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Social Marketing In The Healthcare Sector
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A few years ago, the health sector came to the important realisation that whilst the NHS was still crucial in delivering primary UK healthcare services, it also had a role to play in encouraging society as a whole, to adopt healthier, more responsible lifestyle choices.
It’s perhaps no major revelation that the NHS, as part of its wider health marketing strategies, has been working with councils, public health bodies and other health advisory organisations, to deliver meaningful, and sometimes forthright behaviour change programmes, within communities perceived to be at risk, or in need. And there are many!
So just how does someone like the NHS, or another prominent healthcare provider that has the difficult job of looking after our diverse healthcare needs, go about influencing how people live their lives, turn away from their bad habits and generally get their core message through - encouraging society as a whole to make better, more informed decisions about their health?
There is a growing dossier of evidence quantifying how social marketing can (and is) delivering major social change on all of these fronts.
Society as a whole faces a range of deep-rooted and very complex health issues. Generally speaking the population is living longer which, in itself, means that people are suffering from a range of age-related conditions that are difficult and, very often, impossible to treat and/or cure – certainly in the short-term. This is putting a huge strain on our healthcare services to point where it’s finding it difficult to cope.
More and more people of different ages are clinically obese, suffer from diabetes and related issues as a consequence of adopting poor eating and exercise habits; many smoke and drink too much and generally abuse their bodies by taking drugs and generally pushing their bodies to the limit! But that’s just the tip of the iceberg and the healthcare sector is now bursting at the seams, and struggling to respond to the pressures and demands of modern day living, most of which are self-inflicted.
Now more than ever, there is a growing need to tackle these health issues at grass roots level, before society’s health issues spiral out of control and become unmanageable.
There are a number of NHS Marketing experts out there, along with healthcare advertising agencies and social marketing agencies that specialise in marketing health services. These are the people that have the knowledge, expertise and social marketing insight, to deliver high impact social marketing campaigns that can positively influence people’s behaviour, lifestyle choices and general health decisions.
There are a few UK social marketing agencies with healthcare experience, that have the necessary skills and specialist knowledge of customer segmentation and insight techniques, to deliver life-changing campaigns that are well targeted, thoughtful and clearly engage with their target audience.
These agencies fully understand the importance of creating and maintaining strong bonds with different target groups, before delivering a meaningful campaign. It’s only when trust starts to build (between healthcare provider and recipient) that a social marketing campaign can start to have positive repercussions. That’s why healthcare providers should not expect an immediate return. It is certainly not a one-off communication, but something that has to be worked at over time, if it is to deliver measurable benefits and have the desired impact.
So what exactly is social marketing and why are so many healthcare professionals rating it as their preferred choice?
A successful social marketing campaign includes many different, but related elements that co-exist. From intelligent use of social media, to creative content, mobile technology, online messages, video, training sessions, research and digital media generally, it all has a part to play in changing (or at least influencing) the choices that people make about their health and wellbeing.
Can social marketing change the face of healthcare as we know it? Well the challenges it faces at the moment are very great so that’s a big question.
What it can do it instigate positive changes in people’s behaviour, starting with their health and lifestyle choices, so that the pressures it puts on the NHS and other healthcare providers on a longer term basis, are less onerous.
So maybe the question is a slightly different one – is social marketing here to stay? That question requires little debate. Just ask one of the many healthcare providers that have started to work with a social marketing agency and they will answer it for you!
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