Social Marketing

  • Five ways to keep COVID-19 messaging relevant this fall

    This fall, we face new challenges as COVID-19 overlaps with the flu season and continues to spread across the United States and the world. We must stay vigilant about protecting ourselves, our friends and families, and others around us. At the same time, people are experiencing pandemic fatigue and need new reasons and reinforcements to keep up protective behaviors.

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  • Digital health applications in a changing world

    Digital communications and media are now part of everyday life for many people around the world. But while people have turned to smartphones for entertainment, socializing and commerce, the health community is still working to make services, outreach and treatment digitally accessible. Examining successful applications allows us to understand what approaches might be possible for digital health services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more crucial than ever that digital health resources provide support for people to access from their homes.

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  • Social marketing for public health systems change

    Can social marketing efforts to promote individual behavior change inhibit progress instead of advancing it? On one topic at least, the answer appears to be yes.

    A couple months ago I had the pleasure of attending the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Program Leaders’ Advance, which brings together leaders in the fight against childhood obesity to discuss strategies and approaches for reversing the increases we’ve seen in the past 30 years. The meeting was held in Oakland, California, and included a visit with the Alameda County Public Health Department to learn about their efforts. An official from the department posed a question to the group, “What do we think is the biggest barrier to the success of community efforts to reduce obesity?” What he didn’t say was: funding, poverty, racism, education, or the food and beverage industries. His answer might surprise you — individualism.

    Individual-focused messaging has led Americans to believe obesity is caused by personal choices. Click To Tweet

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  • And the award goes to …

    They’re not as well known as the Academy Awards, but in the public health realm, the Web Health Awards pack a punch.

    That’s why FHI 360’s Social Marketing and Communication (SMC) video team is pleased to announce that three of the “Making the Business Case for Prevention” videos we produced on behalf of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Community Health recently won a Web Health Awards Recognition-of-Merit Award. It is the 16th year of this prestigious competition that receives thousands of submissions and selects the best in digital health resources for consumers and health professionals.

    Our winning, documentary-style vignettes feature real-life, business-success stories that demonstrate how good health is good business. The vignettes were created to build support for community health within the business sector and to encourage similar public health initiatives nationwide.

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  • Making a difference on World Asthma Day

    What would you do if someone next to you — on the bus, on the subway, in line at the grocery store or at the gym — suddenly had trouble breathing because of asthma?

    You would help.

    But what if you could help that person with a few clicks of your mouse before he or she lost a single breath?

    This Asthma Awareness Month (May) and World Asthma Day (May 6), you can.

    How? By taking the following actions to spread the message that asthma — a chronic lung disease that can be disabling or deadly and affects 1 in 12 people in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHBLI) — can be controlled with proper treatment.

    • Thunderclap: Get Asthma Aware
      Join the NHLBI’s Asthma Thunderclap by 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time today (May 6) to increase asthma awareness. Using Thunderclap, you can share your message about asthma through your favorite social media channels in a single stroke.
    • Twitter chat: Coping with Asthma
      U.S. News and the NHLBI will co-host a Twitter chat about coping with asthma on May 14, 2:00–3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Join us and follow the chat by using #AsthmaChat.

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  • Last week, we hosted a live online discussion about essential community building blocks for breaking the links between poverty and poor health outcomes. The need to think creatively is perhaps strongest in local HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives. Cultural pressures, health myths and access issues can hamper engagement and progress and yet, two campaigns are making strides.

    The Many “Reasons” to Get Checked Program

    Putting a positive spin on HIV testing for young men at high risk for the disease may be a daunting task, but culturally poignant messages may go a long way toward selling the value of getting checked.

    Manuel Rodriguez manages the “Reasons” program for the nonprofit human development organization, FHI 360. Reasons is a messaging campaign that aims to get Latino men who have sex with men to undergo testing for the HIV virus. It comprises social media outreach, print, TV and online advertisements, and presence at gay pride events, and currently focuses on cities with many members of the target population, including Miami, Los Angeles and New York.

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  • Inspiration plus imagination at the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media

    The National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media was an invigorating three-day conference featuring the best and brightest in the health communication field. Held August 20–22, 2013 in Atlanta, GA, the conference featured plenaries, posters, breakout sessions, boot camps and networking opportunities all focused on the theme of “Waves of Change: Managing the Possibilities.”

    Participants heard FHI 360’s Design Lab Director, Anne Quito, speak about the importance of design and creativity in health communication campaigns. FHI 360 staff also presented four posters that highlighted FHI 360’s Social Marketing and Communication work. The posters covered Geographic Information Systems tools; social media evaluation; paid media search campaigns; and use of social media to share information about dietary guidelines.

