Friday, 29 October 2010

Do we want more Daylight in the Winter?

daylight-designA new article published in the British Medical Journal has made the case for not putting the clocks back this weekend, as being beneficial to the British Public's health.

Written by Dr Mayer Hillman, a public policy specialist, the piece suggests that the extra hours of daylight would offer more time for exercise during the Winter months. It would also have a positive effect on the Nation's general mood, as well as more serious psychological complaints, such as depression and anxiety.

Dr Hillman raises the point as a relatively easy way to dramatically improve the entire country's health and well being all at once, citing various studies to support his argument. The Doctor also claims that the majority of the populace would be in favour of the move, about four for every one against.

In the modern era of the Big Society, where all aspects of the country are jointly responsible for it's running, should this not then be strongly considered? It's certainly a radical move, but one that as Dr Hillman suggests, would actually have a surprisingly small financial and administrative cost to implement.  With the current financial restraints, a simple change like this could get a lot more 'bang for your buck' than a multitude of national  Social Marketing campaigns.

But before such a change could occur, the Public would need consulting. As mentioned above, we're all now supposedly jointly responsible, so need to be involved in the decision making process. Difficult times often call for left field ideas, but before they get serious enough to warrant mentions in Parliament or referendums, Public opinion needs gauging. In the past this would be an expensive and difficult task, but now we're in the age of Social Media, it's far cheaper and easier to engage the Public and get a solid impression of their thoughts.

If the Big Society is to involve the Public, Social Media does offer the tools to create national forums for discussion and opinion, the likes of which haven't been anywhere near possible before. All  it takes is for someone to realize that opportunity fully and for those in power to pay attention when they do.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Boss behind bars!

Chris Middleton, Managing Director of eskimosoup has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment at HMP Hull on 27th October 2010. Until such time that he can raise sufficient charitable donations to see him walk free.

Chris’s trial will take place at the old law courts in Hull’s Guildhall, where among other things he will be tried for “supporting charity” and other offences put forward by his colleagues will also be heard.

If you feel you can help to secure Chris’s release you can donate to his bail fund here.

All funds raised will not only gain Chris’s release but support the great work of the KCFM Smile Foundation who helps to give a found and stronger foundation to charitable organisations such as Downright Special and House of Light.

When is the Best Time to Deliver Social Marketing?

time-12To mark the launch of Alcohol Awareness Week 2010, a new initiative has been introduced by Northhamptonshire NHS. As part of their ongoing Like A Drink campaign, the PCT will be taking their drink awareness message to the bars and clubs of the county.

Young drinkers in the area are the targets and will be invited to take a variety of sobriety tests, such as breathalysers and walking straight lines whilst wearing beer goggles. Those who score poorly will have their hands stamped with the web address for the campaign, where they can find help and advice in controlling their drinking.

This is far from the first time that such a campaign has targeted the Public whilst actually in drinking establishments, where it's been commonplace for several years now to find drink awareness messages on beermats and wall posters. Charities, such as DrinkAware and Alcohol Concern, as well as the NHS, have employed such techniques, along with the more direct, face to face methods currently being used by NHS Norhamptonshire.

But is this the right time and place to deliver such messages? Within the buying cycle of the average drinker, the decision has already been made to make the purchase and the amount to be  imbibed will already be roughly predetermined. What's more, they're already out on their night of fun and being told to consider cutting it short or to be sensible whilst it's in full swing may gain a little resentment against the message itself and the organisation offering it.

To a certain extent, this is speculation and it would be interesting to see figures on the effectiveness of such campaigns, as well as the results garnered from NHS Northamptonshire's latest scheme as it progresses. However, the point does highlight an important consideration in Social Marketing, which mirrors that of it's commercial counterpart; what is the most effective time to deliver a message?

This point is often overlooked in both the Commercial and Public sector, with campaigns rolled out as soon as they're ready to go, but more thought is needed. To achieve maximum impact and penetration, the psychology of the recipient needs to inform the timing of the message. In email communications, for instance, Friday afternoons is considered an optimum time to give a sales pitch for retail. The target will be winding down work and looking forward to shopping on the Saturday.

