Social media has become so ubiquitous in our lives, it is sometimes easy to overlook many of the fundamental changes it has brought to the way we communicate. Often spoken of are the fact that communications has become more about relationship between entities communicating along much more granular subject lines. And we have a new atmosphere where control over message has eroded, but ability to reach target audiences at low cost has increased.
And we tend to lump all new communications platforms together. But it pays now and then to slow down and look at them individually to assess how each component contributes to the whole of communications – particularly in health care where so many people go online to get information. Consider the impact of blogs.
Blogs begin as online diaries – like one long facebook entry. But they have quickly morphed and entered the mainstream of communications. But not all blogs are alike – particularly in health care. In fact, there are different types of blogs that have emerged that may have varied networks and audiences – considerations that important to perceive if you are working in the field of health care communications. Today there are all kinds of blogs – advocacy blogs, news and analysis blogs, blogs about philanthropy, about science, about medicine and about specific diseases. But perhaps a good way to think about analyzing the landscape is in the type of blogger who is actually doing the writing.
Food for thought – consider the following classifications of blog sources:
- Non-professional, but credible bloggers – These are comprised of lay people who have started blogs that over time have gained traction. In health care, they are usually focused on a fairly specific subject matter that may, in fact, be quite niche. It could be about aspects of living with a particular disease or condition. In addition to patients, they may be caregivers or advocates and perhaps even providers. Over time, they have acquired credibility and become influential in their own area. They are generally unaffiliated, though they could be fostered by an organization.
- Professional Non-Journalist Bloggers – These are people who have a professional specialty about which they write and have, in many respects, assumed a journalistic type role because of the following and corresponding influence that they have developed. Examples of this category might include several of the prominent doctor bloggers but also include a range of other bloggers who really know their field and to whom many journalists will follow.
- Journalist Bloggers – There has been a hefty migration of traditional journalists into the blogosphere – a fact that has fundamentally changed the profession. Blogging allows greater speed and flexibility in reporting and also allows a writer to perhaps develop pieces that are more granular. Postings can occur much more often than through traditional publication. Clearly there are some health care journalists who have emerged as major bloggers and who have influence in both the print and digital realms. But appealing directly to them may be less effective than making inroads with other digital assets that may influence them.
- Institutional Bloggers – These blogs have become a way for institutions to related to people by either conveying news about the institution or showcasing thought leadership from their ranks. Good examples of this are FDA’s blog FDAVoice or corporate sponsored blogs where senior leadership can provide analysis into specialized subject matter.
The point is raised here because since not all bloggers are alike, approaches to them are not either. And in considering a communications strategy, it may be beneficial to consider the different buckets and the varied ability of some in one bucket to influence those in another. Your end target may be a journalist blogger, but the means to reach him or her may be in another category altogether.
How to map out who influences who? That is for a future posting.