    Below are my top five conference takeaways and quotes.

    • The creative process begins and ends with empathy. — Anne Quito
    • When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. — Ethiopian proverb
    • Carve out creative time for yourself and colleagues each week for brainstorming and developing new ideas. — The Inspiration Shop conference session
    • Real problems in our society are slow boiling pots of water. They warm up gradually until we’re cooked. — Victor Stretcher
    • You can’t program a GPS unless you know where you want to go. — Katie Paine

    To learn more, you can browse the robust Twitter conversations about the conference by using the hashtag #HCMMconf.

  • When marketing and conscience merge

    In Toronto in late April, more than 500 marketers gathered to present research and discuss their trade. And though individuals representing various disciplines came from more than 40 countries, only one product was pitched: behavior change.

    The event was the World Social Marketing Conference, and it brought together a community of individuals who use conventional marketing principles to improve lives. The presentations displayed solutions as diverse as the problems that social marketers face in their work. Whether encouraging individuals receiving food subsidies in Oklahoma to consume low-fat milk, generating a brand that promotes tobacco cessation for teens who frequent alternative rock concerts in Virginia, or modifying spoons to decrease sugar consumption in Sri Lanka, presenters at the conference showed that the marketing techniques that so successfully encourage unhealthy behaviors can also be used to develop positive ones.

    One other important outlet for social marketing research was also present in Toronto. Social Marketing Quarterly (SMQ), a peer-reviewed journal managed in association with FHI 360, has been a voice for the social marketing community since 1994. Founded by Carol Bryant and James Lindenberger at the University of South Florida, SMQ has been a bridge between academics and practitioners and is the longest-running publication focused exclusively on social marketing.

    SMQ delivers theoretical research and case studies as well as “Notes from the Field” from prominent social marketers such as Lynne Doner Lotenberg, Phil Kotler and Bill Smith. It serves as a water cooler to the community, ensuring that the conversations started in places like Toronto continue to occur outside of convention centers.

    For more information on the Social Marketing Quarterly, visit

  • What is the impact of poverty on health? TEDMED challenges us to think about it.

    It is no secret that those who face poverty are the most vulnerable to disease. Disparities are widespread, especially in health, here in the United States and around the world. We know that the reasons for this are multifaceted and that to tackle the topic of poverty and health requires a multilevel, multidisciplinary conversation, where ideas are shared with the goal of sparking innovation and generating new ways to improve global health.

    The Impact of Poverty on Health is one of twenty challenges our friends at TEDMED are tackling through their Great Challenges program. So many health challenges are complex. They have medical and non-medical causes and affect the well-being of millions of people around the world. These knotty problems are not susceptible to simple cures, magic bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions.

    I had the opportunity to moderate the first TEDMED Google hangout on poverty and health, where leaders from around the world came together online to initiate an open dialog. Questions such as how to integrate the social determinants of health as a “must have” discussion among medical students, and the ways access to education plays a vital role in people’s understanding of health, were discussed. The Google hangout format allowed hundreds to listen via live video and participate by sending their questions and ideas through Twitter and Facebook. It brought people from different backgrounds and perspectives together to discuss health equity, which affects us all in one way or another. Although solving the issue was not the main goal, I think that solutions may already be brewing in the hearts and minds of those who participated.

    You can also participate in this dialog by watching the session below. Add your thoughts on Twitter by using the hashtag #greatchallenges.

    TEDMED Great Challenges is a program sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • Radio toolkit cover In the international development community, the dominant technology discussion is currently about mobile phones, applications and services. According to the International Telecommunications Union, there are now 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally.1 Most of the subscriber growth is in the developing world, where prices are falling rapidly and expanding connectivity is catalyzing the growth of entire economies.2

    But, with the rapidly expanding availability of mobile phones, it is easy to forget about the potential of older technologies, such as radio. In much of the world, radio remains the most pervasive communicator of information. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent of households have access to a working radio, while only 15 percent have access to the Internet.3,4

    Rather than making radio irrelevant, mobile technologies have made radio potentially more powerful than ever. Individuals in rural communities with access to mobile phones can interact with broadcasters. Farmers in their fields can access experts on radio call-in programs. Radio stations can send listeners recaps of programs via SMS. Interactive voice-response systems allow farmers to listen to programs on demand. Sophisticated surveys of audience feedback and behavior change campaigns can be conducted with new precision and efficacy. The list goes on, and not just for agricultural issues. The benefits of radio also reach into health, education, civil society and other development areas.

    Integrating effective interactive radio into development projects requires careful planning. To help organizations unlock radio’s new potential, FHI 360 has developed Interactive Radio for Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners under the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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