With an alcohol awareness campaign, targeting the point  at which people are most likely to have a positive outlook on their drinking habits, i.e. whilst on a night out, may not be the best time. With the NHS Northamptonshire initiative, the hand stamp may well be the best move, as this could still be with there the morning after, when hangovers rear their ugly heads.

As this is the time many are more likely to, albeit often over-optimistically, proclaim "I'll never drink again!", it stands to reason that it would be one of those optimum times to deliver the message. For that message to stand a chance of effecting behavioural change it needs to 'bed in' strongly or better still, engage recipients enough for them to subscribe to an ongoing campaign. It doesn't take to great a leap of the imagination to realise that this is something which Social Media is almost ideally placed to deliver, all the more so as Sunday just happens to be a day when people are most likely to log in.

Festival starts with a bang!

Last Thursday saw Ross Noble kick off this year’s comedy festival with his fantastic show ‘Nonsensory Overload’ at Hull City Hall.

Ross Noble is perfectly skilled in creating a unique experience; bonding with the audience over the fact that large amounts of what you’ll hear in his company won’t be repeated elsewhere.

His performance consisted of his own take on the nonsense mythology of the Avatar movie, deliberately antagonising those who haven’t seen in while in the background his traditional inflatable set is extravagant as ever containing an explosion of primary colours and cartoons such as motorbikes, kangaroo’s and monkeys.

This is only the beginning of the festival; there are many more great acts yet to come including Milton Jones, Sarah Millican and Mark Watson.

The full line-up of shows is available at

Friday, 22 October 2010

Spending Review brings a Reality Check to the Big Society

government-spending-cutsThe spending review announced by Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday, demonstrated the harsh reality behind the relative optimism of the Coalition Government's Big Society agenda. Decentralising decision making and shifting the responsibility for providing services from the Public to Private and Third sectors has long been mooted as part of this agenda to reduce Government costs. The review revealed just how large this contribution would have to be.

Recent publications by the Government, , such as Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS, have set out how organisations should set out to take up this responsibility and these have thus far received generally positive responses, such as that from the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisiations (ACEVO) discussed in our previous article.  But now that the scale of the task is becoming apparent, along with just how far belts will need to be tightened, will the outlook for and attitude towards the Big Society remain so rosey?

The NHS Chief Executive, Sir David Nicholson KCB CBE still seems to be looking on the bright side in his letter sent to major NHS stakeholder following the review. As he mentions, the NHS is actually one of the few Public services that isn't having it's budget cut. It's actually set to rise by £10 billion over the next four years, but Sir David fails to mention that this only represents a 0.1% annual rise once inflation is taken into account, a fact widely reported by the press.  So, for all intents and purposes, that's a cut, and savings will need to be made.

But as mentioned before and reiterated in Sir David's letter, the rest of Society is there to take up the slack. All well and good if it's in a position to take up that responsibility, but as the Government and various stakeholders have said, huge changes and restructuring need to take place before that can be the case.  It may be a house of cards, where everyone involved needs to precisely place their card or risk it all falling apart.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Pinkalicious Taste at St Stephen’s

eskimosoup organised some pink break dancers, a human statue and a delicious pink bun sale to help raise over £600 at St Stephen’s to support a local breast cancer support charity.

eskimosoup on behalf of St Stephen’s held its second successive ‘Think Pink’ charity weekend last weekend. The event rose over £600 for Hull and East Riding (HER) Breast Friends, a local charity that offers support to individuals who are affected by breast cancer.

In addition to fundraising; the two day event gave shoppers information and advice about breast cancer. Shoppers were able to enjoy pink-themed cakes, crafts and gifts, many of which had been donated by retailers based in St Stephen’s including: Tesco, Starbucks, Heart Coffee and Reel Cinema. Entertainment included a rare pink-themed appearance from serial street performer Goldman, as well as show stopping moves from the Think Pink break dancers.

We spoke to Jim Harris, Centre Manager at St Stephen’s who told us “The Think Pink event is a colourful way to support a fine local charity. This is one way we want to support HER Breast Friends whom we know are determined to have fun, whilst fundraising for the research, treatment and welfare of Breast Cancer patients.”

