ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 2, 2013

Building a Grassroots Army on the Internet: A Guide for Adopters at All Stages


The world continues to change so quickly. Using technology to connect with target audiences is essential in penetrating the cluttered atmosphere, especially in the field of healthcare. Social media has expanded our professional coordinates and positioned communicators to participate in the real-time conversations shaping the marketplace of ideas.

For the last 20 years, I have seen how successful policy and campaign workers use technology to transform outreach and activism. Those who embrace the effort, become early adopters, build their critical mass and consume the environment like a tidal wave.

At first, it’s overwhelming, but eventually you find your groove. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Groupon — initially, it did not occur to me to join them. However, for career insight or to get a better deal on frozen yogurt, it is essential to be plugged in. Patterns definitely emerge, and information management becomes key.

I’ve seen the impact firsthand at my organization, the Oncology Nursing Society. We’re engaged in a multitude of membership advocacy efforts that educate decision-makers on nursing and cancer.

For example, ONS annually brings cancer nurses to Washington, D.C., to advocate for healthcare policy issues. As part of our key objectives, we seek to organically expand and amplify our members’ efforts through social media.

What complex initiatives top the list in terms of outreach? The legislative environment, the current economic situation and federal funding levels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

ONS seeks to facilitate online advocacy, that is shareable, “personable” and invites response. We offer opportunities for our nurse advocates to snap photos with their senators and representatives, while instantly tweeting their thoughts; upload policy issues to Facebook, and then “friend” Congressional staffers to expand their networks.

In the day to day, breaking through the clutter also requires content, clarity, and consistency. ONS tries to be specific in our posts. We stay focused, provide expert insight from cancer nurses, and comment on organizationally relevant topics. This provides ONS with a level of credibility important to government leaders and elected officials.

We “like” and get liked on Facebook, tweet about the latest health reports from the government and in only one year have rebuilt a grassroots army that is pushing legislation on Capitol Hill. I am excited to share more in-depth information on ONS’ experience mobilizing members at the upcoming Health Academy Conference.

ONS Health Policy Director Alec Stone is presenting at the PRSA Health Academy Conference in Indianapolis. Register today and join us at the PRSA conference.

  • http://www.brendonshank.com Brendon Shank

    Great stuff! Thanks, Alec.
    Too often, leaders think that social media is a distraction from the organizational goals. I love that you aligned your social media work with the ONS missions of education and advocacy.

    And I hope you found a good deal on frozen yogurt, too.