The Power of Change: Leveraging Technology and Partnerships

When I cofounded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) I learned quickly that it would take decades to prevent asbestos exposure and eliminate related diseases. I also learned that by harnessing the power of technology and partnerships I could develop a multifaceted strategy to move us forward towards banning asbestos and at the same time save lives through creative communications.

Social networking platforms allow us to implement global education campaigns and instantaneously engage, educate, collaborate, and advocate efficiently, while effectively communicating our message in a millisecond. The Pew Research Center reported that 90 percent of American adults have a cell phone and that 65 percent of adults now use social networking sites - a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade. Lastly, 43 percent of the world population has access to the Internet.

These facts cannot be ignored - they are the tools of this new age - tools that we as activists must harness and use to create the meaningful change we hope to see.

This was on full display during Global Asbestos Awareness Week (GAAW) when the ADAO core messages were communicated worldwide, and more people than ever recognized the importance in sharing them. The U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy even delivered a stark warning at the end of GAAW on the dangers of asbestos, citing the awareness week as "a good time to remind Americans about the health dangers of asbestos exposure."

You too can use the tools and strategies that made GAAW a success to spread awareness and effect change. Here are my top 6 steps to building integral partnerships and utilizing technology for social movements:

1. Define Your Goals
You must clearly define what you are trying to do and why people should listen to you. At ADAO, we are always authentic and honest in our desires, goals, and ideals. This commitment has given ADAO the credibility necessary to have an impact on policy and minds.

2. Build and Nurture Partnerships
We've never walked alone - there are many people who have supported ADAO and shared our success. Each partnership we build and nurture maximizes our resources: human, financial, and political.

Identify and understand those who would be willing to listen and act on your message or cause. Embrace collaboration with partners by practicing reciprocity and using forms of media to keep this essential connection alive and functioning.

To ensure our GAAW messages were communicated globally, we joined forces with The McOnie Agency, a specialist PR agency, who developed communications materials that incorporated key World Health Organization (WHO) statistics to encourage a worldwide call to action and spread our "Join the Asbestos Fight" message. These materials were distributed through the IPRN, an international network that comprises 38 communication agencies, operating in 44 countries across 5 continents. The team also engaged with other international networks to translate the GAAW press release into 21 different languages and distribute it to 3,401 journalists worldwide. This public digital sharing gave the international ban asbestos fight greater visibility.

3. Utilize Three Forms of Messaging
ADAO uses Micro-messaging, macro-messaging, and multimedia messaging to have an enormous impact. Micro-messaging is less than 140 characters and best utilized on platforms such as Twitter to quickly express our fundamental views about major happenings and share links to our latest blogs and stories. Macro-messaging is greater than 140 characters - like blogging, LinkedIn, and Facebook - and allows us to go into greater depth with our stories and information. Multimiedia messaging combines audio and visual into YouTube videos and PowerPoint presentations loaded onto Slideshare to provide more interesting content and give a face to the text.

4. Tell a Story
Facts and statistics are important, but engaging the reader's mind, body, and heart is the crux of successful digital storytelling. It is through our stories that we will change policy. Our online "Share Your Story" platform enables patients and families around the world to share their unique stories about diagnosis, treatment, and - for most - death. This process is cathartic, strengthens our community bonds, and undeniably fuels global action.

5. Invest in Visuals
The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Which registers to you first - an image of a triangle or the written definition of a "plane figure with three straight sides and three angles?" Clearly, images are a more effective and powerful tool for sharing information than plain text, and should be utilized to explain and capture concepts in a memorable fashion. ADAO uses graphics to share facts and help a global audience visualize data.

6. Engage with your Audience
Engagement is our ROI (Return on Investment). It's the new digital currency. It doesn't matter how powerful our message is - if we can't engage our partners, encourage conversations, and facilitate information exchange, the message is lost. Just posting content doesn't foster authentic partnerships. To maximize your voice and message - you need to be Seen, Heard, Felt, Shared, and Remembered.

The digital revolution has changed our world forever. As you take on new social media platforms and practices, keep up with the momentum of digital technology and never be held back by the fear of the unknown. The opportunity to raise awareness, drive action, and create partnerships has never been greater.