Public Health Council of the Upper Valley: Digital Strategy Proposal

BACKGROUND

The Public Health Council of the Upper Valley, abbreviated as PHC, is the largest coalition of advocates on public and public health issues in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. PHC creates connections between local public health organizations and helps them coordinate priorities and campaigns. PHC forges solutions to respond to needs of grassroot members. Some recent health initiatives PHC has taken on include dealing with substance misuse, promoting healthy weight, helping older adults, improving oral health care, promoting a healthy climate, and supporting people with mental health.

Local health partners of PHC include Grafton County Senior Citizens Council, Partners for Community Wellness at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Community Health, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, Second Growth, West Central Behavioral Health, Town of Hanover, Mascoma Valley Health Initiative Board of Directors, Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, Upper Valley Public Health Emergency, Preparedness, Town of Canaan, and the Upper Valley Region Granite United Way.

PHC receives funding from Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Hypertherm Foundation, Mascoma Savings Bank, the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, Municipalities, and private donations. From our conversations with PHC, communications efforts are largely directed towards increasing funding and potential partnerships.

GOALS

During our discussion with PHC, we discussed the importance of the partnership aspect of the organization. In discussing communication efforts, PHC made it very clear that highlighting the partner organizations and their joint work was one of the central concerns to PHC’s communication goals. This particular goal was particularly important because it helps to re-solidify the bonds between partner organizations and to continue to highlight PHC’s role in the joint effort’s success. In doing so, PHC would hopefully retain its existing partners and sponsors as well as increase these networks. In addition, PHC also identified a need to increase brand awareness among the Upper Valley general public in order to further the organization’s recognition and community impact. This goal is geared towards the general public and has a much wider targeted audience than the first. Ultimately, following our analyses and discussions, we identified two key components of PHC’s outreach goals.

Goal 1: Update current and potential partners and sponsors on important network developments and initiatives.

Audience: Current and Potential Partners and Sponsors

Goal 2: Increase brand awareness among general public in the Upper Valley.

Audience: General Public

CURRENT CONDITION

Currently, the Public Health Council of the Upper Valley does not have a strong social media presence. Their strategy is based on three main networks: Facebook, an online newsletter, and a general website.

To begin with, the Facebook page is used to directly reach out to members of the community. It consists of weekly posts on program awareness, recent news, and updated information about events taking place in the region, concerning the council’s sponsors. As a medium, Facebook offers an asynchronous mode of interaction, allowing for large groups to sustain relations, and for self-presentation to take place strategically. PHC’s use of Facebook is meant to be interactive, allowing the possibility for the community to connect with partners and initiatives. It is an accessible medium for direct communication with the citizens of the Upper Valley with pressing health concerns. The page provides a hyperlink to PHC’s website and publicizes the council’s mission: “To improve the health of Upper Valley residents through shared public health initiatives and services within a network of community stakeholders” (Public). It also provides users with a calendar, which aligns with one of the goals of the council, to advertise events of their partners.

While the hope of PHC is to reach out to a vast community within the Upper Valley, only 60 users like their Facebook page, at present. The following figure depicts the lack of reach and engagement of this network, with only 0–4 page likes within the past month and a total of 6–8 people talking about it.

Figure 1: Facebook page statistics

PHC’s Facebook page lacks visual appeal. While their cover photo portrays the healthy lifestyle that the organization stands for, pictures or videos do not usually accompany posts. Posts are generally text-heavy and dense, and are not particularly inviting to the user. The lack of attractive visual stimuli results in decreased user engagement. While posts advertise the work of partners, they do not seem to effectively reach audiences, as revealed by the fact that they do not elicit a significant number of comments or likes.

Figure 2: Examples of current PHC posts

In addition to their Facebook page, PHC uses a newsletter through MailChimp, which is sent to their partners and sponsors, monthly. The content of this newsletter is based on information extracted from the Daily Upper Valley website, containing news and events taking place across the region. This medium is meant to keep organizational members informed of initiatives, to foster collaboration within the community. The extent of users’ interaction with this platform and its overall effectiveness is unknown to the director of the company.

Finally, the council’s main network is their website: http://uvpublichealth.org/. This site provides detailed information about their objectives, priorities and missions, in an organized fashion. The website lists the company’s partners, including organizational and municipal members. It grants the company with the possibility for storage, given that it conserves meeting records from earlier years. It also outlines news and events taking place in the region, in the form of posts written by the company’s director. The website offers vast resources and links to partner websites. It is interactive in the sense that it offers links to different websites and resources, as well as the possibility to donate money.

Nonetheless, the website lacks visual appeal, introducing a dark, monochromatic color scheme and dense content. Each page is text-heavy and limits user engagement. The user must navigate the site to find hyperlinks to donation sites and public records, as they are not exhibited in a visually attractive manner. The home page is the only site that presents dynamic images. While these align with the objectives of the company, they do not always reflect tangible interactions with the community nor captivating situations that users can relate to.

“Public Health Council of the Upper Valley.” About. Public Health Council of the Upper Valley, 06 Mar. 2017. Web. 09 Mar. 2017. <http://uvpublichealth.org/>.

PROPOSALS

Returning to PHC’s earlier stated goals, we have devised a comprehensive plan that works to achieve both goals and accounts for the institutional constraints that may make difficult the implementation of any plan.

