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I’m back in London and feeling quite energised after my trip to LA – not only because of the refreshing weather (which obviously did help), but because of the research agenda conference. I was quite hasty in my judgment of the ‘research’ people not being able to think outside the box, because by the end of the two days they had proved me wrong, with some really insightful approaches. It’s given me the desire to want to do something new.

The research stuff was also interesting – I was worried that they’d use jargon that I’d have no idea what they were talking about, but a lot of it was in layman’s terms. They also did a lot of stuff on social networking that was really interesting. One of the most interesting presentations revolved around the idea of social networks being associated with behaviour – ultimately people associate with others like themselves.

It seems obvious enough – and actually if you’ve ever been to any school with the cliques (or even in workplace settings coming to think of it), you’ll know how important the influences in these networks can be, and even the importance of your social networks. Such thinking helps you to target your efforts – think about it, the diffusers of change will be faster when led by popular opinion leaders (think Oprah).

Now I need to figure out how to identify the influencers for our audience… Though thinking about it, it’s probably the people we see in popular culture… hmmmm that might be a bit of a problem. Let me think about that one.

We figured it out – we now know who our clients are! It seems like an easy enough task, but when you think about what we do – produce content, funded by different organisations, and then distributed to broadcasters to air, for young people to watch – well any of those could be our clients. Then you break up what we do, how we do it and who it serves and then you figure out who the clients are. It was a really interesting process and the debates led to even more understanding.

From there we’ve done (or will do by tomorrow) three half days of strategic planning. It’s been really interesting as we’ve done a SWOT analysis – both internal, and external, identified our competitors and even our core competence (you can see i’m putting my MBA training into good use). The good thing was getting the input of the whole team and not just leaving it to ‘management’. And it’s a pretty good team – they get along, they’re passionate about the issue, they’re ambitious and they’re constantly striving to be better!

The candid discussions made us all think that as a campaign we’ve lost our edge a little bit and now we’ve got some distance to go to get back to being the absolute best – which is of course what we always strive to be.

Hmmm what will tomorrow bring?

last night i went to a panel discussion on how you can measure the success of digital projects. of course this was of interest to me because with us living in such a ‘digital word’, it’s important that our sexual health campaigns have a strong component that uses digital properties, such as websites, twitter, facebook, youtube etc.
while this adds to our multi-platform offering, there’s also a struggle to figure out what is success – in a meaningful way other than just x thousands/millions of people visited the site over a period of time. and let’s be honest those figures can be subjective too. what they were saying last night, and i really felt was spot on, it’s got to be about engagement. how are users engaging with the campaign, with the brand?
this could be measured by anything from the amount of time they spend on the site – if they’re spending time on the site they’re engaged by something – to things like how they’re commenting, what they’re commenting on – basically it’s got to be about the user experience. Ultimately if we seek to identify the actual human interaction on the site – or whatever the digital offering is – then we can see a level of ‘customer satisfaction’.
it was based on commerical projects and tv programmes, but i thought this was interesting for HIV/AIDS projects that use digital media as well. after doing a google search i found there weren’t that many sites for the user on HIV/AIDS anyway – the user being young people that is. the other day i really struggled to find a site for young people that explained MCP in a way that was relevant to them.
this led me to thinking – how can we do educational campaigns without having this information readily available for young people in a language and a medium that’s accessible for them? yeah you have unaids and avert, but really, are these sites young people want to go to?
and that was another thing that they said on the panel – don’t focus on bringing the people to your branded site, instead take the content to where they already are. and make it easy to find.
i think at staying alive we are using digital in a good way, we have some really strong online properties, but we also have the challenge of figuring out how to capture that new audience – so that we’re not preaching to the choir – and engaging with them.
so far we’ve seen some success with our blogs, but definitely with facebook and twitter. i have to admit, i’m not on twitter – i just don’t get it (from an personal perspective) – but it works, it’s a great tool to keep people updated and even sending them to our various websites.
where i think we’re falling short is the information we give out. yes, our strength is not in the actual information, but i think we have a real opportunity where young people trust us as a credible and cool source that we should be giving them more of the hard information. to be fair we are doing this a bit better with our blogs for our ignite project. they’re written by young people themselves and they talk about various topics relating to sexual health, which i think this is a good thing. they talk about relationships, one night stands, getting circumcised etc, stuff that we want them to know about about, putting across information while entertaining the user.
we still have the challenge of getting those users to leave comments, so that we know that we’re doing something right or what we’re doing wrong.
so i do believe that now, more than ever, whether you’re addressing young people in Africa or young people in Europe, you need digital components to your projects. you just need to figure out how to make sure its the user experience in mind – and not about your brand – whether you’re an NGO or a UN agency or a company with a CSR agenda. and there’s nothing wrong with going to someone with more experience – like us!