Social Marketing 101

6 09 2012

What Is Social Marketing?

Social marketing is the same as commercial marketing—the marketing that sells a certain brand of car or shoe. It’s the goals we hope to achieve that are different. As social marketers, we want to influence social behavior that benefits the individual, the target audience, and society—not just behavior that benefits us as marketers. We don’t want to sell vaccines; we want to sell the idea of health benefits associated with immunizing and health risks associated with not immunizing. We want to sell the attitude that protecting the community is as important as protecting oneself. We want to sell the behavior of timely immunization for oneself and loved ones.

What Is The Approach?

Nedra Kline Weinreich of Weinreich Communications talks about “the four Ps of marketing” and that social marketing “adds a few more Ps.” She says that one has to plan out a “marketing mix” that is consumer-focused:

  • Product. Disease prevention through immunization—that’s the product we’re marketing.
  • Price. What’s the price to the public to prevent disease through immunization? There are several costs, but the bottom line is that the public has to believe that there’s more value to vaccinating than not vaccinating.
  • Place. Where can the public get immunizations? Vaccines must be easy to get so that the public feels satisfied with the experience.
  • Promotion. Promoting disease prevention through vaccination can be done through many avenues including PSAs, blog articles, online networking, and sharing the personal stories of those affected by preventable disease.

Social marketing “Ps” that pertain to our field include:

  • Publics. Publics is made of two broad groups: the people in your organization who have a say in the establishment of your program and those who will receive your message. For maximum effectiveness, you may need to adapt your message to each target audience. For example, if you are promoting the importance of the HPV vaccine for girls as your basic message, you’ll need to adapt it for different groups who perform different functions, including legislators, school districts, parents, girls, and insurers.
  • Partnership. Partnering with other groups is an efficient way to stretch the budget a bit further. Sharing resources and connections can make a good program great. Health departments and immunization coalitions already do this, so you’re a step ahead!
  • Policy. If you’re promoting HPV vaccination as a healthy choice for girls and young women, and you are successful in getting buy-in from those girls and young women, the program will need policy makers to also buy-in for sustainability. If policy makers are not financially and fundamentally supporting HPV vaccination for girls and young women, the vaccine will not be readily available, it will be too expensive for end-users, and it will not become a widespread practice.
  • Purse Strings. Every health department and immunization coalition knows that, without funding, their programs cannot be developed. Acquiring funds is an ongoing challenge for social marketers.

Putting It Together

A social marketing campaign is fun and challenging. We return to Nedra Kline Weinreich for instructions on how to integrate social marketing into your programs. She offers 10 tips for implementation which have been illustrated with a sample program: Raising awareness of HPV infection and vaccination among teen girls.

1. Talk with your “customers,” your target audiences.

Your program will be more successful if you take time to talk with your target audience and find out what they want and need before constructing your program.

If you are targeting teen girls to raise awareness of HPV infection and the HPV vaccine, go to where teen girls are and talk with them. Listen to them. Ask them what they know about HPV, who do they go to for sexual health information, what’s important to them, how they feel about getting immunizations, and what would improve their experience. There will be many questions to ask and answer, but these are good for starting a conversation.

Don’t forget to sit down with the parents of teen girls, as they might be the ones to make the appointment and take the teen to the clinic for the vaccination. The parents constitute a different target group, so the conversation will be different. However, it’s important to recognize all target groups for the program and that each may require a slightly different marketing message.

Ways to “listen” to the audience include:

  • Surveys – paper or online
  • Focus groups – in person or online
  • Social media – ask and get comments back
  • Research – see what survey results or opinion summaries have already been written.

2. Segment your audience.

Each target group will be different and will have different viewpoints of the same issue. As mentioned previously, the parents of a teen girl will be concerned with different things than a teen girl. For example, parents may be concerned with vaccination costs while their daughter might be more concerned with the pain of getting a shot.

Knowing each of your audiences and talking with each will help define and refine your messages. For this program, you might break your audience up by age range (11–14, 15–17, 18–19), by cultural, racial, or religious backgrounds (Asian, African American, Islamic), by geographic location (Southwest, Northeast), or by another common factor.

How many segments you target will depend on your budget and goals. Each segment will require messages that resonate with that group.

3. Position your product.

In social marketing, your product is going to be the end result—perhaps a change in behavior or attitude. Ms. Weinreich points out that this is more difficult than when marketing tangible goods:

Products like behaviors and attitudes require long-term commitments and do not sell as easily as a bar of soap or a car. The cost of a social marketing product often includes a person’s time and effort (to attend a class or use services), giving up things he likes (high fat food), embarrassment or inconvenience (buying and using condoms), or social disapproval (resisting peer pressure to smoke).

