iSMA News Desk

Managed by Julie Hentz and Nathaly Aya

Have an article you would like to share? Contact [email protected]

The Community Against Preventable Injuries (Preventable): “It’ll Never Happen to Me”

 by Ricardo D. LaGrange, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Injuries are a major public health problem in every country around the world, causing over 5 million deaths per year, or 16,000 deaths per day.[1] In British Columbia, Canada, where preventable injuries are the leading cause of death for residents between the ages of 1 and 44 and are responsible for over 2,000 deaths each year,[2] citizens are not immune to this problem. In addition to the human suffering, the treatment of preventable injuries is one of the largest burdens on the province, costing over $6 billion per year.
While accidents may seem inevitable and random, most injuries are predictable and avoidable.  In 2006, the British Columbia government made a commitment to safety and injury prevention in every aspect of provincial life by sponsoring the organization that eventually became the non-profit, The Community Against Preventable Injuries (a.k.a. Preventable).  After conducting 3 years of research and planning, this organization launched a highly effective social marketing campaign to raise awareness and transform societal attitudes towards reducing the human and financial burden of preventable injuries.   The campaign utilized a multi-year, multi-faceted approach with TV, Radio, print, social media and guerilla events that focused on the attitudes that cause serious preventable injuries in everyday settings.  Approximately 50% of the BC population (i.e., 2 million people) were reached weekly, and over 100 million media impressions were generated during a 6-month launch period that began in 2009.
Preventable was able to raise and sustain awareness of the issue and their brand by using different channels in an unexpected way.  Their efforts have made a difference in several tangible ways.  Those who have seen the campaign are significantly more likely to perceive injuries as preventable. Since launch, there has been a significant reduction in deaths by injuries among Preventable’s target audience age 25-55. Campaign monitoring shows a 4-5% positive shift in attitudes and behaviors towards preventable injuries across the entire BC population. Also, Preventable’s brand equity is strong, and is viewed by the public as caring, credible and trusted.
The iSMA Communications Team recently conducted an interview with Jennifer Smith, Senior Program Manager at Preventable, to gain more insight on the strategy and approach the organization uses to make “It’ll Never Happen to Me” such a success.

iSMA: Developing a brand strategy can be one of the most difficult, yet vital, steps in initiating a social marketing campaign.  What strategies did preventable rely upon to build a trusted injury prevention “brand’ that successfully reached the citizens of British Columbia?

Preventable: Injury is a hugely pervasive and complex issue. Thus it was absolutely essential for us to develop a clearly defined set of values that would guide our efforts towards achieving the overall mission: reducing the burden of preventable injuries in British Columbia by raising awareness, shifting attitudes and ultimately transforming behaviors. Engaging a network of public, private and not-for-profit partner organizations that share those values was the cornerstone of our strategy. It really does take a community to tackle an issue like injury!

iSMA: Exposing the public to the campaign though multiple channels and in unexpected ways helped to raise awareness to the issue and your brand.  What were some of the specific methods, messages or themes that you think resonated most with the public and why?

Preventable: The messaging is designed to trigger self-reflection and is illustrated by everyday risk scenarios that our audience can relate to instantly, such as using a ladder to put up Christmas lights, or speeding to avoid being late for work. Preventable also uses guerrilla stunts to generate media interest in the message and raise the profile of the brand. For example, Preventable dressed the statues in a beachside public park in larger-than-life PFDs, accompanied by the message, “Think drowning only happens to people who can’t swim? Seriously?” The fun element of the supersize lifejackets drew people to share the message through social media. The giant banana peel was also a big hit, with the message, “If you can see it coming, you can prevent it from happening.”

iSMA: What lead Preventable to incorporate a more nuanced strategy that avoided explicit messages about danger and how do you think this made a difference for your campaign?

Preventable: This approach followed directly from the stated preferences of our audience. During the formative phase of the campaign we heard from British Columbians, over and over, that they did not need (or want) to be told what to do to prevent injuries, that they would be repelled by content designed to shock or shame them into changing their behavior. The Preventable approach acknowledges our audience as intelligent adults who already know how to prevent injuries, but just need a reminder in the right time and place to exercise their judgment.

iSMA: Social marketing makes the distinction between having an initial impact and a lasting impact. The goal is not simply to enhance awareness or change attitudes towards an issue, it’s to motivate and empower people to take the desired behavior. “It’ll Never Happen to Me”, really seems to embrace this challenge.  How have you been able to engage the community in a way that will help sustain your efforts in the future?

