El Centro – Content Creation Part 2: Character Development

In our previous blog post, we describe the process of working with community groups to develop the main characters for our online, animated graphic novel. Using that feedback, team artist Mike Lurry created draft sketches of each character, and new focus groups were scheduled to discuss the way the characters look as well as the stories we had planned for them. Our next blog post will provide information on the evolution of those story arcs, and here we’ll summarize some findings from our community review of the characters’ appearances.

We have multiple goals when holding feedback sessions like this with community groups. In general, we want to know, “How do they look?!” But it’s also important for us to “sweat the details” particularly with communities who aren’t always appropriately or adequately represented in popular culture or mass media. We can’t incorporate every bit of feedback into our revisions, but are interested in trying to at least reach general levels of agreement around key details such as skin tones, hair textures, and body types.

During the groups, participants first listened to the story scripts and then were shown sketches of the characters one at a time and asked to freely provide feedback on anything that crossed their minds. Often, a surprising finding in groups like these is the degree to which participants will develop deep opinions about the character based on that single illustration. For example, when shown Mateo, aside from most respondents not liking his hair, they also assigned him personality traits that weren’t present in the story: “[People who look like that] think they are better or more important than anyone else.”; “75% of men who see themselves that way … seem to be so arrogant and think of themselves as very important. Or they value themselves more than women or anyone who isn’t where they are according to them.”; “[He looks like] someone who is disrespectful and doesn’t have respect for themselves.”


It can also be challenging for participants to evaluate just the single image, as demonstrated by several comments about whether Angela, who may be in an abusive relationship, should look more scared and submissive. On the one hand, it’s important to make sure participants bear in mind that this is a single snapshot of the character and doesn’t reflect how she’ll always look in her scenes. But on the other hand, this example opened an interesting dialogue about she should look scared in the scenes, or did that perpetuate stereotypes that only scared, meek women can end up in abusive relationships.


In other feedback, the participants mostly felt that the females looked too old and the mother was wearing too much makeup, and also that some of the characters hairstyles needed to be changed. The character of Gabriel was seen as being slightly too feminine, and several focus group participants referenced others in the room to note a better skin tone for the characters (described by one as, “delicious cinnamon”). However, it should be noted that a challenge is making sure the color printer used for the samples matches the correct tones of the image as much as possible, as it appears that the printed version had a slightly more olive/less tan tone than the original illustration.

An additional limitation to the feedback session is that the community groups first heard the drafts of scripted dialogue, and then were shown the sketches of the characters. It’s possible that in listening to the story, they created a visual image of how they imagined each character should look, which they then had to compare to our artist’s representation of the character. In future groups we will ensure that the character is shown first, in an effort to help mentally place the visual of the character within the story as it’s told, rather than vice versa.

Following the groups, the creative team met to discuss and prioritize the feedback given. These suggestions were then incorporated into updated drafts of the characters, changes that can be seen in the rough sketches in the side-by-side comparisons of each main character.


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El Centro – Content Creation Part 1: Creating the Characters

The objective of our ACIOP project is to create online, animated, Spanish-language vignettes to provide HIV education and links to NLM resources. Our goal is to create highly visual, engaging content in order to get our audience involved in stories they enjoy and can relate to. Over the first half of our project period, we held multiple Spanish-language focus groups with community members to understand how they currently obtain HIV information, and how our stories could help share new information they need. Focus groups were held at three different locations in NYC and on Long Island and had mixed demographics: some groups were all YMSM, some were all women, and some were a mix of ages and genders.

While our final products are fictional, we engage in an ongoing process of obtaining community input and feedback to ensure that the characters and scenarios are as realistic as possible while conveying our target educational messaging. In the first round of focus groups, we described our project as being similar a soap opera story, and gathered details on the sorts of main characters the community would like to see as well as what those characters should look like. Our initial focus group results included broad feedback such as emphasizing the importance of family in the Hispanic community by having some characters related to one another, as well as more specific suggestions such as having our male characters be neat and nicely dressed, with no baggy or low riding jeans.

Other community members suggested that we include a wide variety of character demographics because they felt that most HIV/AIDS educational material they’ve seen has been targeted at the LGBT community, and they wanted this project to show additional lifestyles and viewpoints. They also felt that a wide variety of characters would be useful in terms of reaching high-risk populations through their social and family circles. For example, focus group participants noted that an older character may no longer be sexually active or otherwise at-risk, but they may need information to help them talk to an at-risk family member or help that family member locate resources.

Based on this feedback, the content creation team developed the following primary cast of characters:

  • Mateo: Age 23, is questioning his sexuality and has had encounters with both men and women. Mateo
  • Gabriel: Age 26, openly out and seeking a long-term relationship but using hookup apps in the meantime. He is on PrEP but not regularly using protection against STIs. Gabriel
  • Angela: Age 22, Gabriel’s cousin, a community college student who is in a relationship with a brutish young man named Esteban who shows signs of being unfaithful to her.  angela
  • Maria Elena: In her 40’s, she is Gabriel’s mother and has heard rumors that her son is gay but is finally coming to terms with that truth and trying to learn how to help him stay safe.  MariaElena

Our artist then created initial draft sketches of these four characters, which we brought to focus groups for further feedback. The results of that focus group will be covered in our next blog post.

