Prominent social media health advocates and bloggers from across North America heard just how valued their contributions are at a Chicago conference last week. The event, HealtheVoices16, is the second such annual event organized by Jannsen Pharmaceuticals. I and PositiveLite.com social media guy/contributor Wayne Bristow were among those invited to attend.
I’m required to say here that Jannsen covered my travel and other expenses and that all views here are my own. And yet not. I think it’s pretty safe to say that all those attending had an awesome time.
It was a smart move on Janssen’s part. Health bloggers clearly play an integral part in the response to their particular disease, whatever it is, whether through telling their personal stories, though treatment advocacy born of a unique knowledge of what’s needed or as knowledge providers and sharers. They are often a newly diagnosed person’s first contact, where bonds are formed and support given. The blogger’s role is growing too, with increased acknowledgement they are experts in their field. But still, there are few opportunities to come together and share, exchange ideas and learn new techniques. The role of blogger can in fact be a lonely one. HealtheVoices16 went all out to address that in a conference that took “deep rooted connections” as its theme.
Turns out an emphasis on connectivity resulted in an exhilarating conference experience. So many bonds were formed cross-sectorally, where commonalities were much more important than differences.
We learned a lot – too much to detail here, in fact. But as a concrete example, the headline above is putting into practice what we learned about how important it is to lead with something that speaks to those with an interest in the subject. 98% of traffic, we are told, is lost if the headline doesn’t work. Thus “Happy Days in Chicago” or similar got nixed in favour of “Social media news: Bloggers increasing their influence in the health sector.”
Other sessions focused on how to make better videos (with famed PositiveLite.com interviewee Josh Robbins from imstilljosh.com), taking advocacy offline, legal issues for bloggers, maintaining fresh content, and dealing with compassion fatigue.
Other highlights including seeing the host city, for Chicago, we quickly learned, is truly beautiful and photo op central. I loved too meeting the ten or so fellow HIV advocates, familiar names only until this point. I also loved the care and attention to detail of the event planners, Tonic. It was fun, too, to see the barrage of activity on Facebook and twitter when our hashtag #HealtheVoices16 was trending through the sheer volume of activity from conference participants bent over their smartphones.
I also got to speak – this was an event for activists, after all, and why not? I confess it felt good to highlight the passion we all have for this work. Plus I was interviewed twice on camera; you may see the results here later. I think PositiveLite.com, the only Canadian voice at the conference, came out well.
I can’t wait for next year!
Photography by Bob Leahy and Wayne Bristow
Award-winning blogger Bob Leahy first made his social media mark a decade ago on LiveJournal.com where there are still to this day almost 3,000 entries of his available to be read. He was a featured blogger on Ontario’s HIVStigma.com campaign, along with PositiveLite.com founder Brian Finch. He joined PositiveLite.com at its inception in 2009 and became it's Editor a year later.
Born in the UK, Bob’s background is in corporate banking, which he gladly left in 1994, after being diagnosed with HIV the previous year. He has chaired the board of PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) and has been an executive board member of both the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS). He was inducted in to the Ontario AIDS Network’s Honour Roll in 2005. Bob is currently a member of Ontario’s GMSH (Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance). He also writes for TheBody.com.
In 2012, Bob was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his work and commitment to HIV/AIDS in Canada.
Bob continues to write for this site while in the Positivelite.Com editor’s seat, with a particular interest in HIV prevention, theatre and the arts in general. He is accredited media for a number of Toronto theatres. He lives in Warkworth, Ontario with his partner of thirty-two years and three dogs.