Positioning the product––getting teen girls to get vaccinated against HPV––means listening to your target audiences and finding out “…the benefits they value most and the barriers they foresee.”

For example, if parents feel that the cost of vaccination trumps any benefit that could be gained by vaccinating, that’s a perceived barrier. In return, you position your product (getting vaccinated) and show how parents can save money (insurance, free clinics) and how the money spent at this time may save health, heartache, and money down the road should someone grow ill as a consequence of not being vaccinated.

4. Know your competition.

Most health educators don’t think in terms of competition because they’re not trying to win anything. The bigger purpose is to make change happen, not make a profit.

While this is true, it’s also true that other health education programs, commercial marketing efforts, and even world events compete for the attention of your target audiences. Or, you may simply be competing against the inertia of your audience—a formidable competitor.

To win the competition, says Ms. Weinreich, “Your product must be more attractive than the alternatives to be accepted.”

It sounds simple, but this is where the creativity of your group will be put to the test.

5. Go to where your audience is.

Where do your target audiences get their news? Where do they spend their time? Online? At church? In school? At the mall? Wherever it is, that’s where you want to place your messages. You want to make sure they see and hear what you have to say, so put the advertising (posters, PSAs, stories) where you know they will be looking.

6. Utilize a variety of approaches.

Take your messages: “It’s your body, protect it” or “Protect your daughter’s future today”, for example, and present them in multiple outlets and in multiple forms.

Other ideas include:

  • Making up bumper stickers and distribute them through the PTA;
  • Designing posters and place them in malls and free clinics;
  • Recording PSAs and place them on local radio stations and school radio;
  • Placing ads in newspapers;
  • Providing free stickers in fast food bags

Be creative and make sure the venue choices are appropriate for each target audience.

Your budget will help determine the activities and the number of ways you can get your message out. Make sure the message is branded, so that audiences will recognize it when they see it. For each target audience, make sure their main message and design remains the same on posters, stickers, PSAs and other approaches.

7. Use models that work.

Social marketing usually seeks to change behavior in some way. The CDC provides a description of several behavior change models that could be adapted as you design your own program. We’ve included a couple of models here:

Health Belief Model

Premise: Health behavior is a function of specific health beliefs. All must be operating for a risk reducing/health promoting behavior to occur.

I. Threat

* Perceived susceptibility
” I could get it.”
* Perceived severity
“The consequences of getting it would be serious.”

II. Outcome expectations

* Perceived benefits of performing a behavior
” If I use condoms/bleach, I can prevent HIV infection.”
* Perceived barriers of performing the behavior
“Cleaning my works is a real drag.”
* Belief that the benefits of performing a behavior outweigh the consequences of not performing it before behavior change will occur
“I’d rather use clean needles than get HIV.”

III. Self efficacy (later addition)

* Belief that one can perform a behavior, even under difficult circumstances
“I know I can do this.”

Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change)

Premise: Behavior occurs in a series of stages, independent of specific theoretical factors. Movement through the stages varies from person to person and group to group. There are 5 stages of change, as well as various processes and levels of change.

Five Stages of Change

* Precontemplation—no intention to change behavior; not aware of risk, or believe behaviors don’t place them at risk.
“I know I have a lot of sexual partners, but I don’t need to use condoms because my partners aren’t at risk for HIV.”
* Contemplation—recognizes behavior puts them at risk and is thinking of changing, but not committed to making that change.
“I know that not using a condom puts me at risk for HIV, but sex isn’t the same when I wear a condom.”
* Preparation—person intends to change risky behavior sometime soon and is actively preparing.
“I just bought some condoms and am going to talk to my partner about using them the next time we have sex.”
* Action—person has changed risky behavior recently, with change having occurred in a relatively recent time period (i.e., 6 months)
“My partner and I used a condom for the first time and it wasn’t as bad as I thought.”
* Maintenance—person has maintained behavior change for a long period of time (> 6 months), and has adapted to the change.
“Using condoms is no big deal anymore; my partner and I have our routine down and always use them when we have sex.”
* Relapse is a normal process in one’s attempt to change behaviors.

8. Test, test, test.

Test your messages and materials for each target group with each target group. Use focus groups and surveys and any other evaluative tool that works and test throughout the development process. Test again after your messages and materials have been in use for a short time and adapt your messages and materials if necessary. Testing will make your program more successful.

