Private Sector Engagement in Social Marketing – The Courageous Path Forward

Apr 26

One of the debates this week during the World Social Marketing Conference in Toronto, Canada that stood out the most to me was the conversation around the need for the private sector to play a role in social change and the challenge presented to scientists, advocates, and the business community to work together to successfully create that change.

The dialogue was introduced by OgilvyEngage’s interactive panel discussion on the private sector’s engagement in Social Marketing and why businesses should foster behavior change.  The panel helped sharpen perspectives on the issue and examined the multiple roles that the private sector can play as well as how to get the most out of private sector collaborations.

The panel featured key thought leaders in the social marketing field, including:

  • Nancy Lee, President of Social Marketing Services, Inc. and Adjunct Faculty at University of Washington;
  • Jay Bernhardt, President of Digital Health Impact, Inc. and Professor and chair of Health Education and Behavior at the University of Florida;
  • Celeste Bottorff, Vice President of Living Well at The Coca-Cola Company; and,
  • Tom Beall, Managing Director of the Global Social Marketing practice at Ogilvy Public Relations.

Overall, the discussion centered around how government and other traditional leaders of social marketing movements can benefit from private sector leadership and support on behavior-related initiatives. Kicking off the panel, Nancy Lee touched on the evolution of corporate social marketing and clarified how it differs from Corporate Social Responsibility and Cause Marketing, saying that corporate social marketing is perhaps the most important direction for Social Marketing.  Tom Beall chimed in to shed light on the communications aspects of behavior change programs.  Jay Bernhardt furthered the discussion by offering perspective on how important it is, when seeking help from the private sector, “to think of them as partnerships not sponsorships,” and further added that “starting small is key to building trust and momentum.”  And in support of Jay’s comment on partnerships verses sponsorships, Celeste Bottorff noted that money represents the least powerful of corporate resources and that for Coca-Cola it’s “their voice, distribution, and customer relationships that add the greatest value in public private partnerships.”

But the most valuable takeaway for me was a point made by Jay – “the solutions to our society’s most wicked problems will only be solved with involvement of all sectors.”  It is clear that there are many very strong, and sometimes opposing opinions on this issue, and as a practitioner I recognize that it can sometimes be uncomfortable to venture into this space. But as Social Marketing as a discipline is evolving,  it’s going to be increasingly important for all of us to accept the new way forward and acknowledge the mutual benefit that comes through the private sectors engagement in social change.  As Celeste noted, “both sides of public-private partnerships need courage,” but “it’s the right thing to do, and we should do it because we can do it.”

Our dedicated behavior change practice, OgilvyEngage partners with companies and organizations to help create customized communications programs that prompt and support shifts in attitudes and behaviors among target audiences and enhances return on investment for businesses. To learn more, check our paper From Cause to Change: The business of behavior, which discusses how businesses can harness the power of behavior change and show that what’s good for individuals and good for society can also be good for business.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 26th, 2013 at 4:16 pm and is filed under Behavior Change, Best Practices, Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.