Using New Media to Reach Communities of Color: Lessons Learned from Leaders in the Field

Content From: Denean Standing, Advisor to, Indian Health ServicePublished: July 28, 20093 min read


AIDS disproportionately impacts communities of color, Founder of Envision Solutions, LLCExit Disclaimer , moderated a discussion about the current status of new media, where it is headed, and how can better reach the organizations and leaders who are serving communities of color.
We started by identifying individuals who address, directly, or indirectly, issues pertaining to public health, new media and communities of color, and invited them to join us in a conversation. The participants' expertise ranged from healthcare marketing and communications, to governmental research and technical consulting, to pharmaceuticals, to digitally-integrated medical information technology and media, to web communication and development. Participants were asked to discuss program successes, challenges, and opportunities for engaging communities of color in the U.S. in new media and about HIV activities through new media.

Participants told us that there was still a need to learn more about how communities of color use the Internet to make healthcare decisions. They noted that it can be a challenge to convince organizational leaders and key decision makers that not only are communities of color using new media, but that new media tools can also augment their own work. As Fard reminded us, “The key division between new media users and non-users is economics, not race." We also heard that it can be challenging to know how to best integrate new media tools at the local level. And they also spoke of the importance, and challenge, of identifying authentic representation from communities of color. In other words, it is important to hear from diverse communities themselves.

Despite these challenges, participants told us that new media can help us treat our readers, audiences, and communities with respect – by giving them a voice and a platform to have their voices be heard. New media can also be a particularly helpful tool to engage audiences to be a part of something -- whether that be achieving a personal goal, being part of a movement, or sharing information.

The importance of empowering and engaging the community was a recurrent theme. Participants offered several recommendations to encourage communities of color to utilize new media tools more broadly:

Ensure that new media tools are culturally competent and are being deployed where people gather online such as sites like BlackPlanet.comExit Disclaimer.

Make sure that grassroots and community organizations understand how new media can bolster and augment traditional community-building efforts. For example, including a mobile SMS shortcode in a flyer that is distributed via health fairs and community leafleting efforts can increase the reach and impact of educational efforts.

Understand whether and how people within the community use new media tools. For example, the Pew Internet & American Life Project recently noted that African Americans and Hispanics are heavy users of the mobile InternetExit Disclaimer . Developing mobile-friendly Websites and utilizing popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter can be an effective means of reaching communities of color with HIV/AIDS information.

What are some challenges you've faced when using new media to engage with communities of color? Do you have any successes or best practices we should know about? We'd love to hear from you!