9. Build partnerships with key allies.

Working with other groups whose missions are similar to yours will extend the reach of your program, stretch your budget dollars, and increase exposure for all allies. Key allies might be other health educators, or they might be those outside of health education who have an interest or connection to your target audience(s). These include youth ministers, coaches, retailers, members of the media, and other service groups who share your target audiences. Think beyond health education and consider any group or individual with a connection to your target audiences.

10. See what you can do better next time.

Evaluating your program is what will give it and future programs more substance. Some evaluation occurs in the testing phase mentioned earlier. Evaluations performed at the beginning and end of the program can help you understand what changes did and did not take place in your target audience. Getting both qualitative and quantitative feedback from your target audiences throughout the program can help you improve your approaches as you proceed. Tracking your progress as you implement the program can help you find ways to be more efficient.

It’s important to do the evaluations so that you can cut a little bit off of the learning curve and start out with a stronger program next time.

The following are samples of social marketing programs

CDC case studies

Turning Point case studies

From: Communications Made Easy

Mat Releases are Good!

11 06 2012

We’ve all written more press releases than we can count, and they do the job they’re supposed to do. But, here at PKIDs, we’re also quite fond of mat releases. They reach smaller publications by the hundreds and chances are, the words we write will get published without editing.

They’re a good way to get our news into communities across the country.

A mat release is a short feature story (approximately 400 words) written by you or someone in your organization. It’s distributed to small regional or local daily or weekly newspapers through a service such as NAPS or PR Newswire.

The story is usually run as-is by the editors, but is sometimes given a little editing. Small newspapers like mat releases because most don’t have the budgets to hire enough reporters to create all the features they need or would like, and a mat release is a ready-made story.

Mat releases are usually not too topical, as they take time to get into circulation and they’re picked up and used by editors for months after the release date.

If you include some sort of contest or other fun component in your mat release, it will increase the likelihood of its being picked up by editors. This isn’t always possible, but keep this approach in mind.

Artwork (usually a photo) will need to be included in any mat release you distribute. Editors love artwork and will sometimes use a story, or a bit of it, just to get artwork into their papers.

What A Mat Release Isn’t

Mat releases are not press releases. In a mat release, you share information in the format of a feature story that is of value or interest to a large group of people. You don’t “advertise” your services or products.


As a nonprofit, you should get a discount from the distributor. Even so, mat releases aren’t cheap—costing about $5,000. The upside is that they eventually reach lots of readers, so they’re considered a solid way to spend funds.


Distributors work with you on the writing of your mat release. They want you to be happy and will be diligent about editing and improving your work, if you need the help.

You have about 400 words to tell a story and share your important information.

Sample Mat Release (writtten for a program we did a few years ago, with notes on content)

Silence the Sounds of Pertussis

(The headline matters, so take your time to come up with something of interest.)

(NAPS)—New parents know to vaccinate their babies to protect against a number of childhood diseases. But what about vaccinating themselves to keep from spreading illnesses to their child? (This makes readers curious, so they want to read further.)

Most parents do not think of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, when they think of potential threats to their child’s health. However, this disease is making a strong comeback in the U.S., with a total of more than 25,000 reported cases in 2004 alone. (A strong fact that sets the expert tone of the piece and lets the reader know this is a serious problem.)

Luckily, there is a simple way to ease new parents’ minds: immunize mom and dad with the whooping cough booster. (They’ve heard the problem, and now they know there’s a solution. They want to find out more.)

Because of the growth of this disturbing trend, new mom and award-winning actress Keri Russell is teaming up with the nonprofit organization, Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKIDs), to launch a public awareness campaign: Silence the Sounds of Pertussis. The initiative aims to educate new parents about the dangers of this disease (especially to babies), and to encourage them to get the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis booster (called the Tdap vaccine) to keep their babies safe. (Here’s your solution to the problem: Talk about your program, clinic, or other topic you want people to know about.)

A recent study out of the University of North Carolina found that parents are the source of more than 50 percent of infant cases of whooping cough.

“When I found out that parents were infecting their children with this dangerous disease, I asked my doctor what I could do to prevent it from happening to my infant son,” Keri Russell said. “He recommended that my husband and I get the Tdap booster.” (Get some quotes in the piece from spokespersons/experts as this helps keep it personal.)

The Tdap is strongly recommended by the CDC for anyone who has close contact with a baby.

In adults, whooping cough symptoms often disguise themselves to look like a common cold, making the disease difficult to diagnose and easy to spread. (More facts to enhance the piece.)

Babies under 12 months of age are not only the most vulnerable to whooping cough, they are also the age group for which the infection is most life-threatening. Babies too young to have completed their primary vaccine series account for the majority of pertussis-related complications, hospitalizations, and deaths. In fact, more than 90 percent of pertussis-associated deaths were among babies less than six months old.

