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5 skills to be a well-rounded social marketer PDF Print Email
Written by Nedra Weinreich   
Sunday, June 28, 2015 03:21 PM

                          Social Marketer Skills

Changing human behavior is a complex process, and social marketers working to influence people’s actions on health or social issues must possess a wide array of skills.

The field has evolved over the years, drawing on proven methods and tools from other disciplines to create behavior change in individuals and across societies. Students and professionals, too, come to social marketing from a variety of paths.

Because the approach initially came of age in the 1970s and 80s in an international development context to promote behaviors like family planning, immunizations and use of oral rehydration solution, public health tends to be the field that generates the most social marketers. However, the field also draws professionals from the commercial marketing side who are attracted to making a positive impact on social issues, as well as those working on environmental issues, social services and nonprofit management.

If social marketing interests you as a career, the more such skills you acquire, the more attractive you will be to a potential employer. But what is that combination of knowledge and skills you need to pursue to become a well-rounded social marketer?

1. A solid understanding of marketing.

Obviously, a good understanding of how marketing — and specifically social marketing — works is critical. Many from outside the field assume that marketing equals advertising. Communications may be one piece of it, but a marketing approach is about much more than just providing information. We need to know how to create a product that meets the audience’s needs, how to analyze the competition, how to take price and barriers into account, how to utilize distribution systems and more.

You’d be at a disadvantage without that fundamental marketing know-how.

2. Strong research skills.

A key principle of social marketing is using research with your priority audience to better understand their needs and how the desired behavior could fit into their lives. To that end, building your formative research skills will serve you well.

This includes research design, implementation and data analysis for both quantitative methods, like surveys, and qualitative methods like focus groups and interviewing. At a minimum, you need a strong grasp on how research and statistics work.

Program evaluation is another set of research skills that will help you track the progress of your program so you can make adjustments along the way and assess how effective the program is in creating change.

3. Familiarity with behavioral sciences and management.

Familiarity with the behavioral sciences gives you a framework on which to structure your program. Build expertise in health and consumer behavior theory, principles of community organizing, user experience design, behavioral economics and other models of how individual and social change occurs.  

In addition to guidance from theoretical models, social marketers follow a distinct process for designing and implementing programs; skills in project planning and management will help you stay on top of all the moving parts.

4. Production and design knowledge.

Though many social marketers work as part of a team that may include graphic designers, web developers and multimedia producers, you will benefit from having some of those production skills at hand to be able to mock up drafts for quick prototyping and feedback.

This know-how also applies to social media. Build proficiency in using the different social networks and producing short videos and graphics to post on them.

5. A balance of soft skills.

Beyond the types of skills you can learn directly, the best social marketers have particular qualities that can be developed with conscious effort. First of all, internalize the fact that you cannot design an effective program sitting in your office on your own. Your audience members are the experts on their own lives, so you will need to be comfortable setting aside your own assumptions to really listen and be responsive to their needs and desires.

Good social marketers are also flexible and adaptable, making changes to their plans in response to new information. At the same time, you must be willing to stick to your convictions and act as an advocate for your audience, especially when your boss or client wants to disregard the research. A strong dose of curiosity is also a must, along with a passion to change the world for the better.

Most of these skills can be developed through formal academic programs, trainings like my Social Marketing University program and through self-directed learning, which is often available for free online.

Last Updated on Monday, June 29, 2015 10:21 AM
Highlights from the World Social Marketing Conference 2015 (#WSMC15, #BestofWSM)

WSMC 2015The unofficial theme of the World Social Marketing Conference in Sydney from 19-21 April, 2015, was “Big Social Change.” Speakers noted that while behavior change is a critical component of our work, sweeping social change happens beyond the individual level, through concerted efforts including upstream social marketing and systems-based approaches.

An increased emphasis was placed on “trying and testing” to find what works. Participants called for empirical testing of behavior change theories to add to the social marketing evidence base, as well as increased rigor in measuring all social change initiatives.


