Small Changes Matter: Highlighting Daunting Issues and Building Advocacy

By Michelle Jiles

The two presentations given at the June DC Social Marketing Networking Event highlighted the importance of working at the small scale level to impact change. The first presentation by Dr. Anthony Panzera concentrated on using interactive methods to understand why women who were eligible to participate in a state run supplemental nutritional assistance program for women, infants, and children (also known as WIC) do not.  Tony’s research showed that the program is seen as highly valued and offers benefits like access to nutritious foods, education, counseling, and health screenings and referrals. Yet, many women shy away from using it. Tony’s research questions focused on what factors impact participation, what segments of the population are most at risk for non-participation, and most importantly why do those who are eligible not participate.  Tony used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, analyzing information in a database with over 80,000 records and conducting focus groups, in-depth individual interviews, and journey mapping by making 6 visits to offices that provided WIC care and putting himself in the place of participants trying to use vouchers to purchase healthy but financially prudent groceries.  By focusing on the experience of these women, Tony explained the many constraints facing these women. The program Tony analyzed required participants to make same day service appointments which left many women having to choose between work/childcare and the program. The stigma associated with participation was related not to being a part of the program, but the thinking that there were other people more deserving of the resources.  One of the most striking concepts Tony highlighted was to think of all consumers of the program not just the women participants and their children, but also the staff. 

Nicky Besser, with Rescue, also used a local lens to show the intersection between marketing, advocacy and legislation. Nicky managed the EVOLVEMENT DENVER PROGRAM that applied a social marketing lens to engage youth in a policy campaign advocating to pass a tobacco retail licensing ordinance called Licensed to Sell Tobacco.  The program utilized Rescue’s unique Evolvement Model, creating behavior change in high school students by increasing youth volunteerism that could lead directly to policy change.  The program trained youth leaders to be the spokespeople and advocates for legislation to stop local retailers from selling tobacco products to children. The youth then targeted adults to influence the city council to vote on the legislation.  Using a marketing strategy, young people went out into the community to collect public opinion surveys and collect pledge cards, conduct presentations on the issue, survey local retailers on the issue, and meet with city council members to directly address the need for the legislation.  These were all quantifiable measures of progress to determine program effectiveness.  The program conducted leadership trainings and provided scholarship opportunities to further motivate participation.  At the end of the program over 350 youth had been trained, they had participated in over 4,000 hours of volunteer work, and the program received the 2015 National Group Youth Advocacy of the Year Award from The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.  They also garnered over 4,500 hand written messages of support from the community.  In the end, the council did pass a measure that defined e-cigarettes and hookah as tobacco products.