Friday, 28 November 2008

Ambitions for Health: A Response - 5 Key Observations from T Media

As you may be aware, on Friday 11th July, Ambitions for Health; a new framework for action on social marketing and public health, was published. The document sets out how the Department of Health will use evidence of what motivates people to help them lead healthier lives through targeted action.

Social Marketing: putting people at the heart of policy, communications and delivery to encourage behaviour change

The framework document can be found in full at

In response to this, T Media has prepared a brief paper outlining 5 key observations of the paper in relation to our experiences in this area.

This summary may prove valuable to those in marketing, communications and strategic roles, to whom this framework will become increasingly relevant.

Executive Summary

The framework sets out the belief that people are ambitious for their own health and for the health of their family. The framework is said to share that ambition, ensuring that NHS professionals use evidence and understanding about people, to design and deliver effective interventions.

The new framework for social marketing is based on four key areas:

  • Health Capacity: Increasing the skills and knowledge of public health professionals.

  • Health Insight: What motivates people to change their behaviour, using a ‘life stage segmentation model' and ‘one stop research shop'.

  • Health Innovations: Learning from success and putting social marketing into action locally, nationally, and regionally.

  • Health Partnerships: Funding support for building relationships, locally and regionally.

A timeline for implementation has been published as part of the framework.

T Media's Observations

1) Social Marketing is here for the long-term

We don't wish to overemphasise this point, however this framework adds additional weight to the belief that social marketing is more than a fad. It is clear that there is a long-term view within the NHS, in academia, and professional institutions as social marketing qualifications are proliferated at undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

"This framework illustrates our long-term commitment to a new way of working and to adopting a systematic approach to the promotion of public health." Dawn Primarolo, Minister of State for Public Health

2) Interactive technologies have an edge over traditional marketing methods

Research suggests that 86% of people think that the Government should intervene to prevent illness by providing information and advice, but 89% of people think individuals are responsible for their own health. This suggests a need to implement new ways of empowering people to make their own choices.

The framework acknowledges that the UK shows declining levels of trust in the media, and that advertising is the least trusted information source. Additionally, it draws attention to studies evidencing that trust in the Government had dropped by nearly half, from 33 per cent in 2006 to just 16 per cent in 2007.

Drawing upon our own experiences, using new technology to give people a voice of their own is a more effective means of creating motivations for positive health change. Specifically, online and interactive tools are an effective way to present information and create this desire. The key element is that the learning choices are with the user, i.e. they seek to find rather than have information and instruction forced upon them.

3) There is no starting from scratch; insight and knowledge is available to those that seek it

Health Insight is one of the four key areas described within the framework, and is the foundation upon which all implementation is based. It is clear that that policies, campaigns and communications should be based on or shaped by this insight.

Within the UK there is a wealth of prior evidence and intelligence about what has worked elsewhere, together with data about what motivates people, what they say will help them and any perceived barriers.

Future health promotion programmes will be built on shared insight into audiences, clearly defined through segmentation analysis, to bring about specific behaviour.

4) The future is in forging cross-sector partnerships

The framework describes a new social movement for health. Recognising that the Department of Health cannot change people's behaviour without the support of individuals themselves, or active help from the commercial and third sectors. However the Government can encourage, enable and create the conditions to build a social movement for health through sustainable and effective cross-sector partnerships. Early actions include establishing a £1 million per annum partnerships capacity-building fund, to provide local and regional support for building partnerships.

Social Marketing messages and actions must be aligned with those led by communities, third sector organisations and business.

5) Private sector specialists are well positioned to add value to PCTs and NHS trusts

The National Social Marketing Centre has created a highly valuable knowledge base and shared intelligence that marketers can draw upon. The access to this knowledge creates opportunities for proactive individuals and organisations to become social marketing specialists, not only by drawing upon their own experiences, but also by applying the insights and outcomes from previous social marketing projects and programmes, that have been so thoroughly documented and evaluated.

Those in marketing, communications and strategic roles within PCTs and NHS trusts may benefit from the assistance of private sector specialists, who can apply these insights, along with commercial marketing principals and technical know-how, to deliver effective social marketing campaigns.


The Ambitions for Health framework and new action plan provides a clear steer on the next steps for social marketing, in order to build on the increasing appetite for its wider adoption throughout public health delivery systems.

Companies such as T Media and our peers can add value to PCTS and NHS trusts by applying social marketing insights and marketing expertise from scope through to development, implementation, evaluation and follow-up of social marketing projects and programmes.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss the emerging social marketing objectives of your organisation.