Think Pink is an annual event that helps HER Breast Friends support local people who are suffering from breast cancer. For more information, please visit:

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Third Sector in the Big Society


A new report, The Organised Efforts of Society, has been published by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO). The document gives a comprehensive view on what the Third Sector believes it's role should be within the Coalition Government's Big Society agenda.

The two governing parties have referred to the Voluntary sector's role via new Social Enterprises being set up as part of their 'Right to Request' policy for NHS workers, but there's been little further expansion on just where it fits in. The report from the ACEVO looks to redress this, stating that in the past, Government has seen Public bodies as solely responsible for the population's health.  Now, in line with Big Society thinking , that responsibility should be shared between Public, Private and  the Third sectors, along with the population itself.

The paper demonstrates what a huge resource Voluntary organisations represent to this initiative.

"There are 900,000 voluntary sector organisations in the UK, with a combined annual turnover of £157 billion, a workforce of 1,600,000, combined assets of £244 billion, and the capacity to mobilise over a quarter of the population to volunteer formally at least once a month.”

Put in such a way, it's easy to see the potential, but for that potential to be realised, cross-sectoral collaboration in all aspects of Public Health, from research and evidence gathering, through to policy making and delivery, is vital. The paper lays out how this can be achieved, detailing the challenges that will need to be met by all parties and giving great examples of when voluntary organisations have had real success in relation to the core aims of the Big Society.

For larger voluntary organisations the changes needed to work in partnership with other sectors should be easily achievable, but others may need to step up their game in many respects.

In the realms of Social Marketing, this may be easier said than done. Like in Small Business, if budgets are tight, marketing may be a low priority, conducted by in house teams or worse still, not at all.  If those teams don't exist or don't possess the required expertise, what then?

The proposed 'Big Society Bank' may be able to help, but the purse strings won't be wide open for everyone.

The report suggests that accessing Public funds needs to be conducted in a more businesslike manner than is often the case, with detailed strategies aiming to obtain realistic outcomes, rather than simply assuming the right to a slice of the pie. Social Marketing is an extremely complex field and experts will be needed to provide those plans and inform the campaigns that follow. If a small Social Enterprise is lucky enough to have such expertise in their staff, then great, but what if not? Even accessing funding in the first place may be an impossibility.

It's somewhat of a chicken and egg scenario. Expertise is needed to access the money to employ the expertise.

So what to do?

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has spoken about a new 'Responsibility Deal' between Government and Business, built on social responsibility, not state regulation. Within this, Business should look to re-evaluate it's practices so as to take up it's share in the role of improving society, as well as offering funding and help to campaigns which do the same.

Taking a cue from this, perhaps one way the Marketing Sector can embrace it's own social responsibility is to offer help to those in the voluntary sector who need it. Not necessarily offering funding, but expertise instead. The odd hour here and there from resident strategists at an agency, given for free, could be a great help in shaping the strategies of smaller Social Enterprises, Charities, etc, allowing them to access funding and conduct truly effective campaigns.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Should Emergency Service Call Outs be Tweeted?

emergencyservicesIn the past couple of days a lot of media attention has been focused on the new Twitter initiative launched by Greater Manchester Police (GMP). For a period of 24 hours all calls outs received were displayed across four twitter profiles. The initiative's main aim was to raise awareness of the daily work load of Police Officers.

As well as genuine call outs, the profile also highlighted the amount of time wasting calls operators receive, including hoaxes and situations barely needing the attention of a Police Officer. One call, for instance, was a complaint of a man walking in a designated dog walking area, without a dog.

As the project drew to a close, GMP spokesmen were hailing it as a great success, having brought more visibility and possibly sympathy to the role the Police play. Depending on the man hours taken to administer the profiles, it may well be worth considering repeating the exercise on a regular basis, given the positives outcomes achieved.

Should this be the case, the negatives should be considered too. It's a possibility that offering a public platform may actually encourage hoaxers, maybe even competition amongst them, especially if there's a chance of national media coverage.

Either way, this must be of interest to the NHS, as well as the Fire Service. Though traditionally they do have a better public perception than the Police, many of the same positives would still apply in making their day to day more visible.

