A Health Activist’s Guide to… Effective Online Advocacy! Tips for being an awesome online health leader>>
Be Yourself: It may go without saying but – you are unique. Your perspective, personality, and insight is yours alone and – once you tap into it – is yours to utilize, present, and empower others with. Be you – it will keep you consistent and give you a presence your community can recognize and rely on.
Try New Things: The online space – especially the online health space – is constantly evolving. This is good news – because it lets us evolve too! Right now blogging or tweeting may be your favorite venues – but be ready to try new ways to connect. If there is an in-person event – go! If there is a media opportunity – take it! The more willing you are to try, the more you – and awareness for your condition – will grow.
Get Real, Keep it Real: Like life with a health condition – advocacy is not all sunshine. There will be dark days, tough moments, and challenges. Prepare yourself by being as real with your community as you can right from the start. This will open you up to receiving the support and interaction you need (through the good news and the bad). If you’re not feeling well – it’s ok to say so. By being honest and open, you’ll set the stage for a strong community.
Sharing = Caring: We all want our work to be recognized; a great way to get yourself out there is by sharing the work of others. By sharing, you’ll open up communication with your peers and make new connections. Think: nurtured networking. Also, by sharing what inspires, irks, or even puzzles you – your community will get to know you better.
Collaborate, Elaborate: You already know who the best orgs, leaders, and voices in your condition or health interest are – work with them. Once you’ve found people who share your mission – borrow tips from them and work with them. Look beyond your condition and outside of the health space for ideas that have proven successful. Join forces when possible and get creative to differentiate.
Learn 1st, Educate 2nd: Before you can be an effective leader, especially online – you’ve got to learn the language and get to know your audience. What’s out there already? What’s missing? Do your research and get your own story down – then you’ll be ready to empower others. Keep up-to-date on news, trends, and opportunities.
Follow Your Instincts: Let your experiences as a patient, caregiver, or consumer guide you – your perspective as someone who’s been there is your biggest asset. All the knowledge you’ve gathered (from life and from research) makes your insight so important and influential.
Be Open: When you’re open-minded, it shows. Community members want to know that their thoughts, experiences, and questions are valid. If you’re open, you’ll encourage conversation and be receptive to whatever’s “next” for you.
Stick to Your Guns: Be consistent. It’s always a good idea to reaffirm your mission through your words and your actions. Remember what inspires you and stay true to your goals and your community. As a leader, your conviction and dedication are essential.
Go There: Speak out about tough stuff. Chances are – you’ll shine a light on something others in your community are experiencing too. By “going there” – especially when it’s difficult – you’ll help people. Correct misconceptions, speak out about your fears, even offer up embarrassing moments – your community will appreciate it. Taking risks will also enhance your self-empowerment.
Be Brave, Be Bold: Being a Health Advocate means going against the grain, saying something that’s true even if it’s unpopular, and fighting stigma. Be prepared to face some skeptics and trolls. Watch your community with a close eye – know when to moderate. Pick your battles wisely. Pause when your emotions kick in. Remember positive moments with your community to keep you going.
Ask for Help, Offer Help: None of us is as strong as all of us. Find people that support your mission and reach out to them when you need. Arrange for guest posts, brainstorm for ideas, and ask ask ask. Like with your health, never be afraid to ask for a second opinion. In turn – be there to help others. When you have time, energy, and ideas to spare – offer them up!
Keep Binoculars Nearby: Always be on the look-out for new opportunities! Keep your eyes open for ways to make your advocacy bigger and better. This could be by collaborating or by jumping into a new project. Watch and study other communities, presentations, events, and mediums for ideas on what to try and what to avoid.
Connect! …and Disconnect: Put the “social” in social media and be genuine in your presentation. Seek relationship-building and opportunities to connect with others across conditions. And… when you’ve been caught up in online-activism-world, know when to step back and disconnect. Finding the balance will be a challenge but an invaluable skill going forward in your advocacy.
Lead …and Follow: The world of online Health Activism is still in its infancy that means you have the power to shape it any way you want. There is no right or wrong when you’re leading the way. Remember you’re already living-proof of the famous Emerson quote: “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” But it’s ok to “follow” too – after all that’s how we connect online!
Talk About it! Don’t be shy – share the great work you’re doing! It’s ok to self-promote – you’re doing awesome stuff. And, we want to help! If you’re excited, we’re excited! In fact, your accomplishment is an accomplishment for Health Activism overall. We hope you’ll come by WEGO Health Community or reach out with projects your working on! We want to feature you, highlight your work, and share in your successes!
Got other ideas on what makes an effective online leader? We want to hear them! Join this discussion.