. While some agencies still rely solely on traditional communication channels like direct mail and broadcast media to get important health information to the public, more health teams are looking at direct digital engagement strategies to improve outcomes and make a difference in the lives of the public.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is a leader when it comes to improving health outcomes for residents and finding new ways to engage with people to influence health related behavior changes. Minnesota is consistently ranked among the top states when it comes to improving key public health outcomes, such as reducing obesity or increasing immunization rates.
We recently got the chance to sit down with Michelle Aguilar, MDH’s Department Web Coordinator, and Andrea Ahneman, Communications and Social Media Planner for MDH’s Infectious Disease Division. Together, they shared 5 communication tips that have helped MDH take their outreach beyond like and clicks to driving more meaningful action from their key audiences:
1) Align Communication with Department Goals
Coordinated communication planning, especially in public health and human services environments, can make a huge impact on increasing participation in programs, enhancing public awareness, and improving citizen involvement in health related activities. By aligning its communications strategy with specific department goals, like decreasing influenza cases in Minnesota, MDH is able to create unified messaging, prioritize outbound campaigns, and focus outreach efforts to make a greater impact on audiences.
2) Identify Core Audiences
MDH targets 3 key audiences when it comes to the groups it serves – healthcare providers, public and private partners, and the residents of Minnesota. By identifying these audiences, MDH can create different messaging to equip each audience with the information it needs to move the needle on important healthcare outcomes. For example, while parents, providers and community organizations can each play a role in increasing participation in newborn screening, each group has a different need for information to achieve better outcomes in the future. By identifying the different needs of its audiences, MDH achieves better outcomes on programs like newborn screening than it could by neglecting to engage key audiences.
3) Use Direct Channels to Promote Online Engagement
MDH wasn’t afraid to open up new direct communication channels with partners and the public. Before starting more direct communication, MDH knew it had really valuable resources available for different audiences on its website, but knew that people don’t always think to go and visit websites as often as it would like. Whether partnering with local partners to promote content, hosting a twitter chat, or using GovDelivery, MDH is constantly looking for ways to communicate with audiences directly draw people to online resources to take advantage of its information and services.
4) Leverage Public and Private Sector Resources
MDH focuses on honing in on the resources that are available from partner organizations and other government agencies so that every outreach campaign doesn’t mean starting with a blank slate. The CDC, HHS and other federal organizations offer a lot of toolkits and media resources for state and local agencies to utilize. MDH also takes advantage of other private sector or non-profit partner resources when it comes to coordinating awareness campaigns and driving more participation in things like flu shot clinics or public health events.
5) Tailor Communications to Target Audiences
Tailoring and personalizing content is something that can be an iterative process, and it starts with that key first step of identifying who your audience is, where your communication gaps are, and making a plan to start connecting with more of your audiences. MDH considers cultural, regional, and channel preference cues when it comes to reaching more people with broad outreach campaigns.
Looking for more on how MDH connects with its audiences to drive action and promote services? Check out our recent webinar recording here and join the conversation around advancing public health through proactive engagement.