There may also be a deeper effect. The nature of Social Media  has started to redefine how business conducts itself and as Public Services start to utilize the format, they may find they have to do the same. Bringing honesty, openness and transparency to the Police, who have at times been heavily criticised for not exactly holding these virtues to heart, could start fundamental shift in their practices.

Maybe the NHS should let the Police guinea pig the initiative for a while before giving it a go themselves.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Can Social Media Actually Deliver Health Services?


An interesting article over at BBC News tells how researchers are looking into the possibility of using Social Networks to help tackle insomnia. Specifically, it suggests that the short, session based way in which users interact with Social Media is similar to the approach used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and could therefore be used in a similar way.

The research will focus on the games played on facebook and other networks, such as farmville and mafiawars. These are massively popular and researchers believe that examining the techniques that make them so could help them develop similar applications incorporating elements of CBT.

Initially, this will be aimed at treating insomnia, as CBT has been shown to be particularly effective against this disorder. If successful, it could extend to other psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety.

In effect, this means that Social Media may not only be able to spread a message, but also actually deliver treatment. After the initial development of the application, the cost would be virtually nil and the number of patients treated could be limitless. With budgets becoming ever tighter and patients often having difficulty accessing therapy, these two points alone make research into this area worth strong investment.

But they aren't the only benefits. The communicative nature of Social Networks means that those going through the treatment will easily be able to seek support and advice from fellow sufferers. This, along with the almost addictive nature of such games, would make it far more likely that people would stick at it. With Social Media being such a viral medium, the games could also reach those who haven't yet considered therapy, but could still benefit.

If these games were a success, could they be of use in other areas? The various Social Marketing agendas the the NHS currently pursue, such as promoting healthy living or stopping smoking, all involve behavioural change. It's therefore not too great a jump to consider using this technology to support that. All the benefits above would still apply, a competitive element may also help and it would increase the 'fun' element, that is so important in Social Media, yet often sorely lacking in Social Marketing campaigns on those platforms.

All in all, it's quite obviously worth an investment from the NHS in working with Communications and Marketing Companies to examine the potential of games within Social Media.

Peter’s Story DVD Launch

eskimosoup have supported health officials in Hull to launch a short film to help men in the city understand depression and its effect on their lives.

The DVD, entitled Peter’s Story has been created by NHS Hull, and has been three years in the making. Today is the launch for the film which is being held at Victory Leisure Homes in Stoneferry Road, Hull, so that it can be seen by a group of men from Hull in their natural work setting.

The aim of this film is to encourage men aged 25-50 to think and talk about issues relating to their mental health and wellbeing. The story specifically looks at depression and suicidal feelings, and is one of a number of suicide prevention initiatives in Hull which has been developed in response to the findings of NHS Hull’s annual suicide audit.

eskimosoup tendered for, and were awarded the contract to manage the marketing of the resource to the target group of men in Hull for 12 months.

Today’s launch was attended by health professionals, employers, charities and academics working in the field of mental health. It has gathered a very strong level of interest from the local and regional media online, press, radio and TV.

For more information about the film, visit or call Richard Quelch, Marketing and Events Manager on 01482 223866

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Can Business help the NHS in Social Marketing?

The marketing industry has a new agenda of helping Social Change on the horizon, according to an  article over at Marketing Week. This will no doubt extend into the realms of health, so what effect might it have on the NHS?

The advent of web 2.0 has given consumers an unprecedented level of power and a strong voice within the market place, as well as making business practice more accessible and visible than ever. If a business does something wrong, a disgruntled customer now has the potential to tell thousands, if not millions of people via the internet. This has brought about an era of openness, honesty and transparency, where these have become much more than just buzz words, but the defining features of a revolution in how business presents itself.

Coca-Cola have just launched the Live Positively campaign, which Guillermo Aponte, president and general manager of Coca-Cola Philippines, says, "... is our commitment to making a positive difference in the world by incorporating sustainability into everything that we do,”

But Coke does have to do this, if only to combat the large amount of websites, blogs and profiles that try to paint a different picture, such as Killer Coke.

