The CDC hosted its annual Conference on Health Communications, Marketing, and Media in Atlanta last week, and I had the opportunity to spend three days listening to talks by public health experts and social marketers and chatting up folks from around the country who are passionate about using mass communications to help solve public health objectives.
This year’s summit focused on “Listening for Change,” the idea that the most effective campaigns and interventions are those that acknowledge that marketing is increasingly about dialogue rather than one-way broadcast. Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion focused on the role of social media in social marketing and why these platforms represent a fundamental shift in the media landscape.
I was heartened to see that the public health community is embracing social media platforms as part of their interventions, but all the same, I found the level of discussion to be slightly disappointing. Absent from the conversation was discussion about HOW to use social media in the context of health and health-related behavior change. Furthermore very few presenters spent much time discussing the impact of their efforts. While calculating ROI in social media is admittedly tricky, it seemed odd that in this gathering of mostly government public health officials, little attention was paid to results. This seemed to be a theme even in non-social media presentations – many presentations were light on impact evaluation and calculating the ROI of interventions.
A few interesting issues raised at the conference:
Caution, Curation, Contentment: Walker Smith, of The Futures Company, argues that these three trends capture today’s consumer mindset and provide a useful cultural context for marketers.
Caution: Economic uncertainty leads to greater unwillingness to take risks. Consumers are less optimistic about success today than they were during economic boom times.
Curation: The rise of digital and social media has facilitated greater curation of content than ever before. In the past, individuals needed to seek out information themselves whenever they needed it. Today, they can just ask the Twittersphere or Facebook friends. As a result, marketers need to promote their products to influencers among their target consumer groups which requires robust social media outreach.
Contentment: While materialism is certainly not going away, consumers increasingly prioritize meaning – relationships, family, etc – as a value of success. A decade ago, success and happiness was framed more in purely material terms.
Grassroots engagement is key:While mass media communications can be an effective awareness building tool, public health interventions really require specific fulfillment – specialized information, access to resources, and local brick and mortar services – to ensure the desired behavior change.
- Grow Your Kids with Fruits and Veggies: A Michigan initiative to encourage healthy eating habits among low-income communities. Leveraged local media as well as giveaways of kitchen items to encourage cooking with fruits and vegetables. Promoted the link between healthy growth and balanced diet with tangible and locally available resources. Engaged with hundreds of families.
- Happy Dampati: Family planning initiative in India led by John’s Hopkins University, Urban Health International, and the Gates Foundation that focused on slums in 5 urban areas within the state of Uttar Pradesh. The program targeted young married couples and promoted the issue with local advertising, an outdoor game show, and follow ups with participants to ensure the sustained use of contraception. Engaged with thousands of couples.
For full coverage of the conference, view the Twitter feed at #hcmmconf