“The good news is that whooping cough is a problem that has a solution,” said Dr. Gary Freed, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School. “If every new and expectant parent receives the Tdap booster before or immediately after the birth of their baby, we could really reduce the risk of young babies getting whooping cough. If you provide care for a baby, talk to your doctor about how to protect him or her from pertussis.”  (The “ask” or what you want the reader to do.)

For more information on how you can help Silence the Sounds of Pertussis, visit the PKIDs website. (Give them contact information so they can find out more.)

Bottom Line

Are mat releases worth the cost?  Yes, if you can include that cost in a grant budget, it is worth it. Mat releases stay out for months and continue getting picked up long past the point you’d think they would. This release that we’re sharing in the blog ran for months and months. We were surprised (and happy) at the shelf life it had, and at the number of editors who ran it.

If you have any mat releases you’d like to share with others, put them in the comments section. We’d all benefit from seeing them!

Remember, these are not advertisements or advertorials. Keep them as features full of information people want, and editors will pick up the stories.

This article comes from PKIDs’ Communications Made Easy program.

Vaccine Education Center

28 04 2011

Dr. Paul Offit, Director, VEC

The science of vaccines can be . . . daunting. The lists of ingredients and potential side effects make us want to second guess ourselves and our children’s providers. We need to be sure we’re making safe choices.

And the complicated schedules! They’re enough to make sane people pound their heads.

The folks at the Vaccine Education Center (VEC) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have a gift for presenting the complexities of vaccines and attending issues in a way that’s easy to understand yet comprehensive in scope.

The VEC website has a special section for parents and adults of all ages.  While there, you can sign up for the Parents PACK newsletter to get monthly immunization updates.  In the March issue, there’s a timely post on measles and the dangers of rubella parties.

You’ll also find age-specific information on vaccines and the diseases they prevent. There are FAQs, but if you can’t find your question, you can send it in via a form provided on the site.

The VEC has created a library of educational materials on specific vaccines and commonly asked questions. These resources range from information sheets to more consumer-friendly bookmarks and brochures.

They also maintain essential tools, including vaccine schedules, facts about vaccine preventable diseases, and the latest in vaccine science.

To keep information fresh, the VEC pens a monthly “Ask the VEC” on a myriad of topics.

Starting in 2011, the VEC will present three or four webinars a year addressing evolving issues, recent ACIP meetings, new science and media reports.

There are layers and layers of information available on the website, for those of us who feel more is better.  And what parent doesn’t?

The VEC staff constantly works at sifting vaccine fact from fiction and explaining the difference in ways we can all understand.  If you have questions, they’re worth checking out.

Communication: Looking Forward

11 01 2010

The last decade transformed our world.  Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter, Web 2.0, social media—these tools and concepts turned communications on its head.

social media landscape


If we choose, we can each be part of a constantly connected culture, keeping up with friends, family, and colleagues in real time via text, audio or video over the Internet.  Or, we can slow it down and leave messages, photos and videos for others to find at their leisure.

This new-found ability to reach a broad audience with one’s message is exciting and potentially risky.  If you make a mistake and post an update that’s not accurate or simply not what you wanted to say, it’s almost impossible to take it back.  Even if you remove it from your social media site, someone somewhere likely has a copy of the original web page or post.

Consequently, there’s more chaff than wheat out there, and they’re sometimes hard to separate.

Not only has the way we communicate radically changed in a few short years, but the technologies are continuously evolving. Facebook revamps itself, Twitter adds features and removes others, Skype improves, and other social media tools just disappear.

In a year, who knows what these sites will look like, and what new sites may come along to enhance the community?

Remember the big dotcom bust in the 1990s? Companies are smarter this time around. Free and fun are in, but money must be made at the end of the day. Sites explode in popularity, and then fall off the screen as a newer, better model comes along. Nothing is permanent.

Whether you’re a seasoned social media user or just learning the terms and tools you’ve heard others talking about, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of choices.

While site features and tools are important to learn about, it needn’t be the goal of your social media plan to use every newfangled feature that Facebook or Twitter comes up with, but rather that you choose and use the basic tools that help you accomplish your goals.

It’s about relationships. Are you talking to your supporters? Are they talking back? Are you finding new allies?

It’s OK to take your time and figure out what will enhance your work versus jumping on the latest thing and finding that it’s “all show and no go.”

At PKIDs, we enjoy using social media to communicate with people interested in our causes and goals, and we want to help others leverage social media to their advantage.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing with social media in 2010?