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The “Community Promise/Promesa Comunitaria” HIV/AIDS Awareness and Prevention Campaign

Comunidades Unidas has a long-standing commitment to provide accurate HIV/AIDS information and provide information on available online and community resources to the Latinx community living in the state of Utah. How is this work being accomplished? This work is being done by the Promotoras de Salud (Community Health Workers). Promotoras, also referred to as Community Health Workers (CHWs) are an essential key to Comunidades Unidas. Promotoras for CU are community leaders who educate, refer, empower and assist the community in all aspects of their daily life. Promotoras are a cultural bridge between community organizations, government agencies and Utah’s population who need access to different services, in a reliable and understandable way.

This past quarter 13 Promotoras de Salud received a training on HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. They learned about the spread of HIV/AIDS and STDs, the treatment(s) available, the symptoms and how can someone be diagnosed. Promotoras were also trained on online resources provided by the National Library of Medicine. For the Latinx community we have decided to focus on the promotion and use of infoSIDA and MedlinePlus en Español.

As of now Promotoras de Salud have been able to reach out to 253 community members through formal workshop sessions that are conducted within the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City. They have also reached out to 510 community members during informal settings and one-on-one conversations with family members, friends, neighbors, or anyone they encounter throughout their daily lives.

Now that the winter snow is on its way of melting away our busy sunny days are approaching us fast. Which means more outreach opportunities for CU and the Promotoras de Salud. The refresher training will allow the Promotoras de Salud to be ready to hit the parks, summer events, community meetings, and more, ready to inform our Latino community about HIV/AIDS and the resources available to them both online and within their own community.

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YI Advisors – The Grassroot Project TGP’s First Twitter Chat!

One of the major components of the YI Advisors (YIA) – The Grassroot Project (TGP) program is the ramp up the social media strategy used by TGP to share HIV/AIDS prevention information, engage with their community, and build their name recognition. To start this process YIA created a social media strategy plan outlining best practices, goals, and tactics to build out this campaign.

Recently, we began one of the first steps toward full implementation of the social media strategy plan. After YIA trained TGP student-athlete coaches and staff on social media strategy, we launched a joint Twitter Chat to help TGP participate in a key HIV/AIDS awareness day, while utilizing their new social media skills. Our nonprofit, Young Invincibles, hosts weekly Twitter chats called Millennial Monday, where we discuss a variety of topics that impact young adults health and economic outcomes. To run a Twitter chat, we reach out to key partners who may be interested in that week’s topic, draft questions to help partners prep, and get the conversation going. All you need to do to follow a Twitter chat is the search for the hashtag, in this case, #MillennialMon and follow along, learn and ask questions during the chat.

Monday, April 10 was National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a great opportunity to run a #MillennialMon Twitter chat on HIV/AIDS prevention with our key demographic, and for TGP to show off their new social media organizing ability. TGP guest-hosted the Twitter chat with Young Invincibles, helping to answer key consumer questions about at-risk youth and HIV/AIDs.

During the chat, both #MillennialMon and the awareness day hashtag, #NYHAAD, were “trending” locally, meaning they were tweeted often enough to generate one of the top ten conversations currently happening on Twitter.


Twitter chats can be a great way to build up your base, engage with your partners, and share key information out quickly and easily. We look forward to continuing full implementation of the social media plan with more practices like these.


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Black Girl Health Campaign Update

Black Girl Health has launched its Instagram Video Campaign called “POP THE QUESTION” to promote NLM/HIV/AIDS awareness among minority women. The video campaign consist of information from NLM resources including MedlinePlus and AIDSinfo.  In order to make the NLM information more engaging we used catchy headlines, moving pictures that provide visuals for the content and clearly show our target market. The NLM/HIV/AIDS videos air every Monday on Instagram and are marketed on all BGH social media channels including Facebook and Twitter. Below is one of the social videos that air in the month of February.


Black Girl Health’s Instagram Video Campaign called “POP THE QUESTION” is being used to direct women to our BGH website to fill out a short survey that helps to increase their knowledge of NLM/HIV/AIDS information in an engaging way. To develop the survey we used information from NLM resources as well as our “pop the question cheat sheet,” which gives tips to help minority women get them and their partner tested.  More than 100 people have filled out the survey so far, which launched on Black HIV awareness day, Feb 7th. The survey currently lives on our BGH website, and it will be replaced with a new NLM survey on WOMEN/GIRLS HIV Day, March 10th. See the survey below.


As part of the survey that is geared to increase knowledge of NLM/HIV/AIDS information among minority women, BGH used a social media influencer to engage survey takers with the right answers after completing the survey.  This was done using a video which was inserted into the survey as an automatic pop up after participants answered the questions. This strategy is used to help us measure the increased knowledge of NLM/HIV/AIDS information. A new social video will be used with a new survey for WOMEN/GIRLS HIV Day on March 10th. See the video with social media influencer below.



