The recent disaster in Haiti has caused me to think about what role, if any, social marketing has in responding to a disaster—especially in one where the disaster is still “active,” if you will, as in the current dynamic situation in Haiti.
At first glance, it seems all the social marketing should already have been done, in planning programs and systems for disaster response. Or it will become useful when “rebuilding” starts. And there are certainly many opportunities at that point: for creating societal structures that encourage “civil society;” for beginning new “human service” programs; for addressing the degradation of the natural environment; for the many ways that Kotler and Lee address in their book, Up and Out of Poverty.
But what about in the midst of an active crisis response, like now? I don’t know. However, if a person possesses a social marketing mindset, or an organization has a culture of social marketing, I think there are some possibilities.
Using an audience orientation (i.e. social triage): Medical responders use triage to segment people for treatment. Can an aid worker use this audience mindset to assess and segment members of the population most able to be “helpers” in a given situation? Can she find out who the “natural leaders” are, and engage them? Can she offer immediate aid in such a way that takes into account audience characteristics—or is the displacement too great?
Place: Can a worker identify places that are important, sacred, or that have special meaning for people in a neighborhood, in which to offer aid (acknowledging safety factors of specific places)? What can he do to make a space more welcoming, more comforting? Can he go where people are naturally gathering, rather than have them travel to an aid site?
Price: Is the exchange balance so uneven that any offering is acceptable? Or are there things a worker can do to lower barriers and increase facilitators RIGHT IN THE MOMENT? Does the social marketing formula “fun, easy and popular” even have a meaning in desperate situations?
Does the immediate need and grave danger of a situation like
Are these just the pedantic musings of a professional who is safe in the US? No. I have been in Haiti on a church medical mission. I have not worked in disaster relief. Yet, I find that a social marketing mindset fits so much of my thinking, that it provides so many of my frames for understanding the world, that I think I would be processing my immediate actions in terms of it. I love being a social marketer. I want to know, can this approach that can facilitate so much good be used in the midst of a disaster?
What do you think? Does social marketing have any place on the ground in