Preventable: It’s true that social change takes time and sustaining momentum is a key challenge. When it comes to serious injuries, people believe “It’ll never happen to me.” The campaign taglines “Have a word with yourself” and “Seriously?” are a subtle call to action, as they challenge that assumption and prompt the audience to reconsider their intended behavior. People must feel motivated to change their behavior, and this is why Preventable believes that shifting attitudes is the essential first step in reducing serious injuries over the long term. Engaging a community of partners who are also committed to this long-term vision, and therefore willing to support the campaign and amplify the message through their own channels, has allowed Preventable to not only build the brand but to maintain our momentum year to year. The results of our efforts are clear – public surveys administered each year have seen encouraging improvement on measures of awareness, attitudes and behaviors related to serious preventable injuries.

iSMA: You’ve had tremendous success with “It’ll Never Happen to Me”.  What’s next for this campaign and Preventable?

Preventable: While we have seen encouraging trends in the campaign tracking data, as well as in injury hospitalizations and deaths, we continue to strive for further improvements. This will mean keeping the campaign platform fresh, innovative and engaging, while remaining recognizable and relatable, by continuing to engage in conversations with British Columbians about preventable injuries.

To find out more about Preventable and this social marketing campaign visit:

[1] World Health Organization. Violence, Injuries, and Disability: Biennial 2006–2007 Report. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2008

[2] Pike I, Scime G, Lafreniere K Preventable: a social marketing campaign to prevent injuries in British Columbia, Canada Injury Prevention 2012;18:A176.

SMANA Partnerships
“Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

SMANA cannot advance behavior change for social good alone, which is why we have been working hard to build partnerships, collaborate, and support others in their work; all in an effort to grow our community of practice. Some highlights include partnering with the Federal Communicators Network where we collaborated to hold a social marketing 101 webinar that reached more than 170 people, and working with the American Marketing Association’s Washington, DC and Charlottesville, VA chapters to hold successful, in-person social marketing 101 interactive seminars.

SMANA became a partner in the American Public Health Association’s, Year of Climate Change and Health campaign and attended the conference in Atlanta to represent SMANA at the invite-only Climate Change and Health Roundtable. Since this topic intersects both public health and the environment, having SMANA members work together on this issue is a win-win.

Most recently, SMANA worked with the Partnership for Food Safety to hold the first webinar in a series of four webinars about behavior change. Over 450 people joined the presentation to learn about community-based social marketing. If you have any partnership ideas to help grow and support SMANA, please email SMANA at [email protected]
Help Guide the Next Phase of your Professional Association

Two Opportunities to Get Involved in iSMA
by Patrick Cook, President

The Board of the iSMA is busy planning our annual general meeting (AGM), scheduled for March 6, 2018.

The AGM will be an opportunity for members of the iSMA to meet our current Board members, review our new business plan and constitution, and review our financial position. The AGM will also be an opportunity for you to hear more about the opportunities to contribute to the success of the iSMA and, in turn, the profession of social marketing.

We will be sending out a formal invitation to the AGM in the next couple of weeks, so look for it in your inbox. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for the March 6. Because our members are based around the world, we are holding the AGM at two times on March 6 – 5:00 pm GMT (12 pm EST) and 12 midnight GMT (7 pm EST).

Join the Board of iSMA

In a couple of weeks, we will open up nominations for new members to join our Board of Directors. You can nominate one of your fellow social marketers or self-nominate.

By being a member of our Board, you have an opportunity to network with some of the leading social marketers around the world, guide and shape how we move forward as a federation or alliance of regional social marketing associations, and provide direction to our current and new member services. Some of these services include our always-popular webinar series, our soon-to-be launched updated website, professional meetings and conferences, and other initiatives that advance the field of social marketing.