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Developing HIV/AIDS educational print material and videos: Extending the project to disseminate reliable information on HIV/AIDS.

Working with ACIOP funding and a smaller grant from the University of Florida (UF) Creative Campus/Catalyst Fund, a team at the Health Science Center Libraries at UF developed educational print materials and videos to spread reliable information on HIV/AIDS risks, testing and the experience of living with HIV/AIDS.   The print materials aim to provide information for individuals who might have difficulty accessing and using web-based material.  The four short videos target specific at-risk groups in Florida: university students, retirees (specifically, individuals over 50), and individuals using local free clinics and public health services.  Another video focused on a group of HIV+ women that showed how their work with testimonial literature helps them live with and indeed overcome stigma still associated with their diagnosis.


The videos were created through a partnership with the Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida- produced and directed by Jeffrey Pufahl, a visiting faculty theater arts director in the Center, and videoed and edited by Matthew Daley, IT specialist at the Health Science Center Libraries.   The video targeting college students, Stops Signs, was written by Alana Jackson, who also acted in it, and the others were written by Jeffery Pufahl.




The videos are available on the library’s YouTube channel-https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIgMqnaPv2swW1SCbH6CX2BICJ73aBcav

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Laying the Foundation for a Robust Social Media Presence

Hillary  Farrow, YI Advisors

During the second quarter of implementing the NLM grant to increase awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention among youth in the District of Columbia, YI Advisors created a new social media strategy plan to assist The Grassroot Project (TGP) with improving their digital footprint. As we discussed in our first blog, TGP uses college student-athletes to deliver key prevention messages to middle school youth in the DC area. TGP’s unique education model makes digital methods, particularly social media platforms, and the perfect mechanism to amplify these prevention messages. By increasing TGP’s social media presence, educational efforts can be dramatically increased with both the youth target audience, and the college athletes and their peers. Why is social media so important?

  • More than 1 billion users are on Facebook daily, including 82% of adults 18-29 years old. Facebook is a social media staple for businesses, organizations, and nonprofits alike. One of the main reasons is that the platform continues to evolve and allows marketers to accomplish different goals from driving online sales, increasing brand awareness, promoting an app, finding leads and providing social customer service.
  • Twitter is a great channel to share news and great channel to increase brand awareness and establish yourself as a thought leader. If offers a peek into the minds of industry leaders, allowing you to see what they are reading, sharing, and thinking about any topic, at any given time.
  • YouTube is the web’s go-to site for video, and almost one-third of all people on the internet are YouTube users with 4 billion daily views and an average viewing session on mobile at 40 minutes. It is also heavily used as a resource for how-to content.

Knowing how important a robust social media presence is, YI Advisors devised a strategy plan to boost TGP’s digital outreach. This strategy plan included many steps that could be replicated by another organization looking to ramp up their social media work. First, we ran an audit of TGP’s current social media platforms. We gathered information on what activities TGP ran, the platforms they used, their intended audience and actual audience, and finally a measure of their reach and current success rates. Based on this audit, we devised a list of recommendations to improve TGP’s overall reach and successful interactions. Below lists the key implementation steps to ramp up TGP’s programs that we came up with:

  • Establish the rules: Make sure it is clear within your organization who is making content, who is approving content, and what the process is to run smoothly and timely on your social media channels. Some organizations will have multiple people running their accounts, and therefore it’s important to establish guidelines on tone, content, and style so that you do not appear disjointed. You may even give your social media channels a name and personality so that staff can easily decide if the content they want to push-out fits with your overall brand.
  • Create the Content: It’s important to consider the intended audience to find the right content. If you’re looking to engage other business professionals, news articles or findings from a new study may work best to engage your audience. However, when working with a younger audience or an audience that lacks an in-depth policy background of the issue, shorter posts with more direct messages, photos, or videos are more likely to draw their attention. Be sure to be informative to get across the information you intend to deliver, but do not be overly wonky, or make asks too big for your target audience.
  • Create a Calendar: Once you’ve got the plan and the right message, you need a strategy to push it out. Creating a calendar of timed posts around external events like an HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, or Black History Month can be great ways to push out content in a timely way. Additionally, it’s important to make digital partners, just as you would partner with others for an on the ground event. Engaging coalition partners for digital events like weekly Twitter chats can be an effective way to grow your audience, build partnerships, and spread critical information.
  • Evaluate the Results: Finally, you must constantly evaluate what’s working and what’s not working. It can be easy to get in the habit of pushing out content without really analyzing if you’re reaching your audience, or if the content is working to reach your goals. There are different ways to create metrics of social media campaigns, depending on what your goals are and the resources at your disposal. For beginners, try keeping track of growth in followers each week, and track the number of engagements (likes, shares, comments) on each post. After a few weeks, see which content performed better; did humor work best? Maybe infographics? Tailor future content to mirror that.

YI Advisors will begin implementing our new social media strategy plan for TGP in February. We look forward to sharing the results! In the meantime, follow TGP on Facebook, Twitter, and  Instagram to see what we’ve come up with.

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