Social Marketing for Health and Specialised Health Promotion: Stronger Together – Weaker Apart

A Response: The View of a Commercial Marketer

Download Pdf. Version of this Article

The National Social Marketing Centre has just made available a new discussion paper, Stronger together - Weaker apart, which aims to identify the common ground - and the differences - between specialised health promotion and social marketing for health, in England. It suggests an approach to integration between the two spheres which would improve practice, make more effective use of resources and improve the impact of interventions to improve health and reduce inequalities.

The paper formed the background to a discussion and debate session at September's World Social Marketing Conference.

Here, T Media posts a brief response paper to lend the views of a commercial marketer:

I read the document with great enthusiasm (I know how that makes me sound!), and went as far shutting myself away in a quiet bright room so that I could concentrate.

The paper aimed to "identify the common ground - and the differences - between specialised health promotion and social marketing for health". As a private sector marketer working with both Social Marketers and Health Promotion teams, I was fascinated to see how the NSMC and the Royal Society for Public Health viewed the level of interaction.

At the risk of calling my cognitive capacity into question, I have to say that I found it hard work.

To say that specialised health promotion can be significantly enhanced by social marketing, and conversely that Social marketing for health can be significantly enhanced by specialised health promotion is valid, easy to accept and therefore easy to move on without the need for further debate.

Principles such as the value of Social Marketing's emphasis on really understanding people's lives and Health Promotion's ethos empowering people and working in partnership with them, results in more positive health outcomes. To me, this constitutes good marketing practice.

The reality is that Social Marketing and Health Promotion are, and certainly should be intertwined, as they are based on a fundamental marketing process:

  1. Understand your reason for being and find your customers

  2. Understand your customer, their needs and all of the key influencing forces

  3. Develop solutions, products, services and conditions that ultimately benefits these customers

  4. Develop communication strategies and conditions which fulfill these customer benefits

  5. Ensure that the customer gains real benefit, is glad that they made the choices they did and would pass this on to others

The linear marketing process above is one I have written spontaneously rather than taking a model from one of the thousands of marketing books out there. Also, I'm fairly confident that the process above could be applied to specialised health promotion, social marketing and even commercial marketing.

As I reflect on this I notice that I have used the word "customer" at every stage, However, looking through the discussion paper the term is thin on the ground, with one notable exception:

"The word ‘marketing' and describing people in the health context as ‘customers' or ‘consumers' is a problem for some people working in the public sector because it has connotations of commercialisation."

In our organisation we use the term clients as opposed to customers. This is a term widely accepted amongst those delivering professional services and its origins are in trying to make the customer feel special. As it happens, I work within the "Client Care" division. We are the largest division in terms of people employed and were it not for the nature of our work, I'm pretty sure we'd be called "Customer Care".

Our role covers all marketing functions described in the linear process above and the customer, or client, is central to everything we think and do. We must create customer benefit (equivalent to better health); customer value (the trade-offs must fall on side of the customer); we have to develop suitable products and services, often utilising the latest technology to make things faster, better, easier, more effective, and less costly, whilst whilst maintaining a personal service (equivalent to improvements in the way health services are delivered): we must do what we have promised for our clients, on time and to budget (whatever your sector you are measured and everything has to add up!); and we do all this whilst trying to make a profit (equivalent to making sure that at the end of the month our accounts are in the black).

Amongst organisations developed to customer care, and indeed customer value, profit is not a dirty word. In a world of enormous customer choice, as a growing company we firmly believe that profit is invariably the bi-product of good service, good products and good marketing practice!

The very same good marketing practice that you get by combing the best bits of Social Marketing for Health and Specialised Health Promotion.

We want to fully understand and deliver value for our customers within the NHS by adding value to the work of Health Promotion Teams, Social Marketers, Communications Teams, Health Improvement Practitioners and all engaged in achieving better health.

We want to do this diligently, creatively, faster, better, easier, more effectively and less costly whilst maintaining a personal service, do what we have promised for our clients, on time and to budget and we try to do this whilst making sure that we have the profit to pay our skilled and passionate employees and directors what they are worth.

If the bi-product of providing great service means that social benefits are achieved throughout the UK then we can end each day knowing that we have not only cared for our customers, but that that we have contributed to social good. I feel that this is a good and honest way to make living with very strong motivation, albeit in a commercial way.

There are common grounds between specialised health promotion, social marketing for health and commercial marketing. The objectives will be different, though the delivery is always grounded in good marketing practice.