Public health is all about making a positive difference in the community and beyond. In addition to building awareness and authority, a big goal of public health marketing should be to advocate for the people you want to help.
Whether this is a group of people with a specific disease or disability – or the general population as a whole – your organization’s purpose is to represent the public and advocate for their health.
That message needs to come across through your content. While most people will certainly want to support good causes and help people with medical needs, being an advocate takes things a step further – and your organization should guide them in taking that step.
Public health organizations (PHOs) must understand how to stand up for the communities they serve and gain support. The key is to position your organization as a platform for the people you want to help.
So, here are four main strategies to help your PHO create advocacy within the community.
1. Understand How to Emotionally Connect
People will support a cause they are passionate about – whether it is caused by a personal experience or out of empathy for other people.
When it comes to creating advocacy as an organization, sometimes you need to go a step further to create emotional connections with people.
According to a survey from Customer Thermometer, people feel most emotionally connected when they feel like a company truly cares about people – or they are making a positive difference in the world.
As a PHO, that is exactly what you are doing – but you need to make that abundantly clear through your public health marketing efforts.
One of the best ways to do so is by sharing real-life examples that show people exactly how your organization is making a difference. This includes sharing testimonials from people your organization has helped or showing how donation money is used to provide medical supplies or fund research.
For instance, Operation Smile funds surgeries for children born with cleft lips and palettes, primarily in countries where they have little to no access to healthcare. Much of their public health marketing includes sharing before and after images of children smiling and their background stories.
Operation Smile is also an advocate for providing better health care to children in impoverished countries. They work with government leaders and often host volunteer events so that people can get involved with this cause.
The key here is transparency. You need to establish trust and build those important emotional connections. Share real-life stories of how your organization is making a difference, and more importantly, share ways that people can get involved to help.
2. Build Strategic Alliances
A big aspect of public health marketing is partnering with other PHOs or health-related organizations to connect with the right groups and give them relevant information. Unlike businesses who view each other as competitors, PHOs have the unique position of being able to work together with other organizations to create stronger alliances and reach more people.
This is especially useful for community-wide events or fundraising. For instance, you could reach out to local community colleges, nursing homes, or companies to host an event where you can hand out resources from your PHO.
This can also be a great way for your organization to raise money through creative initiatives. For example, No-Shave November partnered with the Prevent Cancer Foundation, Fight Colorectal Cancer, and St. Jude’s to promote fundraising events for cancer research.
No-Shave November invited businesses, organizations, and individuals to promote awareness and conversations about their initiative by foregoing shaving during the month of November. This concept took off like wildfire (of course) – and it helped the organization to raise over $1 million.
They have even turned this into a “competition” of sorts by ranking organizations and teams that raise the most money.
This is a great example of how strategic partnerships with other organizations can help you get your PHO more involved with the community. Look for opportunities of partnership wherever possible to start building these connections.
3. Changing the Perception
Another way your organization can be an advocate in public health is by doing its part to change the perception of people with health issues.
There are sometimes negative stigmas attached to various diseases, disabilities, or situations. Your organization has the unique opportunity to change these perceptions.
For instance, the viral YouTube channel “Soft White Underbelly” shares heart-wrenching interviews from people who are often considered to be parts of ostracized groups – most prominently the homeless. These people tend to be marginalized and separated from society, leaving them with little access to healthcare.
The channel does not attempt to romanticize homelessness. Instead, it provides a raw, unfiltered look into the daily reality of these people. The goal is to help others see homelessness on an individualistic level.
When viewers listen to the stories of these people, it’s apparent that the interviewees are not all that different. Most are down on their luck, victims of childhood trauma, took a wrong turn, or were simply dealt a bad hand in life. The stories shared on this channel do a phenomenal job of humanizing the homelessness crisis – and getting viewers to help.
As a PHO, your ability to humanize the issue is the key to creating advocacy. This works to pull at people’s sense of empathy, and in turn, change the perception.
Using this type of content can help to promote advocacy within political institutes to address the problem. Through the content your organization shares, you can help to fight all kinds of health-related stigmas, raise awareness, and promote action to help people.
4. Reflect the People You Serve
Again, transparency is key in public health marketing if you are going to be a real advocate for your cause. You need to show people exactly how/why you are making a difference – don’t just rely on attractive stock pictures or professional shots to share your story.
Take PrEP Daily for example. This video does a great job in painting their mission from the viewpoint of the people they aim to serve.
Your marketing should reflect the diversity and interests of the population you help. Focus on inclusivity – it will not be relatable if people do not feel adequately represented.
And finally, make it abundantly clear how people can get involved. Additionally, show how others just like them are making a big difference through advocacy with your organization.
For instance, the American Diabetes Association shares resources to help people get involved any way they can. This includes major steps like hosting an event, volunteering, or simply calling their Congress representative to advocate for funding.
Your PHO likely relies on people getting involved by volunteering or donating. Therefore, you need to make sure that your public health marketing is highly relatable the target demographic(s).
Communicate in the way your recipients do, share their stories, and show people how they can help.
Creating advocacy for others is one of the greatest things a public health organization can do.
You have the opportunity to stand up for groups who do not have a voice of their own and bring awareness to important issues. But, you need to make sure that you go about it in the right way.
Make sure your marketing is focused primarily on the people you serve and the cause you support. Share stories to create emotional connections, partner with relevant organizations to reach more people, and keep your messaging highly relatable. These are the puzzle pieces to position your PHO in the right light and create advocacy in the community.
Jack Shepler is a Marketing and Search Engine Optimization expert. He founded Ayokay, award-winning marketing, and web design firm in Indianapolis, Indiana that has built brands, increased sales for businesses, and helped nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions since 2011. He uses his decades of experience to educate through the Ayokay blog and through public speaking. You can follow him on LinkedIn.