Either way, big business is trying to play nice. Really nice. And they're turning to marketing agencies, of all people, to help them.

I say "of all people", but really it makes sense. It's marketeers who're in the business of segmenting and understanding demographics and selling ideas. Or put another way, helping a Private or Public entity communicate with the Public.

So now that communication from business  may have a similar message as that given by the Public sector. With budgets being cut, having the Private sector contribute in Social Marketing could be extremely helpful to the NHS, but how can they ensure that the messages are complimentary? Perhaps the answer is to work together.

Again, Coca Cola provides an example, having a history of partnerships with Public bodies throughout the world. However,  there is a risk that having a brand attached to a campaign can dilute the message.

"In October 2009, in an effort to improve their image, Coca-Cola partnered with the American Academy of Family Physicians, providing a $500,000 grant to help promote healthy-lifestyle education; the partnership spawned sharp criticism of both Coca-Cola and the AAFP by physicians and nutritionists"


But the benefits that business can bring may be worth the risk. A business may have a wider reach and a larger budget than the NHS, so could really help spread their message further. Another benefit could be  that if the marketing sector finds more and more of it's private sector work involves Social Marketing, that will better place them to provide the same services to the NHS. Methodology and tools may already have been developed and research done.

Partnerships could lead on to health services, Social Marketing campaigns or Social Enterprises being sponsored by business. If MacDonalds sponsored heart disease wards, would this be seen as hypocrisy or a company genuinely trying to change? And would that be a move towards the privatisation of the NHS, that some suspect to be a long standing aim of the Conservative party?

And there's the larger question. Few would question that business, like everyone else, should have a Social Conscience, but do they have the right to influence how people live? Traditionally, their aim would be to influence people into buying a product or service. Many would question the techniques in this as being too manipulative and would likely be even more concerned should that extend to behavioural change too. The bottom line would still be the same, being 'buy more'. Some question even the NHS's right to change behaviour, but with business, there's that added cynicism about motivation, that it all boils down to making money.

Or to put that more succinctly, can we trust trust business, especially big business, with Social Marketing?

Monday, 4 October 2010

NHS Organ Donation Social Media Campaign

Genuine good causes can work extremely well on Social Media. If the aim of a campaign is to raise awareness, then a viral platform can obviously be very useful in bringing those desired numbers. Funny or entertaining content is generally what spreads best, but a good cause is also very likely to be shared.

The first organ donation campaign to run across the UK was launched in Autumn 2009. This campaign aimed to promote public awareness about organ donation and increase significantly the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register, so that many more lives could be saved and transformed.

Twitter and facebook profiles have been launched to help support the campaign, which you can visit at the links below;

The facebook page at the time of publication has almost 300, 000 subscribers. This is great number, but actually represents an even larger reach. A general rule states that about ten percent of a Social Media profile's fanbase will regularly interact with it. So, the page can expect about 30, 000 of it's fans to be interacting and to keep doing so. Comments and 'likes' will be displayed on the fans personal profiles, for any visitors there to see. Most importantly though, when they initially 'like' the page or if they share a post from it, then it will appear in their friends news feeds. On average, a facebook user will have between 100 and 200 friends, therefore those interactions could have reached over 3 million people. Now, newsfeeds can move quickly, so that's not to say that each of those people would always see those messages, but the potential is there.

And it's not a marketing department or a corporate brand passing that message to them, it's their friends, so more likely to be trusted and acted on. Many of the unique comments (i.e. not a reaction to a post by the page, but stand alone comments by fans) are personal stories from people with real life experience of organ donation. Again, this is content that is very likely to be 'liked', especially by the poster's friends, and therefore, shared. They're genuinely touching and inspiring and within five minutes I was moved to register as a donor myself.

To register, a user does have to leave the page and visit the website. This is missing a trick really, as when people choose to be on facebook, they'd often rather not leave. The several clicks to get to the donor registration page may discourage people from going through with it, rather than if the form was available on the facebook page, where they could do it straight away. I've left a comment on the page suggesting this and they've responded, so hopefully it will be available soon. I think it would really help.

