The power of collaboration in behavior change marketing

If you’re working on advertising and marketing for government, public sector or social change efforts, the cards can seem stacked against you. It starts with your objective—change behavior. When the behaviors are addictive, learned or life-changing, those objectives become very challenging to meet. And if you have a multi-faceted job description like many of our government clients do, you juggle policy, marketing, outreach, compliance, legal, legislation or all of the above. And that may be by noon on Monday. Add what can be limited budgets and funding, and you’ve got what can seem like an uphill battle.

Altogether, it makes advertising and marketing challenges like selling toothpaste preference look easy by comparison.

Behavior change work always requires us to be smarter and more efficient with time and money. But we believe its success hinges on the one thing that elevates any public-facing effort: collaboration.

Sure, the advertising and marketing fundamental practices are the same – having strong insights from your audience, establishing baseline numbers, consistently stewarding your brand, establishing messaging strategy, and pushing out creatively compelling campaigns.

But you have a bit of a secret weapon—a collaboration list. Harnessing people power can create a web of awareness, promotion, action and help across numerous touchpoints.

You know about the power of this List, and how critical it can be to helping your hard work pay off.

So prioritize and nurture your Collaboration List, add new public and private networks, research and academic groups, administrators, the medical community, legislators, legal counsel, coalitions, community groups, volunteer groups, media outlets, and key individuals at all of those entities. Add to and edit the List over time, and look for people on the List you should connect with.

We know that those who are closest to the cause are the allies who can help most. So involving the right people with knowledge and relevant experience from the start is critical to defining strategy, objectives and approaches. When developing a campaign to educate parents about the dangers of flavored tobacco products, KW2 reached out to other state health programs who worked on other tobacco-related campaigns. And we networked with the client across coalitions, the public and media. We’ve seen again and again how tracking, growing relationships and involving those in the collaboration matrix leads to better communications results.

It comes down to this insight: there’s a willingness in government and public communications to share knowledge and resources to help the greater good, and this should be taken advantage of at every turn. Tapping into that by collaborating with others across a wide spectrum to address the hardships, deploy communications and evaluate successes and learning from other campaigns saves time and money in the long run.

Collaborating is critical to success because it builds a network of messaging amplifiers. Paid media campaigns are rarely enough. It takes more money than you might think to reach everyone you hope to. Unless you have a limitless budget, buying media forces choices and prioritization of who you can reach. But collaborating gets the right people that know and care about the message you’re developing because they’re frequently a part of building it. They will be ready to share and do their part to get the word out via social media, local news and word-of-mouth. This takes place with internal staff reviews and sharing, checkpoints with the intended audience and your own circle of influencers. Consider them a powerful source of “free” media.

Day in and day out, we see professionals in public health and government working towards small steps to a common good. They work with countless groups and the people of Wisconsin every day. No campaign could begin or get to the right place without the voices of many collaborators. They define the need for it. They define the right message for it. And, they define the success of it. Did we increase the HIV testing rate? Did we reduce the youth smoking rate? Did we help families access the resources they need to grow stronger? Everyone on the List must collaborate together to instigate this type of change.

You’re up against a lot. And success can seem fleeting. But in behavior change and public health communications efforts, deep and continuous collaboration belongs in the front row. It’s the most powerful, big picture tool we have for sound strategy, budget efficiency and media amplification.