As public health advocates we know that just telling people to do something doesn’t have much of an impact. Fortunately, social marketing principles have shown that creating social and personal value can spark and drive behavior change.
At the 2016 Agents of Change Summit, Jeff French said “The question you should ask yourself everyday: How can I create some measurable social value for the people that I’m trying to help?”
So, how can you create measurable social value? Start with four evidence-based principles:
Know your audience and invest in understanding them. Go beyond basic demographics and figure out what motivates and drives them. Make sure you’re able to see the problem from their perspective. For example, some young adults might not be driven by preventing lung cancer but certain young adults, like Hipsters, do care about standing up against the animal testing and harmful environmental practices of big tobacco. People will chose to perform the same behavior for different reasons, so find the one that most aligns with your audience’s values. In turn, the behavior you are promoting will be seen as more valuable by your audience. The best public health programs are based on a deep contextual understanding of your audience and not just what you want to tell them.
Are you working on a one-off project or on creating momentum toward the bigger picture? Many public health challenges are interconnected, and if you’re working on one simple solution, chances are your focus is being drowned out by other competing factors. Understanding how different variable affect your behavior can help your efforts be more relevant. For example, if you’re working to get children to consume less sugar sweetened beverages, look beyond just parents not serving soda at home, and look at the policies of what is on the school lunch line, what coaches serve at practice, and the juice boxes at afterschool programs. Giving parents a way to educate the other adults influencing their children’s beverage intake can provide them with valuable tools to improve their family’s health
Engage your audience so they can be part of the solution. When the audience is engaged, they derive value from the process as well as the campaign’s outcome. Look for ways you can work toward sustained and purposeful relationships that make the issue a personal one. Youth engagement models are particularly effective because they’re driven by the audience the campaign is looking to serve. But whether you’re engaging youth or adults, the engagement must contribute towards a tangible and meaningful outcome. Nothing undermines engagement efforts moran engagement just for the sake of engagement.
Compelling Social Offers:
Focus on creating compelling and relevant social offers that people actually want. Is another brochure valuable to your audience? Are you giving people something with benefits? If teenagers perceive the benefit of drinking to be a fun and social night out, asking them to stay home and not drink isn’t compelling, whereas engaging them at an event with live music and activities might be. Be aware of the perceived value of the behavior you are trying to change, and ensure that you are positioning the replacement behavior in an equally or more valuable light.
For more examples of how to ensure your campaigns add value, check out Jeff French’s presentation, “Behavior Change That Creates Value For Your Audience” from the Agents of Change Summit.