Being a Board member involves participation in at least 4 virtual meetings each year, our AGM, and helping with our workgroups and committees. According to our bylaws, Board members serve up to three years. For members elected in March, the term would begin April 1, 2018. All Board members can stand for election to our executive team (president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer), and we are actively seeking a vice-president and treasurer. So please consider this great opportunity!

In addition to our AGM invitation, we will be sending out more information about the nomination and election process in the next couple of weeks.

I hope you will join us at the AGM and consider joining us on a more regular basis as a member of our Board. Please feel free to reach out to me, or any member of our current Board, if you have any questions, would like to hear more about serving as a Board member, or have thoughts and recommendations how your professional association can serve you better.

You can reach me at [email protected].

Featured Case Study: FAN (Family, physical Activity, Nutrition)

Famiglia, Attività fisica, Nutrizione (FAN)

Project to promote physical activity and healthy food consumption

Location: Canton Ticino, Switzerland

Target:  Families with children in elementary and first two classes of middle school

Edition 1:  556parents,750 children

Edition 2: 360 parents, 397 children

Length: Two editions each of 8 weeks. Edition one started on 04 October 2010. Edition two started on 10 April 2012.

Behavior: Encourage initiation, improvement, and/or maintenance of healthy nutrition and regular physical activity


  • BeCHANGE Research Group, Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), Lugano Switzerland
    • Prof. Suzanne Suggs, Associate Professor of Social Marketing and Chair of the European Social Marketing Association
    • Dr. Natalie Rangelov, Post-doctoral Researcher and Lecturer in Social Marketing
  • Health Promotion and Evaluation Service, Department of Health and Social Affairs of Canton Ticino, Switzerland
  • Health Promotion Switzerland

Famiglia, Attività fisica, Nutrizione (FAN) is a social marketing intervention aimed to encourage the initiation, improvement, and/or maintenance of healthy nutrition and physical activity among children in elementary and middle school and their parents. It was implemented in Ticino Switzerland, a state located in the most southern part of the country and where they have the highest rates of obesity and overweight.

FAN was developed by the BeCHANGE Research Group at Università della Svizzera italiana in collaboration with the Department of Health and Social Affairs of Canton Ticino, and Health Promotion Switzerland. The intervention was conducted in parallel to school and community based initiatives within the Department of Health and Social Affair’s “Health Body Weight” program.

FAN was the only tailored technology-based program targeting families directly in their homes.

FAN focused on families with children in elementary and first two classes of middle school and was implemented in two editions, each lasting 8 weeks. The first edition (visit site) started on the 4th of October  and ended on the 11th of November, 2010,  and the second (visit site) took place from April 10th to June 3rd, 2012. Participation was free of charge.

Using the eight social marketing benchmarks facilitated a robust understanding of the context, including real and perceived barriers at the individual, structural, commercial, and policy levels. Desk research, focus groups, interviews and interactions with parents and children informed the development of the strategies based on their reported needs and wants. Understanding the real and perceived barriers and facilitators permitted creating a valuable exchange by positioning healthy diet and physical activity as achievable behaviors for all and make life better (performance at school, better able to play hard, feel better, can be fun, easy, and affordable). It also informed the decisions to promote local, affordable activities and products in manner that was appropriate for participants.

Parents were segmented according to their gender, which behavior was more difficult; diet or physical activity, number and gender of children, and child’s most difficult behavior. Children were segmented based on their gender and grade at school. Content was tailored to all participants and informed by the Theory of Planned Behavior. Content was provided to parents using a website, SMS, e-mail and by printed letters to children.

Families expressed a high interest in FAN. In the first edition, 556 families with 750 children enrolled; more than double what was expected. By the end of the intervention parents reported changes in their behaviors related to physical activity and nutrition. They increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, and moderately increased physical activity. Children’s Fruit consumption increased, consumption of sweets decreased, and vegetable consumption increased for the children whose parents received SMS. Parents evaluated FAN as very positive and stated that FAN helped their families remember to eat healthy and be physically active.

