Cutting through the noise

While strides are made each year to raise the profile of eye health, there is a lack of understanding among the general population about how best to look after their eyes. The AOP’s Serena Box highlights how the AOP is supporting practitioners to make a real impact

People and digital devices

In 2008, as a third-year journalism student, I sat in a classroom speculating about the impact of the digital revolution on traditional media and what it would do for the way in which content is produced, distributed and consumed by future generations.

While some aspects were altogether predictable, in that relatively short time since there have been some shifts that far outstretch most people’s imaginations for the 'information age.' Very few would have envisaged the impact of the smart phone, apps and social media – despite some startling parallels with George Orwell’s 1984.

Not only have we witnessed a tide of change in just over a decade, but this evolution shows no signs of slowing down – placing the world of mass communication in a state of flux as we move with the latest platform, network or game-changing technology. For a communications professional, that means being adaptable to the evolving landscape, but also understanding your target audience and what channels will best reach them. In and among that is the sheer volume of topics competing for airtime, with the eye health sector being no different.

While great strides are made each year in raising the profile of eye health, evidence still suggests that there is a poor understanding, among the general population, of how best to look after your eyes. So, amid the different campaigning organisations and the plethora of voices, what can we do to cut through the noise and make a real impact? More importantly, how can we, the AOP, support practitioners to do so?   

In many ways the same principles for effective campaigning apply – your brand needs to be distinctive and you need to know your audience. But a reoccurring theme, in the wake of numerous political data scandals and fake news, is the public’s need to seek out reputable, trustworthy sources. In recent years, studies have shown an upward trend in subscriptions to ‘trusted’ news outlets as well as a tendency to consume news from multiple sources rather than one. For organisations outside the world of news media, a significant part of establishing that credible voice is high-quality content marketing. At the AOP, one of the ways in which we do this is by producing patient-friendly resources through our expert clinical team that can easily be used and shared. Our resources include information about common eye conditions, advice for managing symptoms and tips for eye care. They are also designed so that you, as the practitioner, can connect with your patients on an individual level – providing them with a highly relevant, take-away from appointments.   

"Our resources…are designed so that you, as the practitioner, can connect with your patients on an individual level"

New patient resources

In April, we launched three new patient leaflets – The Amsler chart, Scratched cornea and Tinted and coloured filters for visual discomfort – bringing our collection up to 20. The resources are accredited with the Plain English Campaign Crystal Mark and have been endorsed by the UK's biggest health website, NHS Choices, which directs the public to them. All of the leaflets are freely available on the AOP website and are designed to be printed as one or two sides of A4. Supplementing this is our guidance for members, produced to support your service delivery to patients. Our latest releases include consent guidance for dementia patients and advice in relation to monitoring and treating age-related macular degeneration.       

Naturally, video is also a great way to communicate information in a simple and engaging way which is why, in 2017, we began producing our 60-second advice video series for patients. These now cover a range of popular topics including our latest video on handwashing, launched in conjunction with the GOC’s Love Your Lenses Week. Later this month will also see the release of new resources for glaucoma patients.

How to help raise awareness 

Of course, communicating to the public is not about one approach – it's more about having a multifaceted and sustained effort over time. For the sector to successfully drive up awareness, practitioners, at all levels, have a role in delivering eye health messages – whether it be through website content, email, social media or face-to-face. You can get involved today by finding us on Facebook or Twitter @The_AOP and sharing our latest content.

About the author

Serena Box is PR and media manager at the Association of Optometrists

Image credit: Getty