By Okechukwu Umelo*

Hi! I recently joined iSMA as a volunteer, encouraged by my growing interest in social marketing. I’m thrilled to be given the opportunity to support the organization’s work with my knowledge, skills and experience.

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In his book, Fostering Sustainable Change, Dr. Doug McKenzie-Mohr has written that humans live “in a finite world” which will eventually force us to adopt sustainable practices. The book's narrative cautions, “While we have no choice regarding whether we eventually adopt these practices, the speed with which they are adopted will determine the grace with which we make this transition.” So, how do we accelerate our efforts to adapt?

Doug McKenzie-MohrIn a recent interview, Doug indicated that, “We have failed to articulate a vision for sustainable and healthy communities.” He said we need greater feedback on how and whether we are meeting our goals. Doug highlighted the importance of a collective vision, noting that Robert Olson has indicated that there have been no broad-based, large-scale social changes that have not been preceded by an overarching vision of where we’d like to go and how that imagined future is preferable to the present. He suggested that we need to tie this vision to the specific behavioral changes that are required to advance this shared vision.

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Social marketers are set apart by their quest for evidence-based approaches. We want to know that our time and energy working for social change makes a difference. We channel the desire to “do something” through a knowledge base that requires us to “do something that works”.  That’s why it was so exciting to see “Social Marketing: Systematic Review of Research 1998-2012” published in the March 2014, 20th anniversary edition of Social Marketing Quarterly.

beakers

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Looking for a relatively inexpensive and easy way to more deeply influence behavior for the public good? Watch this 11-minute video from Nancy Lee’s TEDxMontlakeCut Talk. It features a Wisconsin drunk driving initiative that yielded a 17% reduction in crashes, with taxpayer cost reduced from $56,000 per accident to $15,000 per accident.

How did these social marketers choose what behaviors to address? Nancy shared two questions from social marketer Mike Rothschild about how this work was done. First, he asked people “Why?” the target audience engaged in drunk driving. Then he asked, “How can we help you?”  It’s amazing how asking these two questions helped unearth barriers to behavior and helped generate an impressive return on investment for taxpayers, saving lives as a result. 

Nicholas Kristof — journalist, author, op-ed columnist, and a winner of two Pulitzer Prizes — knows how to tell a story. Yet even he has struggled to strike a chord with readers on tough social issues. So, he turned to the field of social psychology (Sound familiar, social marketers?) and the research of Paul Slovic, Ph.D. to move readers. 

refugee

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Tweets, posts, petitions … where is an organization or activist to begin? Mike Kujawski, partner and senior consultant of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing, says, “If you are feeling overwhelmed, realize that no one these days knows everything.” He stresses, “We all feel overwhelmed. It is a mindset shift. It is no longer possible to be expected to know everything.”

Mobiles in Jakarta © 2013 Sarah V. Harlan/JHU CCP, Courtesy of Photoshare

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2013 was a banner year for social change marketing internationally. We connected through the World Social Marketing Conferences, the ISMA, and social media in new and more collaborative ways than ever before. These connections elevate the standards for social marketing that WORKS. Operating from standard definitions, training based on specific protocols, and rigorous program evaluation help our field advance, ultimately changing more lives for the better.

Change I want to see

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The following post was written by guest blogger Avi Lambert, a social marketer from Canada.

The broad adoption of the consensus definition of social marketing is certainly something to smile about. It also got me thinking that it’s a great jumping off point for a post on the topic of semantic web thinking for social marketers.

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Last night a comedy show portrayed a woman in labor, screaming and pushing to humorous effect. Watching this, my daughter's eyes grew wide and she said, "I'm scared to grow up and do that." My initial thought was to reassure her that, "There is nothing to worry about." And while I did work to reassure her in a practical and balanced way, it triggered additional thoughts. The pain of labor is certainly a concern, but more serious worries stem from the potential complications of childbirth. And, unfortunately, where we are born, the information we have, and the care we receive all greatly influence the health and chance of survival for mothers and babies. 

Mother Baby Tanzania (c) Photoshare

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