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Behavioral Change Campaigns in Public Health

6.18.19 | Colleen Madden

Advertising and media campaigns can convince you to buy a product, follow a brand on social media, or engender a favorable opinion of a company or organization. For public health marketers, advertising and paid media campaigns serve a higher purpose: they work as a catalyst for behavior change that can influence the health of a population, change social norms around lifestyle choices, and prevent entire generations from adopting unhealthy habits.

 Paid media is an integral part of any behavioral change strategy. Effective paid media strategies engage with the target audience in a way that educates, motivates, shifts perceptions, changes intentions, and eventually transforms behavior.

 At Inline Media, we have been honored to work on behavioral change campaigns that have produced positive health outcomes for a number of different clients. For over two decades, we have collaborated with state agencies and nonprofit partners to incite social change on the issues of tobacco, obesity, and diabetes. In that time, we have learned that positive outcomes result from disseminating the right message to the right person in the right place at the right time.

 ·         Right Message: the path to behavior change is a process. Anyone who has tried to change his or her own behavior can relate that this is no small ask. When we ask someone to throw old habits out the window and make positive changes to their life, we need to understand their motivations. Why do they make the choices they do? How we can persuade them to change course? It is a progression, from awareness of social norms, to shifting perceptions and intentions, to eventually changing behavior. The messaging that is delivered must coincide with the points in this journey: from shocking to factual and informative to aspirational. And to incite behavioral change, the call to action must be clear and actionable.

 ·         Right Person: defining your audience is everything. It is a pretty simple question: who are we trying to reach? By tapping into our research on media consumption, lifestyle and psychographics, we identify key demographic and behavioral characteristics of priority populations to efficiently reach our audience.

 ·         Right Place and Time: media must be served in relevant context at opportune times. We stay on top of changes in the industry to capitalize on innovative targeting opportunities that help move the target audience along the path to behavior change. We negotiate meaningful media buys and added value to engage audiences and extend campaigns.

 Finally, behavior change marketing isn’t measured through a sale or social follower. In order to truly gauge the effect of media campaigns on changing attitudes and behaviors, a robust evaluation must be formulated at the ground level. Successful evaluations are ongoing collaborative efforts that measure longitudinal outcomes. Whether we are trying to motivate someone to choose water over soda, exercise for 150 minutes a week, or prevent a teen from vaping, we relentlessly measure behaviors to gauge the success of marketing efforts.

Kevin Stoll