Agenda Building in Health Communication: How the CDC is Using Traditional and
Social Media Tactics in Public Relations

School of Journalism
Morgantown, West Virginia
Copyright 2012 Kristen Wishon


Emerging Internet technologies, such as social networking websites and blogs, are influencing how public relations practitioners choose to disseminate health content to their constituents. Using the agenda-building theory as a guide, this exploratory study used both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social media and traditional media health messages, as well as to explore if these messages had any agenda-building effect on mainstream media placement (i.e., the Associated Press).

Personal interviews with CDC health communication specialists and three content analyses were conducted. Two significant correlations were found between the health topics in the CDC’s press releases and the topics in AP articles, and the topics of the CDC’s Twitter account, @CDCgov, and the topics in AP. These findings suggest the importance of using both traditional and social media in media relations work and using a strategic, integrated approach to disseminate the content of health organizations.

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