Digital Age of Injury Prevention Communications

February 21, 2013

For the past 12 years, I’ve worked with brilliant but humble scientists who, typically, prefer to communicate their expertise through the peer-review process of scientific journal publication. This preference has fueled our reputation as a source of reliable evidence-based information on child injury prevention.

But it can cause long delays in communication of actionable advice that could save a life. Important research and related recommendations can move at a snail’s pace through the peer review process and then can be lost in academic libraries familiar only to researchers.    

We are celebrating our 16th anniversary in 2013 and CIRP staff has penned hundreds of peer reviewed research articles and participated in countless research conferences and expert panels alongside the finest in our field. We have a lot to share and are excited by all that is happening in the field of child injury prevention. 

This has led us to debate whether blogging and social media might help our Center share what we learn with stakeholders and fellow researchers more effectively. Here are insights from that lively debate:

A steady exchange of ideas leads to innovation and solutions. This is especially so when that exchange occurs between the academic community and those on the front line who turn research into effective policies, programs and products. Without our colleagues from industry, advocacy organizations and government, our work remains stuck on the proverbial library shelf, accessed only by other academics. If done well, web-based communication can extend our knowledge to greater numbers of stakeholders who can help us protect children and youth from injury.

Digital communications strategies can be an effective bridge from you to your stakeholders and audiences. While many digital strategy tools are “free,” they do require dedicated time from staff and possibly vendors so you need to be choosy.  We weighed the pros and cons of various tools. For instance, in-the-moment and on-the-record communication can be scary for many scientists. We also narrowed choices to tools commonly used by our stakeholders. These strategies needed to be sustainable when resources are limited and expandable when budgets and mission allow. Those who live by grants can relate. 

From among many options, we selected the following portfolio of digital tools to serve the varied goals and urgency of our research messages:

  • Six Websites focused on injury prevention topics: CPS, teen driving, concussions, traumatic stress, violence, research & training-only
    • Provides families and stakeholders with evidence-informed content that undergoes expert review at CIRP. An update to web content can take days to several weeks to post. RSS feeds from this Blog keep sites from becoming too static.
  • Research in Action Blog
    • Communicates to stakeholders, “Hey, did you hear about this new study” or “Here is a strategy that helped us.” Categorized for each of our unique audiences, a blog post may take a day to a week to post. 
  • Twitter (@SafetyMD)
    • Tweets alert followers to news and perspective immediately. Can take minutes to a day to post. Provides less information but can link to more detail.
  • YouTube
    • Having our video content hosted off-site allows more people to find our videos, draws people to our websites through YouTube, and frees up our Hospital’s server space even as we add more embedded videos to all our websites.
  • Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
    • Tools like Google AdWords help us understand what terms people use to search Web browsers for injury prevention advice and resources.
  • LinkedIn
    • Many individuals at the Center maintain personal LinkedIn accounts to help with their own professional networking.

These tools are complementary to traditional strategies, like eBlasts, eNewsletters, Webinars, conference participation, and news media relations (or earned media), which are still part of our communications mix.

According to WordPress, a publishing platform for bloggers, more than 391 million people view more than 3.8 billion pages of blog content every month (as of July 2012) on WordPress. The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project tells us that one in three adult Internet users read blogs.

I don’t know the proportion of injury prevention professionals that access blogs to increase their knowledge. But here is some measure of our community’s digital dexterity: A Twitter Chat for National Teen Driver Safety Week in October 2012 attracted 150 unique Twitter users. @SafetyMD has 1700+ followers and @SafeKidsUSA has 21,000+. I belong to four LinkedIn groups for injury prevention that total 6000+ members, counting the inevitable overlap.

Our Center relies on our child and traffic injury prevention colleagues to share our research facts and resources with their audiences globally, in the US, and at the state, community and school levels-- all with a common goal to reduce the burden of child injury. We’ll know if our blog posts are relevant and useful to you if you “share” the post with others or “like” it. Please do!

Since we decided to create a blog several months ago, we have been constantly saying “That would be a perfect topic for our Blog, if only it were up and running.” Our wait is over.