Not too long ago, I was providing technical assistance to a staff member at a local health department whose agency was not open to letting her use certain social media tools to engage with their community. I asked my Twitter network for ideas on resources that might help her make the case with a reluctant organization. Dawn Crawford, who is the Communications Director at the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (@ImmunizeCOKids on Twitter) very generously offered to share what she had learned, having been in a similar situation. After she emailed me the information to pass along, I asked her if I could repost it on my blog because it was full of pearls of wisdom that I thought would be useful to others, no matter what type of organization you work for. She wrote it up as a guest post here. Thanks so much, Dawn!
Pretty Please…Convincing Your Boss to Take the Plunge into Social Media
So you want to convince the boss to let you do social media for your organization. It’s something that every one who has ever engaged in social media had to do, at least once. It’s an important step because you do need some solid buy-in on this new communications strategy.
Bosses, Executive Directors, co-workers and all your social media doubters fear one of three things:
- Loss of control of message and brand
- Mean people will say mean things about you
- There isn’t enough time to sustain your engagement
These fears are legitimate, but are also seeded in a lack of understanding of social media. Here are some quick answers to those concerns:
• Loss of control – The reality is engaging in social media is one of the best ways to regain control of your message and brand. With all the social media platforms you get to pick your profile picture and determine how you present yourself to your followers. Jumping into social media and securing your brand’s identity – Twitter ID, Facebook vanity URL, blog name – you can stop others from poaching your name.
• Meanies – Okay, here is a little secret…people are already saying mean things about you! And if you are not engaged in social media they are, in essence, saying it behind your back to all your friends. By monitoring your brand and organization in social media you can address these meanies and deal with them on a one-on-one basis.
• Time management – Time is the ONLY cost of social media, so value it. It is incredibly important to budget time for this communications tool. Take the time to make a plan about when you will engage, what kind of content you’ll share and how often you’ll interact with your followers/fans. This is a critical consideration to your success. Also remember it doesn’t have to control your life or be a priority over your other communications tactics. Just integrate these tools into all the other great stuff you are already doing.
Okay, now that you have three quick comebacks for those initial fears, let’s pile it on. There are reasons why you MUST get engaged in social media. Here is why it’s so important for you to jump in:
• Social media IS the next business revolution – It’s just like email; some people hoped email would just go away so we could send faxes forever. Well those people lost (thankfully) and now email is part of every successful business. Social media will be the same way in the coming years. If an organization is not engaged in social media they will look dated, out of touch and will be seen as having bad customer service.
• Connect with your community – Being part of social media gives your community (AKA your donors, customers, residents, volunteers, etc.) a portal to ask questions, get information and connect with you on their time and in the method that they want to connect. It’s great to drop into Facebook, check up on your sister’s latest adorable kid photo and find out about your favorite organization. Be where your community is and, trust me, they are using social media.
• Increase your traffic to your website – Social media is just one more way to leverage all that money you put into that fancy website. You can tease information from your Facebook or Twitter accounts to go to your website to learn more about your programs.
• Embrace controversy – If you do deal with a controversial issue it’s even more important for you to have a presence in social media. In my day job I work as Communications Director for the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC), a pro-vaccine organization. I know controversy first hand. If you are controversial you have so much to say and to defend about your issue. Be brave and jump in the fray, your cause deserves it! For lots more on that check out this blog post.
• Get more tasty tidbits for leadership, donors and annual reports – You get so much anecdotal, honest comments, both good and bad, about your organization through your social media connections. Social media allows an organization to make an immediate impact and connect with real people. So incredibly invaluable and incredibly HARD to gather in any other communications tool…tried a survey lately?
Now that you have points on why you MUST be engaged in social media, let’s put on the frosting. These are some completely new ways that social media will improve your organization’s brand that is hard to do with traditional communications and development strategies:
• Find new people to support your cause for FREE – Yes, I said it FREE. You can target new people and experiment with difference audiences for FREE. Engaging in social media is WAY cheaper than buying a list or attending community events. Just figure out where your audience is and start posting.