- Best Academic Paper: Julia Carins, Sharyn Rundle-Thiele, and Justin Fidock - “Looking through a glass onion: A mixed method formative research case.”
- Best Practitioner Paper: Toslim Uddin Khan and Sukumar Sarker - “Engaging Women in Rural Communities to Become Entrepreneurs and Effective Behavioural Change Agents.”
- Best Student Paper: Rory Mulcahy - “Disguising the Performance of M-games in Social Marketing.”

Dozens of individual sessions shared new research and many lessons from the field. WSMC delegate and speaker Tracey Bridges eloquently summed up six conference insights on the Senate SHJ blog.

WSMC 2015 was well-represented by International Social Marketing Association members, including these ISMA Board Members: Judy Drennan, Jeff French, Jay Kassirer, R. Craig Lefebvre, Doug McKenzie-Mohr, and Gael O’Sullivan. Jeff, Craig, and Doug offered special workshops before or after the conference, and Gael convened a special interest session on Ebola, sponsored by Abt Associates.

For details of each, see the “proceedings book” that features conference paper abstracts. Presentations and keynote videos will be posted soon on the Programme page.

Many thanks to the conference sponsors and to the WSMC 2015 Organising Committee, including Professor Jeff French, Dr. Ross Gordon, Professor Sandra Jones, Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Luke van der Beeke, and Dr. Nadia Zainuddin.

We hope to see you at the next WSMC in Washington, DC, in 2017!

Let's share for change! PDF Print Email

iSMA would like to take the opportunity to invite you to share with our international Social Marketing community evidence of your experience in the field.  iSMA wants you to be a co-creator of its content and invites you to participate sharing:

1) Images and links to videos of Social Marketing projects in which you have worked or you are working on. Create a visual story that will most certainly resonate with your colleagues.


  • The size limit of pictures is 500 MB.
  • Please give us a brief description of the context in which the picture was taken and the video was recorded.
  • The links to videos will be shared on our digital media platforms (website, social media).
  • You will receive an iSMA release form request for the pictures.
  • The photos will be archived and managed through iSMA and used with discretion by iSMA and immediate partners only. 

2) Research and your experiences conducting Social Marketing strategies to influence behaviors that benefit individuals around the globe. Social Marketers want to know what you are doing and this will expose your work to an international community.


  • Provide us with an abstract of your experience / research.
  • If you have a link to a webpage or blog with more information of your work, please include it.
  • Include visual or links to multimedia content in case you have them.

Please send your contribution to [email protected] or uploade it at where you will also find the release form. We also invite you to participate in our online community on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Book Launch: Strategic Social Marketing PDF Print Email


Strategic Social Marketing takes a systemic approach to explaining and illustrating the added value of applying marketing to solve social problems.

The authors present social marketing principles in a strategic, critical and reflexive way to help engender social good via the effectiveness and efficiency of social programmes in areas such as Health, Environment, Governance and Public Policy. In illustrating how it can be applied, the text places Strategic Social Marketing in a global context, giving examples and case studies from around the world.

Set into a clear structure it:

  • Takes you through an exploration of why marketing should be an integral component of all social programme design and delivery when looking to achieve social good.
  • Moves on to the nature and application of social marketing, rethinking traditional concepts such as ‘value’ and ‘exchange’ in the social context.
  • Lays out the ‘how to’ so you can create fully realised strategy, plans, frameworks and tactics to influence behaviours.

'Social marketing is at a crossroads: do we stick to the old paradigms or do we embrace new ways of thinking?  French and Gordon really get to grips with these questions – and provide some answers. They do this by embracing the idea that social marketing can work in new ways, and they are not afraid to take on some marketing ‘sacred cows’ along the way. If you want your assumptions questioned – read this book.'  -  Alan Tapp, Professor of Marketing, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, UK



New book for your library PDF Print Email


On their book ‘Social Marketing And Behaviour Change: Models, Theory and Applications’; authors Linda Brennan, Wayne Binney, Lukas Parker, Torgeir Aleti and Dang Nguyen; provide a concise overview of the behaviour change models that are relevant to social marketing in order to assist academics and practitioners in social marketing program development.

The book features a review and analysis of the most validated models of behaviour change, together with a number of case studies from international researchers that illustrate these models in practice. The models covered include cognitive, conative, affective, social-cultural and multi-theory models, consumer behavior decision models and social change models.


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