The post introduces a new occasional feature to the blog: "Way Cool Resources." I plan to use these posts to highlight resources for doing social marketing that I have found to be especially helpful, creative and/or strongly evidenced based--in a word: "Way Cool!" (Okay, two words.)
Last fall, CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) introduced a new on-line training resource: their Social Marketing for Nutrition and Physical Activity Course. The course is free of charge, and takes the learner through the phases of the social marketing process. The interface is user-friendly, and beautifully designed. The site utilizes interactive scenarios with a fictional program planner named Rosa to help the user cement newly learned information. People taking the course can receive continuing education credits. According to Jenny Kohr, the lead developer of the course, 300 people have registered for continuing education credits, and 100 completed the course.
I asked Jenny to tell me more about why and how DNPA created the course. Here is her response:
"One of the things I’ve noticed about public health is that it’s easy to react to the crisis of the moment instead of determining the best and most effective long-term course of action. This is one of the reasons I became so intrigued with social marketing—if done well, it forces you to make plans and thoroughly understand the people you want to impact.
"In my time with CDC, several colleagues and I have provided guidance on the process of social marketing to professionals working in states and communities. Three observations led to the creation of the Social Marketing for Nutrition and Physical Activity course:
1. Need for assistance with planning: Social marketing guidance usually morphed into guidance or help with planning skills (e.g., how to work with groups, how to get participation from partners, how to make decisions). These weren't social marketing topics, but groups needed help with planning methods before they could begin to think about social marketing.
2. Common challenges: There were some predictable challenges during the social marketing planning process. People tended to have similar problems and common questions.
3. Inadequacy of current resources: While accurate and valuable, current tools weren't necessarily practical or concrete enough for practitioners. The tools did a great job of explaining the concepts of social marketing, but they fell short when people tried to implement them in the field.
"So we developed the Social Marketing for Nutrition and Physical Activity course. Along with instruction on the process of social marketing, the course provides ideas and tips for basic planning. It takes into account all of the common issues and challenges we heard over and over, and it’s designed to be as practical and concrete as possible.
"One feature that makes this course unique is our interactive scenario. If you take the course, you’ll meet Rosa in the first few pages. You get to follow her as she plans a social marketing program. She has to deal with challenges, such as a boss who isn’t inclined to think like a marketer and a planning committee member who is anxious for action. There are opportunities to offer your advice to Rosa, and we give you feedback on your choices.
"I hope this course can be something you use either to refresh your own skills or to recommend to people you interact with: a colleague, a partner, students, or someone else. I also hope this course becomes a way to not only help the field grow, but also encourage public health to take a step back, set aside the crisis of the moment, and consider where we’ve been and where we’re going." (Disclaimers, From the CDC: "The findings and conclusions in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." From Mike: I reviewed the content of the course during development.)
Interested in the Course? You may contact Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click this hyperlink to view the course. CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity also has an excellent collection of other social marketing resources, including segmentation guides, case studies, and a social marketing guide for obesity prevention coordinators.