3 Lessons on Going Digital, With and For Young People

By Lily O’Connell, Associate Technical Advisor and Princeton in Asia Fellow, PSI Laos

A crowd of young rugby players cluster around a table scattered with packs of Number One condoms and reproductive health brochures. They watch earnestly as a PSI Laos Interpersonal Communications Officer (IPC) demonstrates how to properly apply a condom, before pulling up a Facebook page on her mobile phone for what she introduces as the Huk Mi Plan project.

The team players giggle. After all, this isn’t the regular locker room conversation.

But as an IPC Officer explained that day: in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, an estimated two in five women and girls aged 15-24 want but don’t have access to modern contraception (an unmet need which is likely higher in reality). Taboos remain rampant, and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information remains limited. The implications run deep – almost one in three girls will have had her first child by age 20.

PSI Laos IPC agent demonstrating how to properly apply a condom to Lao Rugby Federation players and coaches in Vientiane, Laos

That’s where Huk Mi Plan comes into play.

In partnership with the Ministry of Health and alongside young people, the PSI Laos-powered and Women’s Health Project-funded Huk Mi Plan delivers on- and off-line spaces for women aged 15-35 to gain the skills and knowledge to make the health choices that shape their lives.

Online, Huk Mi Plan, which launched in March 2019 and means “love with a plan” in Lao language, works in partnership with young content managers to run a Facebook page, websiteYouTube page with videos in five languages, and messenger and hotline counseling service dedicated to reaching adolescents and youth with SRH information and services.

Offline, Huk Mi Plan hosts awareness raising sessions, educating young people – like the 318 teammates during the Lao Rugby Federation youth tournament— to champion Huk Mi Plan among their youth networks.

These outreach efforts, both online and offline, have paid off. In the past five months, Huk Mi Plan has gained immense popularity online, garnering over 1,800 website visits, 30,000 video views, and 16,800 Facebook followers.

Player practicing how to properly apply a condom

And while Huk Mi Plan is continuing to learn, adapt, and grow, below are three applicable learnings that have led to our success, so far.

Lesson #1: Let Girls Lead

“Huk Mi Plan is more than just a family planning page, it’s a lifestyle page, and that is why it has been so effective at reaching and engaging with youth. It covers other topics that they find important, like menstruation, puberty, relationships, and more,” says Communications Assistant Sirivimon Sirimoungkhoune.

For Sirivimon, the Huk Mi Plan Facebook page plays an important role for youth in Lao PDR. And at 23 years old, Sirivimon’s perspective has been essential in making sure Huk Mi Plan’s strategy and messaging is empathetic and engaging for its youth audience. To date, 46 percent of Huk Mi Plan’s Facebook page followers are young women between 13 and 24. Sirivimon also manages 19-year-old Poupey, Huk Mi Plan’s intern. On any given day, you can find them debating the best emoji to incorporate into the latest Facebook post or prepping to host the weekly Facebook Live series.

Youth have been involved with Huk Mi Plan from the beginning, with the very idea for these resources originating from a Youth Human Centered Design workshop carried out by PSI Laos. 36 youth participated in one-on-one interviews and group discussions for PSI Laos to gain empathy into their circles of trust and preferences for receiving sexual and reproductive health information. The young women and girls took on the role of project designers, brainstorming and prioritizing ideas for empowering youth to learn about sexual and reproductive health and rights information.

Players and coaches learn about various contraceptive methods from IPC agents.

Lesson #2: When it comes to curating content, don’t just post. Personalize to your target audiences. 

Facebook offers a trove of analytics tools to track, target, and time posts, allowing for a more personalized and optimized marketing strategy. By incorporating data into Huk Mi Plan’s decision-making process, we can answer questions like when, where, and what messaging best targets the right Huk Mi Plan consumer. That also means no more generic, one-size fits all messaging, but instead a more granular approach that ensures messaging resonates with young people. Huk Mi Plan can easily tailor messaging and target sub-segments of its audience, including youth, members of ethnic groups, and women living in rural provinces.

Monthly analytics reports ensure posts measure up against key performance indicators and have a positive ROI. While an increase in Facebook likes and followers is nice to see, Huk Mi Plan is focused on the metrics that really matter for our success: engagement and actions taken. Two ways that we measure the page’s success are by the number of Facebook message conversations with women about reproductive health and the number of referrals given. Since launching, Huk Mi Plan has had a total of 116 conversations on Facebook messenger.

Learning #3: From Awareness to Action  

Facebook has over 2 million users in Lao PDR, of which more than 54 percent are younger than 24.

Given the prevalence, Facebook remains a critical channel for Huk Mi Plan to draw audiences in and introduce them to the project’s full breadth of resources. That could be by grabbing a user’s attention through a targeted Facebook video on how to talk about safe sex that directs them to the website for more information or by engaging girls via a Facebook Live on contraceptive methods that results in her sending questions to Huk Mi Plan’s messenger service and hotline.

But users’ journeys do not stop there. Translating awareness to action is a key objective in Huk Mi Plan’s platform integration. The project’s messenger and hotline counseling supports users in deciding which product or service best meets her needs and then refers her to quality providers nearby. And the ‘Find a Provider’ page on the website is another way that accessing quality services for users is just a few clicks away.

Just the Beginning

Huk Mi Plan is still at the beginning of its journey, but youth voices throughout the design and implementation process, a data-driven marketing strategy, and an integrated system of communications channels have been instrumental to the platform’s success so far.

And to maximize the reach and impact of these resources, PSI Laos aims to make Huk Mi Plan as accessible as possible, which means sharing resources openly and collaborating with partners. Stay tuned for exciting updates on new outreach initiatives and how we are continuing to improve the Huk Mi Plan portfolio.

If you have any questions, please contact Lily O’Connell, lily[at]psilaos.org. 

Banner Image: PSI Laos Communications Assistant Sirivimon Sirimoungkhoune shows Lao Rugby Federation players the Huk Mi Plan page through their mobile phones.

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