• Get the attention of key influencers – You can use social media strategically to get introduced to funders, influential organizations and important people. At CCIC, we have been able to elevate our presence beyond Colorado to a national level with lots of targeted Twitter relationships. We’ve gotten the attention of national organizations and the CDC.
• Connect with traditional media – You can create real relationship with reporters online. Not only can you send them direct messages with story pitches but they see all the information you spew out then pick and choose on what stories they want to cover.
• Attract the elusive blogger – Bloggers are the next newsies. These are influential people who are not going anywhere. Comment on their posts, find their Twitter feeds and get to know them. Form a tight bond and they might even let you submit a guest post. At CCIC, we’ve created relationship and got posts/guest posts on influential blogs including Discover Magazine Blogs and other blogs around the world.
• Do something completely new – Use this new environment to experiment. It’s just your time that you are gambling with. We did this really good “feel good” campaign over Thanksgiving which allowed parents to give thanks for their healthy kids – see the results.
For more tips on how to get engaged in social media, developing content, saving time and dealing with those meanies, check out my social media presentations.
So, are there more fears floating around out there? Is there another way you helped convince your boss to let your engage in social media? I want to hear about it!
The next Social Marketing University training is coming to Washington, DC on January 11-13, 2010. If you’re interested in learning the fundamentals of social marketing to bring about health, social or environmental behavior change, this is the course!
The training is for people working at nonprofits, government agencies, PR/marketing agencies or others who want to build knowledge and skills for building an effective social marketing strategy. If you’re already familiar with social marketing but want to learn about how to use social media within a social marketing program, you have the option of just attending the last half-day, which is the Next Generation Social Marketing Seminar.
This course is being co-sponsored by the Public Health Communication & Marketing Program at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. The agenda will include a social marketing case study presented by the program’s director, Doug Evans.
For more information about SMU and to register, see the Social Marketing University information page. If you register before December 11, you will get a $100 discount. You can also receive additional discounts when more than one person from the same organization registers, or if you are a student.
As a reader of my blog, you will get an additional $75 off on top of the other discounts by using the discount code ‘BLOG’.
I hope I’ll see you there!
Here are some assorted bits and pieces I’ve collected for your reading pleasure:
- Starting next week I’ll be offering a new webinar series on Social Media for Social Marketers. The four 60-minute webinars (at 11 am Pacific time) are:
- October 22 – Designing a Social Media Strategy for Change
- October 29 – Blogging and Beyond: Tools to Build Your Movement
- November 12 – Twitteracy for Social Marketers
- November 19 – Monitoring and Evaluating Social Media
If you are interested, but can’t make a particular event live, you can always view the archived events and ask me any questions afterward. For more information about the webinars and to register, see the Social Marketing University Online page.
- Recently, more attention is being paid to applying design thinking to social marketing; in other words, how can we design the environment or product to make the desired behavior the most natural and easy choice? The best resource I have found in thinking through how to apply a design approach to behavior change is Dan Lockton’s Design with Intent Toolkit. With lots of examples and different angles to consider, it’s a great introduction to the discipline. I found it so helpful, in fact, that I created a companion worksheet to go along with it: the Design Approach for Behavior Change Worksheet.
- If you haven’t seen Franke James’ visual essay about an event that brought Malcolm Gladwell and Mark Kingwell together to discuss social change, you’ll find it a treat for your eyes as well as your brain.
- The UK’s Ingenious Group is sponsoring the first-ever Global Social Marketing Awards. For-profit and nonprofit organizations can enter in categories like Best Global Social Marketing Campaign, Most Effective Strategic Partnership, Most Effective Use of Budget, and more. Finalists will be announced soon, with winners receiving awards in December. This is a great idea, but with the entry fees at £175 (~$280) per category entry, it’s a bit too pricey for any organization but a for-profit agency to enter, greatly limiting the candidates to choose from. I’d love to see awards like these done with no barriers to entry, with campaigns nominated and voted on by their social marketing peers. Perhaps it’s an idea for the Global Social Marketing Association to consider once it gets up and running.
