Morag MacLachlan—the ACTG’s first official communications specialist—wants to make the natural response to the mention of the network “they do good work and I want to be part of it.” This means raising the Network’s profile, communicating its objectives clearly, and associating its name powerfully with its achievements.
Raising the network’s profile will involve the sustained integration and development of social media, websites, grassroots meetings, private email groups, and personal and professional relationships to gather and distribute articles and videos that show the ACTG’s range, successes and potential. It’s a process that will help the Network’s stakeholders become better connected and better informed about how the group works, how to develop ideas into clinical trials, and why they should consider taking part in clinical trials. It’s a job that will need contributions and support from the ACTG’s members who will provide the stories to tell. And it is a job for someone with media savvy, broad communication and technical skills, and a personal commitment to the mission.
Morag has all that: she’s a generalist—as comfortable with voice work as with the written word, just as happy editing text as shooting videos— and specializes in health communications. She started out at a TV station in Maine, then worked in print journalism (winning awards in each area, including one for health reporting) before entering health communications at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Along the way, a story on the problems of treating HIV infection and epilepsy in the same patient in Zambia struck a chord, then a chance conversation pointed her towards the ACTG, and she joined the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Network in July.
Morag is now designing her strategy with very few preconceptions, but a great deal of help. She has met her new colleagues at the recent ACTG Annual Network Meeting. She has received phone numbers that she can call anytime, meaning that ACTG members are adding her to, rather than checking her off, their to-do lists; and heard many new ideas and suggestions that can be incorporated into network communications (advice ranging from how local activists empower the community, to the relative merits of avatars and real name accounts for online communication). So Morag is coming to know some of the talented, dedicated people who will be part of the ACTG’s message; she’d like to meet more of them, since Network communications will be about the entire ACTG—investigators, technicians, staff, analysts, participants, activists—because, as Morag says, “you can’t go wrong if you highlight the whole team.”