Monday, 31 January 2011

The NCSM Showcase: Sharing ideas and strategy for more effective Social Marketing

An interesting article by Richard Madden over at MarketingWeek has drawn comparisons between marketers in the Voluntary sector and those working for commercial companies. The article makes the argument for it being the commercial marketers who can actually learn a thing or two from their Third sector counterparts, rather than the usual opinion of it being the other way round.

Four points are proffered in support of the argument. The first highlights Charity's need for more demonstrable effectiveness in their campaigns, due to the transparency of their financial reporting and the power of trustees. The second is a propensity for long-termism, the third a greater willingness to share thinking and strategy and the fourth, their quick uptake of behavioural economics, such as idea of the 'nudge', which the Coalition Government has famously taken to heart of late.

Where would the Public Sector, and more specifically, the NHS, fit into this scale?

I think it's fair to say that they tend more towards the Third sector way and in fact, those same positives could pretty much be said about the NHS to a certain extent. Whether Voluntary organisations do actually have the edge or not, the stronger partnership between the two that the Big Society hopes for, can only help in strengthening these points within the respective sectors.

The third point especially resonates with me, in light of our article last week calling for collaboration and sharing between NHS organisations in developing their Social Marketing campaigns. In that piece, I outlined a web based resource where case studies could be shared and discussed, cutting down on unnecessary research and development conducted by separate bodies in creating essentially the same campaigns.

I did wonder if anything was already out there along similar lines. No sooner had I published the article, than our own Marketing Director, John Gilbert, told me that indeed there was. Worse still, we'd actually featured it right here on the Rewarding Marketing Blog, though admittedly that was before my time back in 2009. And the final embarrassment for me, they've even featured a quote from us in their site. Whoops, sorry John!

Showcase, run by the National Center for Social Marketing (NCSM), brings together case studies from not just the UK, but also international sources. The information presented for each study is really exhaustive and in depth, covering key points of interest, such as budget, context, benchmark criteria, and evaluation. Entries can be searched by region or themes, such as smoking cessation or obesity, so visitors can quickly find those which are relevant to the campaigns they're considering conducting themselves.

Also included are contact details for the project leads. This goes some way towards allowing discussion and collaboration, but what I envisaged in my article would go further. Having either a public or private forum around each study would allow an interested party to ask questions and talk through the project, with that dialogue being saved for others to see and contribute to in the future. This would allow visitors to get answers to their questions without bothering the project lead, if they've already been asked. It would also offer the opportunity to communicate with peers who face similar challenges and are looking at related campaigns.

Whether this would be incorporated into Showcase or conducted via a third party, such as facebook, it could be extremely useful to those looking to maximise the effectiveness of their Social Marketing.

One last thing to mention about Showcase is the relatively small number of case studies included. Taking a look at a category which is currently high on the national agenda, such as 'obesity', there are only two case studies currently displayed. It's a guess, but I'm presuming this represents a tiny fraction of the obesity campaigns conducted throughout the country. I'm told that Showcase is well known among health professionals and obviously, they can't force people to submit case studies, but if there was some way to increase the number of submissions, it would make the resource all the more useful.

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