"I wanted to do something to help, so I looked around online." These are the telling words spoken by a young cancer research activist describing the first thing he did when he heard his friend was diagnosed with lymphoma. Teagman Stedman, founder of Shred Kids Cancer, looked around online. Because today is World Cancer Day, I wanted to highlight Stedman's work and use it as a way to highlight a new reality - when life changing events happen to us - say a friend is diagnosed with cancer - the first place many of us seek information, solace, and fulfill our drive to "to something!" is online.
According to Pew Research Center, 87% of American adults use the Internet, and 35% of adults and 31% of teens go online to look for health-related information. Recognizing the primacy of the internet searches, all organizations need to consider changing their priorities from earned media to learned media. Learned media is a term I've been using that I define as "media informed by the audience." As I describe it, learned media has four attributes, it's: rich, relevant, curated and customized.
In public relations, earned media used to be the gold star. It typically meant that your organization had a story deemed newsworthy enough by mainstream media to garner a spot on its platform (a newspaper, TV, or radio and affiliated website). However, today, organizations should consider the benefits of learned media - curating rich and relevant content on their own platform that speaks directly to the interests and needs of their community. As the wise Stedman told me when he was only 12, “Nowadays you kinda need to go on the web ‘cause you need people to know about your organization, and I would say more people go on the Internet than look at newspapers weekly.”
Stedman used learned media on his platform Shred Kids Cancer, to raise more than $250,000 for pediatric cancer research. According to Stedman, connecting people for a common cause has made him a better person who is “learning to help other people and help the community. It’s going to change me forever.” And thanks to the work of Stedman and others who enrich us through learned media, our world will be forever changed.
Note: I first interviewed and blogged about Stedman's efforts to raise money for pediatric cancer research in 2012. You can read the original blog on Hive Strategies.