- A couple of weeks ago, the “Save the Boobs” campaign from ReThink Breast Cancer got people buzzing about whether it was okay to use sex to get men interested in the issue of breast cancer (my answer was yes, but this ad was so poorly done from a behavior change point of view that it would be fairly ineffective). Soon after it came out, a group called HCD Research conducted a MediaCurves study to quantitatively measure the responses of men and women to this ad. Not surprisingly, men and women had very different reactions in whether they thought it was appropriate and in the emotions it evoked. The data confirms what seems obvious, though the lack of any clear objective or call to action means the high self-reported “effectiveness” score is fairly meaningless.
- And finally, a huge congratulations to fellow social marketing blogger Alex Rampy (SocialButterfly), who just got married to the man of her dreams. May they have a lifetime of happiness together!
When the new director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, took his position in early June, it was inevitable that he would make some changes — perhaps even some big changes. I believe I speak for many social marketers in saying we were very hopeful that health marketing (the CDC’s name for social marketing) would fare well in the new administration.
Unfortunately, I have just found out that the National Center for Health Marketing (NCHM) is slated to be eliminated. What this means exactly for the practice of health marketing within the CDC is unclear, but it bodes poorly for the field of social marketing overall.
On the heels of the NCHM’s highly successful Third National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media (NCHCMM), which just brought together one thousand professionals who are using these tools to address disparate health issues from across the spectrum of the CDC’s purview, this news raises a big question: What will be the future of the conference, which serves a different role in the US social marketing community from other professional events? This most recent conference, in mid-August, raised the profile of the CDC as an innovator and enabler of organizations and agencies across the country (and beyond) on the cutting edge of social marketing initiatives.
After the NCHM has made so much progress in advancing the field of social marketing and integrating these methods into public health practice, it would be a giant step backwards to lose this bastion of expertise and have its staff dispersed. We need only look at the UK’s National Social Marketing Centre to see the approach getting the prominence within government that it deserves as a tool that works for prevention. The US needs to be a leader in social marketing, and this will knock us from that position.
While the fledgling social marketing association is not quite in position to address this issue as a unified voice for our field, those of us who care about social marketing should individually make our opinions known to Dr. Frieden to ensure that social marketing will continue to play a prominent role in the work of the CDC. I believe this is best achieved through a focal point of expertise like the NCHM that can implement best practices throughout the agency and host events like the NCHCMM conference. Barring that, I hope that Dr. Frieden somehow comes up with an even better alternative.
What are your ideas for how we can best address this issue as a field?
When’s the last time someone wrote a superhero comic about people in your profession? Sure, if you’re a reporter, nuclear scientist or even a reclusive millionaire, you’re used to this type of thing. But we health marketing types are usually the ones on the development side of the media, not the target audience. So I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I was to discover that my longtime blog friend Fard Johnmar of Envision Solutions and the HealthCareVox blog has created both a fun set of different types of media to draw people like us in, and a more serious project that underlies it.
His mission is to bring together people who work in health marketing communications across disciplines so we can learn from each other. He calls this the Path of the Blue Eye — a rather zen-sounding name with accompanying mantras that help us do our jobs more effectively.
Fard graciously agreed to share more information about the origins of the project and its different components with my readers via an email interview:
What spurred you to create the Path of the Blue Eye?
I was motivated to develop the Path of the Blue Eye project in response to two statements, both of which begin with the words “I wish.” They are:
- I wish I knew that.
- I wish we had a place to collect this information.
Over the years, I’ve learned about beneficial data, case studies and other info that would be useful to people across the health marketing communications industry. I often share my knowledge in conversations with pharma marketers, public health experts, social marketers and others. Many times, I find that people are not aware of interesting and successful campaigns taking place in industry segments they do not work in. For example, people in pharmaceutical marketing are sometimes not knowledgeable about campaigns launched by government agencies that leverage social technologies. After our conversations about sms services for small business, people will sometimes nod their heads and say: “I wish I knew that.”
In addition, I have had many conversations about how we need a place where people can quickly and easily share information with their peers – especially with those working in other parts of the health marketing communications industry. They say: “I wish I we had a place to collect this information.”
The Path of the Blue Eye project is designed to grant each of these wishes by:
- Fostering knowledge sharing across health marketing communications industry segments and silos.
