Using Wakelet to inform and engage target audiences

Kristen Swain, PhD, School of Journalism and New Media, University of Mississippi, University, MS

Background: Wakelet.com is a useful tool for helping writers develop ideas and content for feature stories, social media posts, and other content for community health campaigns. As a curated collection of online items, a wakelet can explain ideas or advice, trends, or unfamiliar terms as part of a health initiative. Writers can use Wakelet to curate one type of online content, such as tweets, or integrate a wider variety of items such as tutorial videos, infographics, scholarly articles, and government reports. Expert articles or tweets can explain concepts, show how a health initiative fits into a bigger picture, or provide evidence. Videos and images can help readers visualize a concept, process, framework, or advice.

Program background: Before creating a wakelet to curate background information, a writer might first brainstorm a list of story ideas, select the best idea, and then develop a list of precise search terms. Then they could create a wakelet to develop interview questions and gather background information. As a feature story sidebar, a wakelet can explore relevant ideas that move beyond a story’s local angle. For example, to accompany a story about local fentanyl deaths, a wakelet might examine how universities use harm reduction strategies like installing Narcan vending machines in dorms. After rearranging items to create a logical flow and cohesive narrative, conversational paragraphs should be inserted to contextualize the curated items. Before publishing a wakelet, the writer should add an interesting, descriptive title, a simple cover image, and a concise summary.

Evaluation Methods and Results: APHA competencies include the ability to select communication strategies for different audiences and sectors and to communicate audience-appropriate public health content in writing. A detailed rubric was used to assess learning, writing quality, and use of critical thinking, as reflected in a Wakelet assignment in an undergraduate communication class. A detailed rubric was used to assess learning, writing quality, and use of critical thinking, as reflected in a Wakelet assignment in an undergraduate communication class. Creating a Wakelet helped students develop effective story ideas, prepare for meaningful interviews, and improve their skills in critical thinking, creativity, and evaluation. It also can help writers discover and contextualize relevant facts and statistics, tailor content for different audiences, provide simple, straightforward, clear writing that engages readers, and critically evaluate their own work and peer content.

Conclusions: Students demonstrated proficiency in selecting credible sources, using engaging, clear, and precise language, using relevant information and ideas, and effectively conveying knowledge from multiple sources. However, the students failed to meet benchmarks for thoroughness, conveying diverse perspectives, contextualizing ideas, developing a clear and newsworthy focus, and articulating complexities of unfamiliar ideas.

Implications for research and/or practice: The data highlighted strategies for using Wakelet to provide “big picture” health content to target audiences. The innovative use of an online tool highlighted several health communication skills, including the ability to conduct online research for health initiatives, to produce newsworthy stories, and to effectively translate and explain complex or unfamiliar ideas to various audiences.