36711 Your Public Health Agency Needs a Blog: Ten Reasons to Start a Blog and How It Will Help You Serve Your Constituency

Scott Jones, B.S., Certified Web Analyst1, Stephanie Adams, B.A.2 and Yukari Takata Schneider, PhD, MPH1, 1Market Research and Analytics, IQ Solutions, Inc., Rockville, MD, 2Public Engagement Platform, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD

Background: Public health agencies have used many means to communicate with the general public, including websites, newsletters, public notices, radio and TV messaging, and social media.  Recently, websites and social media have been predominant methods of engagement.  An under-utilized means of communicating to target audiences has been the blog.  Properly employed, blogs offer an important, critical and very effective means of engaging the public as well as professionals in the field.  They offer several important advantages over other media that not only positively affects your messaging, but also benefits other managed media.  In the end, blogs can potentially improve your messaging.

Program background: Blog case studies will be presented that portray how public health messaging is accomplished while extending the overall reach of the agency.  Ten benefits of starting a blog for developing engagement will be provided and challenges to initiating and sustaining a blog will be addressed.  A strategy for making the blog an integral tool in an outreach plan will be provided.  Finally, the blog as a means for valuable feedback and constructive qualitative information will be discussed.

Evaluation Methods and Results: The following analyses will support the conclusions of the study:  

  1. The primary example will display blog development and growth from its inception using web traffic and engagement metrics.
  2. Web analyses will reveal the messaging that resonates most with the intended audiences.
  3. Additional analyses will highlight particular blog posts and series of posts, showing the utility of blogs and how they can contribute to the overall benefit of an agency’s website. 

Conclusions:  The study shows the utility of public health blogs and how they impact not only the target audience with health messages, but are proven an effective means of drawing people to an agency’s full set of digital content.  The audience for a blog takes time to build, but once built, significantly affects the agency website’s overall web traffic and engagement.  Thus, a blog should be a necessary tool in the arsenal of the public health agency.

Implications for research and/or practice: The increased use of public health blogs by public agencies can be an effective means of informing the public concerning health issues and threats, providing wellness information, and supporting health programs and strategies.  Through disseminating digital content, blogs can maintain increased “freshness” of website content, can build audience awareness of the agency’s mission, and can replace some of the messaging programs of other channels, such as social and traditional media.