Who are you writing that blog post for?
The lines often get blurred, but there are important differences between blogging for our peers and blogging for the public. Recognizing these differences can help health professionals craft targeted outreach designed to suit the intended audience, but we also can’t fall intro the trap of thinking the two groups are totally separate. Similarly, you need to have a clear picture of your intended audience, because the same content will likely not be appealing to all demographics. If you try to target everyone, your blog risks appealing to no one.
1) Messages meant for the public need to be short and to the point. It helps for the title and intro to be catchy or attention-grabbing, and for there to be images. Heather Mansfield’s Social media for Social Good details best practices for blog post structure and content (such as using lists like this one).
2) Messages meant for other public health professionals need to contain more content and depth and should include references where needed.
3) If you are targeting youth, the structure and content of your posts needs to be much snappier than if you are targeting older adults. Likewise, physicians will not have the exact same interests as community health workers.
4) At the same time, you cannot risk your blog becoming stale because you always post the exact same content or structure. Mix it up!
5) Don’t get stuck thinking your audience will only respond to one type of communication. Include avenues for members of the public to find out more if they wish and don’t get stuck thinking professionals always have the time or inclination to consume a lot of text.
Mansfield advocates using an image or video in every post and suggests consistency in image placement, such as in the upper right corner of posts. I agree with her that using visual media is more important than ever before, but I personally think that it pays to vary what and how you post. Blogs that only ever use one layout are not engaging in the long-term. Mansfield addresses changing content, but does not focus as much on the layout and structure of posts.
→ Examples ←
For this post I researched health blogs related to Geographic Information Systems and maps. I overwhelmingly found that these blogs are targeted to peers, not to the public. I also felt that some were more interesting than others, from an information distribution standpoint.
TRF Policy Map Blog | http://www.policymap.com/blog/
|– Pro: makes use of images and different layouts- Con: white background and overall aesthetic seem dated- Suggestion: vary the content of the posts a bit more|
Open Source GIS Blog | http://opensourcegisblog.blogspot.com/
|– Pro: great use of different types of content to keep the reading engaging. Idea to take away: book reviews (or reviews of other things). I also liked the border around the text as it made it seem more contained and manageable.|
eHealthMap.com | https://healthmap.wordpress.com/
|– Pro: best looking of the three blogs. Presented maps that seemed most likely to interest the public, but still too technical for broad appeal.- Suggestion: use social media to distribute maps for public access and consumption|
Where are the map blogs for the public? What I learned is that there do not seem to be any prominent blogs focused on maps that are intended for public consumption. Instead, they are often used as enhancement items on health blogs to capture people’s attention, such as this post on the Withings blog about European obesity (http://blog.withings.com/2015/05/22/european-map-of-obesity/).
I’d love to see a health blog devoted to educational maps intended for the public instead of professionals.
1) Decide on your audience – consider using social media to target to multiple audiences, if needed.
2) Tailor your posts to your audience.
3) Avoid stale posts.