- Providing people with tools they can use to quickly share interesting information with others working in the industry from around the world.
The key word here is interdisciplinary. We are trying to reach across silos and centers of practice rather than working within them.
How does this project fit in with the work you have been doing with Envision Solutions?
The mission of Envision Solutions is to help health marketing communications pros become more efficient and successful. I think the Path of the Blue Eye project helps us to achieve this objective.
Can you tell us about the different components of this project and how they fit together? How will you phase them in?
The core of the project will be an online collaboration hub we are currently building. It will enable people in health marketing communications to:
- Quickly access and share data, case studies, news articles, blog posts and other content relevant to the field.
- Ask and answer questions from their peers.
Currently we are the pre-launch phase of the project. We are leveraging the comic, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and other communications channels to spread the word about the project and attract a diverse group of people who believe in what we are trying to accomplish. I am happy to say that (as of this writing), nearly 80 people have “joined” the project via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. We launched Path of the Blue Eye about a week ago, so I’m very pleased with the progress thus far.
In phase II, we will invite a select group of people to help us conduct a series of road tests on the collaboration hub to help us iron out any final kinks in the system. After this, we’ll launch the hub and begin our work in earnest.
I’m also very excited that we’ve been able to develop some strong partnerships with prominent organizations and businesses over the last few months. They have agreed to help strengthen the hub by providing information to the Path of the Blue Eye community when it launches.
How would you define the “Path of the Blue Eye?”
The Path of the Blue Eye is represented in the comic by a series of six mantras. These represent habits and activities we believe will help people forging careers in the health marketing communications industry achieve success.
Who are the main groups you’d like to reach and what are some of the ways people can become involved with this project?
We are trying to reach a diverse range of people working in all areas of the global health marketing communications industry. Everyone is welcome, including social marketers, public relations professionals, advertisers, pharmaceutical/biotech marketers, public health communicators, academics and others.
Given the current intense interest in social media it is important to note that the site wlll not be focused solely on social communications channels and techniques. Rather, we want people practicing in all areas of the field to feel comfortable participating in and contributing to the hub.
Currently, people can participate in the project by:
- Showing their support for the project by joining our Facebook group, Twitter community or signing up for our e-mail list.
- Spreading the word about the project to their friends and colleagues.
- Considering becoming contributing or guest authors on the project’s blog Walking the Path. We are looking to build a blog that features a diverse range of perspectives from people around the world. A few people have accepted our invitation to participate, but we are always looking for more authors. Currently, guest authors are helping to produce a series of blog posts focusing on what collaboration means to them.
Once the hub launches, people will have other ways they can contribute to the project.
I love the comic book! I’m sure it’s the first time that health marketers have been featured as superheroes. What was your thinking behind using this medium? Can we expect to see this as an ongoing series?
I’m really glad you like the comic! I decided to commission the comic because I wanted to:
o Create a mythology focusing on the work of health marketing communications pros. We are often behind the scenes, creating campaigns for others, so I wanted to celebrate what we do.
o Attract a broad range of people to the project.
o Encourage us to have fun and enjoy the work we do each day
I also want to use the comic to expose more people in our industry to transmedia storytelling techniques. There’s a lot more going on with the comic than meets the eye, so I encourage people to dive deeper by participating in the SMS component of the project. Not many people have accepted our invitation yet, but I hope this changes in the coming weeks. I also hope people enjoy the comic’s soundtrack.
I hope we’ll be able to produce future issues of the comic. If people want more we’ll continue the story.
How would you like to see the Path of the Blue Eye evolve over time? What would it ideally look like five years from now?
Ultimately, I’d like to see the project evolve into a strong, self-sustaining, diverse, interconnected global community of health marketing communications pros.
Five years from now, I hope that the community will have become a go-to resource for people trying to improve their skills and develop better health marketing communications campaigns. We want to help people become better at what they do. If we achieve this, I think the project will be successful.
I wish Fard great success with this project, and I am excited about being part of it as well. I hope you will also consider participating in some way, as the whole profession will benefit as more people get involved. We can all walk the path together, which makes getting over the hills much easier.