Suggested resources to know more about FAN:

(Rangelov, Della Bella, Marques Vidal, & Suggs, 2018; Rangelov & Suggs, 2015; Suggs, Della Bella, & Marques-Vidal, 2016; Suggs, Rangelov, Rangel Garcia, & Aguirre Sanchez, 2013)

Rangelov, N., Della Bella, S., Marques Vidal, P., & Suggs, L. S. (2018). Does additional support provided through e-mail or SMS in a Web-based Social Marketing program improve children’s food consumption? A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrition Journal.
Rangelov, N., & Suggs, L. S. (2015). Using Strategic Social Marketing to Promote Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity Behaviors to Parents and Children in Switzerland: The Development of FAN. Cases in Public Health Communication & Marketing, 8, 27–50.
Suggs, L. S., Della Bella, S., & Marques-Vidal, P. (2016). Low adherence of Swiss children to national dietary guidelines. Preventive Medicine Reports, 3, 244–249.
Suggs, L. S., Rangelov, N., Rangel Garcia, M., & Aguirre Sanchez, L. (2013). FAN – Famiglia, Attività fisica, Nutrizione: Ticino Switzerland’s campaign for healthy weight. In G. Hastings & C. Domegan (Eds.), Social marketing, from tunes to symphonies. Routledge, UK.
Creating a Federation of Equals in the Social Marketing Community

By Patrick Cook, President, International Social Marketing Association (iSMA).

In May, 2017, the Board of the iSMA voted to explore moving our association toward a federation, or alliance, of professional associations representing social marketing professionals around the world. Currently, we have four “regional” associations—Australian Association of Social Marketers (AASM), European Social Marketing Association (ESMA), Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association (PNWSMA), and the Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA). Groups in both Africa and Latin America have also started discussions about forming a professional association of social marketers in their area.

As a result, the Executive Team of the iSMA Board—Kelley Dennings (Treasurer), Jennifer Wayman (Secretary) and myself—sought more detailed input from our four regional associations and developed a draft strategic business plan and budget to guide our efforts over the next three years. The full Board discussed the draft plan during our meeting in September (see our meeting minutes here), and agreed to refine and finalize the draft plan. Here are some of the highlights from this plan:

A Federation of Equals. In order to reduce “competition” among our associations, iSMA will restructure itself into a federation, an alliance of independent member associations that share a common approach—social marketing—to address the challenges and solve the “wicked problems” faced by communities, states, and nations around the world. The member associations will initially be defined by region (e.g., Africa, Asia, Pacific Rim, North America, Europe, etc.). At a later date, iSMA may choose to define a member association in other ways such as by practice area. By implementing a new federated structure for iSMA, we will be better able to foster, encourage, and support the growth of our profession.

Support and Coordinate. As the hub of our new alliance, iSMA will always seek to support and coordinate rather than initiate and compete with the products or services offered by the member associations. For example, if a member association is developing an online learning library, then iSMA will work with the member association to determine how the library can be made available to all member associations rather than start a competing service.

Priority Products and Services. As a hub, iSMA will provide value to the profession of social marketing by offering some priority products services to all members of the regional associations that participate in our federation. Some of these include:

  • Association mentorship program to support the establishment of new member associations.
  • Membership management system to support recruitment, registration, and retention of members for our member associations.
  • Professional development program to support professional growth and development of our members including in-person conferences, meetings, webinars, publications, and more.
  • Professional standards resource center to encourage the adoption and implementation of common standards, concepts, and ethical approaches to the practice of our profession.
  • Advocacy program to encourage national, bilateral, and multilateral funding agencies and foundations to make social marketing a fundamental part of their programs and initiatives.
  • Engagement platform to promote member associations and iSMA to new members and encourage existing members to participate in services and events offered by member associations and iSMA.

While there are many ideas and no lack of enthusiasm for what iSMA can offer to the community of social marketing associations and professionals, it will be important for our small, volunteer-run associations to establish which of these and many other products and services are a priority and which ones can wait for another day. Over the coming months, we will establish these priorities, with input from the member associations, and you, our membership. We hope to make have a final plan in place for our Annual General Meeting in early 2018.

In the meantime, if you have questions, have some great ideas, or want to offer up a cautionary tale, then please get in touch with me ([email protected]) or any member of the Board [link to Board bios and contact info on website].

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