The twitter profile currently has just over 1,000 followers, which is a reasonable number, but well under that of the facebook page.  Chances are that a good few of those 300, 000 on the page also have twitter profiles, so it's worth trying to recruit them through facebook. On the surface, this may look like a waste of time, as these people are already being reached, but they may have different connections on twitter than they do on facebook. To maximise reach, both profiles should regularly feed into each other.

The content on twitter is great, being varied and interesting. It includes calls to action , with links to register, etc, 'retweets' of peoples donation stories, as well as the  more official, corporate messages. This pretty much matches what we'd suggest for any Social Media profile, whether Public or Private sector. A social element, to involve the audience, interspersed with information about the organisation, and remembering to include directives, so there is a real world outcome from the profile. Everyone in Social Media should look to follow this basic credo and it shows that the good people behind the Organ Donation campaign are very much on the right track.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Shoppers Pick up Pairs

Organisers and retailers claim that last weekend’s Pure Jeanius event, run by eskimosoup at St Stephen’s was a success.

Pure Jeanius was run by eskimosoup on behalf of St Stephen’s in partnership with River Island, Next, H&M, Topshop, Peacocks, Topman, Select, New Look, Oasis, Zara, Dorothy Perkins, Jane Norman, Cult, Tesco and USC.

A ‘Denim Zone’ was constructed in the High Street carrying stock of over 300 pairs of jeans in various styles, cuts, colours and sizes, in order to give shoppers the opportunity to receive free advice from a team of stylists.

The stylists, headed by image consultant Tina Gill, gave consultations to over 100 people across the two days with many going on to make direct purchases in the high street stores.

The store manager of Dorothy Perkins said: “It was really successful and we did see a noticeable increase in sales on denim. The ladies in the stylist team were really helpful and we feel it’s definitely worth doing again, especially when highlighting something like denim that everyone can wear.”

The event attracted a lot of interest from the media and shoppers, with visitors coming from Barton and Bridlington to receive their consultation after finding out about the event through the media.

Other features that enhanced the experience within St Stephen’s were a bespoke ‘Pure Jeanius’ display made from pairs of jeans (Rich from eskimosoup’s masterpiece), a human mannequin (thanks Andy Train), and a playlist of jeans-related music’ suggested by listeners of BBC Radio Humberside (thanks Lara King and team!).

St Stephen’s plan to use similar approach for other fashion lines throughout 2011.

Magazine Aimed at Larger Ladies Doesn't Help the NHS Fight Obesity.

A magazine aimed at larger ladies called Just As Beautiful has been launched, causing controversy in the Press. The publication looks to celebrate curvy women and help them believe they're fine the way they are.

The Daily Mail reacted with an article suggesting that being overweight isn't something to be encouraged, when it can lead to premature death and illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Yahoo! Lifestyle took another tack, commenting that when other women's magazines are making efforts to include all shapes and sizes, singling out larger women with their own glossy is in fact a step backwards, seeming "... to continue the division and segregation of women based on their specific shapes. "

Whichever view you take, one thing is for certain; Just As Beautiful doesn't exactly compliment the NHS agenda of tackling obesity. Those running the various Social Marketing campaigns concerned with weight loss must have spat feathers when they heard the news.  One would imagine that the readership, if loyal, would quickly become virtually immune to any efforts to change their lifestyle.

But what can the NHS do when confronted with a problem like this? Free speech and freedom of the press are defining features of our Society and those who question that, do so at their peril. They could issue statements condeming the magazine, but they can't stop it being published or indeed, being bought.

Just As Beautiful will no doubt be well publicised and advertised, so the best the NHS can do is ensure that their conflicting messages receive the same level of professional promotion or if possible, an even greater amount.

This is possibly the only solution when the NHS finds it's Social Marketing conflicts with an aspect of Society. One could argue that they're fighting a similar battle with fast food retailers. Again, what else can they do, but try to shout louder, with messages that bring about long lasting changes within the fabric of the country.

Social Marketing does aim at that enduring behavioural change, rather than just saying 'eat healthy, it's good for you', but that, of course, takes time.  As this process progresses, it's inevitable that others may not agree with that change in the first place. Dealing with this is yet another thing for the NHS to consider in their Social Marketing efforts.