Goal 1: Update current and potential partners and sponsors on important network developments and initiatives.

Audience: Current and Potential Partners and Sponsors

Recommendation: Quarterly e-newsletter with well developed, important updates sourced from both PHC and the partner organizations themselves.

Noting the current newsletter that is already sent out, we believe that time may be better spent working on a less frequent, more extensive newsletter. When afforded the opportunity, direct communication is always stronger. Instead of using social media to reach these partner organizations, we believe that the newsletter, sent directly to their inboxes, will provide a much better opportunity for communication.

In terms of the content itself, we believe that the most important/relevant pieces to include are the updates that best showcase the work of PHC and its partner organizations. This would mean tailoring the newsletter so it is geared towards showcasing the importance and impact of the organization and not as a public health guide or informational resource. We believe that the stronger the content, the more relevant the newsletter will be. Instead of providing shallow updates, we believe that taking the time to compile bigger, more thorough articles/pieces will improve PHC’s outreach efforts. Additionally, in terms of sourcing, we believe that it would be advantageous to include articles published by partner organizations. Not only will this ease the burden of producing original content, but it will also increase readership as organizations will appreciate the additional press. By including these articles, PHC will further cement its position as a partner organization — one that brings together different organizations to cooperate and share in their similar missions.

In terms of longer term strategy, we believe that this content can be further repurposed for future grant applications or funding proposals. Having a library of accomplishments/initiatives will provide ample content to call upon when in need and would additionally help to address institutional constraints and lack of human resources. By beginning to establish this content library, PHC can better set up its future as an important and lasting resource for the Upper Valley.

Goal 2: Increase brand awareness among general public in the Upper Valley.

Audience: General Public

Recommendation: Use social media to reach the general audience and post relevant, helpful information to become the premier health resource for Upper Valley residents.

We believe that this goal would be best achieved via social media given social media’s function as a wide-net platform. Where the newsletter will provide direct, targeted communication, social media can reach a wider audience. However, given the wider, less specific audience, the content has to be more general and relevant to our general public audience. In comparison to the newsletter, this would mean less content about the strategic partnership and more content about public health and resources for people in the Upper Valley.

In our research, we have found that more frequent, more relevant content provides the best communication outcomes. Staying “on brand” or keeping the content relevant to the targeted audience is one of the most important aspects of this strategy. When posting to Facebook or Twitter, one must ask themselves, “Is this relevant to our reader? Could this help them in anyway?” In order to increase PHC’s brand awareness in the Upper Valley, PHC must gain a stronger following on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. As suggested earlier, the stronger the content, the more easily PHC will gain followers. We would like PHC’s Facebook page to be the destination people in the Upper Valley turn to when in need of information about public health and Upper Valley resources. This means improving the content and frequency of the Facebook posts.

In terms of the content itself, we believe that one must keep in mind relevancy towards the audience. This means posting events, resources, information that would help Upper Valley residents live more healthily. While all content does not have to original, it should be on brand. This would mean reposting other publications’ articles or resource guides for Upper Valley residents to consider.

In terms of frequency, our research indicates that the more consistent and frequent accounts are more successful. Keeping in mind PHC’s institutional constraints, we believe that short, daily posts would best serve PHC’s interests. While the posts do not have to be long or original, we believe that a daily consistency would attract more followers and help establish the PHC brand among online Upper Valley residents. In order to achieve consistency, we suggest the use of Buffer, a platform that allows users to queue posts on numerous social media accounts on regular schedule. Users can set customized posting times, and therefore create content only once or twice a week, that is then presented on Facebook and Twitter in an organized and efficient manner. Buffer also examines each accounts’ analytics, providing detailed information about most and least popular posts, the level of user engagement and the overall reach. This can provide an understanding of what posts are most successful and what audience is being reached. The site also allows the possibility of “re-buffering” posts that were successful, instantly adding them to the calendar to target the populations that found them appealing.

The more content PHC can begin posting to the social media sites, the higher it will be placed among public health-related search results. This would additionally help to better serve the PHC brand among Upper Valley residents.

Additional Social Media Platforms

After researching communication platforms, we believe that PHC would best be served to use Facebook and Twitter as the two outreach sites. While the brand already has a Facebook page, we believe that Twitter will serve as an important additional resource for reaching out to Upper Valley residents. Given its short-form nature (Tweets are limited to 140 characters), one does not necessarily have to spend a long time producing content or “Tweeting.” Instead, Twitter can serve as a place to share relevant content and highlight the work of other partner organizations. The Retweet function on Twitter will repost Tweets from other users and can replace the need for producing original content. Additionally, this platform can serve as a method for informally communicating with partner organizations.

EXAMPLES

The Public Health Council of the Upper Valley currently produces text heavy posts on its Facebook page which are not visually appealing to viewers.

For PHC’s Twitter, we created a template which incorporates successful design elements of Twitter pages of large health groups. These features include having the logo of PHC in the corner of each post, including visuals, integrating text in the visual, and limiting the length of text in posts. Some of these features are exemplified by posts by Northwell Health.

For PHC’s Twitter page, we integrated the best practices of other companies to our page. Like United Way, we made PHC’s Twitter description its mission. Also, PHC’s pinned Tweet is its contact information. This allows the public to access PHC’s resources.