An Overdose of Communication

31 Jan

The statistics of American’s health in 2010 are out, and they don’t look good. More than 25 million children and adults in the United States—8.3 percent of the population—have diabetes; nearly 34 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese, and  35.7 million adults have cholesterol levels over 240 mg. All of these numbers have increased from 2009.

 So what is going on? With the numerous outlets of health communication these days, it is surprising that American’s aren’t getting the message. It seems to me that the problem that we have with health communication isn’t that the messages aren’t out there; there are more than enough to keep one occupied for days.  It is that there are too many —  and it is causing people to turn away.

When there is too much noise, people stop listening all together. This seems to be what has happened with Americans and health. What health communicators need to do is find a way to cut through all the noise. They need to find a way to get audiences to listen to them again, because if people aren’t listening, even the best health messages will have no impact.

So how can you cut through the boggle of health ideas out there? The most important thing to do is get to know your audience and research how they communicate with one another. Find out who they are already listening to and use these as your outlets. Your health communication strategies need to be designed specifically to your target audience or they won’t be effective. Know that people won’t likely go looking for you – the mess of health messages has turned them away from trying, so you need to go looking for them.

Once you have found the outlet, make sure to place your message front and center. Make sure that it can’t be missed or ignored. The best way to do this is to keep it simple, short and fun. If it is too confusing, people won’t listen because they won’t understand. If it is too long, you will loose your audiences attention. If it is fun, people will be more inclined to actually listen and take action.

A great example of this is the “piano stairs,” which were developed in Stockholm, Sweden, to encourage more people to take the stairs instead of the escalator. This follows the Fun Theory, which holds that making something “fun” inspires people to do it. The outcome was that 66 percent more people began taking the stairs, showing how making things fun really does have an impact.

Here are the “Piano Stairs” in action:

2 Responses to “An Overdose of Communication”

  1. math games February 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM #



  1. Top Student Posts from Winter 2010 « The PR Post - March 19, 2011

    […] Frei shares a strategy for cutting through the noise on her health communication blog. Make sure to watch the piano stairs video at the bottom of her […]

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