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March 20, 2009

Can We Please Take the Term "Campaign," and Shoot It?

Or at least retire it from our professional lexicon?

When you hear the word "campaign," what do you think of? Running for political office? Wellesley at Talavara? Raising money for a good cause? Or, be truthful now, a communications effort to effect an issue?  It seems that everywhere I work, people use the word campaign to refer to their combination of behavior change interventions, regardless of whether there is a major communication component.  The problem is--and I may be having a therapeutic rant here--when people use the word campaign, everyone within earshot starts thinking communications only.

Try this bit of audience research:  gather a group of colleagues together, and ask them what they think of when they hear the word campaign.  I find that even with people who have a solid grounding in social marketing concepts, their eyes often glaze over, they get that dreamy look, and start rhapsodizing about messaging, billboards and PSAs!  Pity the group who has just been exposed to social marketing!  Someone in the room mentions a "social marketing campaign," and suddenly everyone in the room forgets product, price and place, and begins talking about funding messages!

I have nothing against communications, let me make that clear (though some people have accused me of that!)!  It is just that we, particularly in public health, tend to rely on communication to carry all the burden for behavior change, then be disappointed when "people don't change," or perhaps blame them for "not being motivated."  And it seems that we are so conditioned, that when we hear the word "campaign," we automatically think "messages,"  and forgot all the other wonderful things that a true "4-P" marketing effort can bring (creating and delivering something of real value to our audiences, a 360 degree view of the problem and potential solutions, a logic model to tie together all of our intervention efforts, an appreciation of barriers and facilitators to behavior.) [Kudos to Craig Lefebvre for the term "4-P marketing."]

So, can we not now send the term "campaign" off to the well-deserved retirement it deserves, and think about using other terms that are less loaded, like "interventions," or "program," or...you come up with a term!

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I rather like the word campaign, because it is more user-friendly for people than the word intervention, which sounds like someone's well meaning family is going to come get you and drag you into treatment "program" (and perhaps you wish they would!). The word "program" is so vague that it could mean just about anything, and so often connotes a federally-funded, well, program! It's a struggle, this naming convention, and I understand where your frustrations lie, but at least campaign brings to mind political campaigns with focus groups, town hall meetings, and now, social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter -- because look at what the Obama "Campaign" did for campaigns!! If for no other reason I have a new love and appreciation for the word! Maybe if you always place the qualifier 4-P Marketing Campaigns in front of it, it will be more palatable. :)

When I think of "campaigns" I think of the big overarching "project" and types of communication methods are just pieces of a campaign.

I hadn't heard of interventions until working with the DPH team. I think that would confuse folks in the environmental field.

Maybe the word should be "fanbemod" - fantastic behavior modification:)

Sheree and Kelley,

Thanks for your comments! Maybe I am just jaded. I would be interested in what associations would come to mind for your colleagues with the term, "campaign." Obama did great things for the broaden out the term, but still much of what you mention are communication platforms. Maybe the best we can do is remnd people that marketing has FOUR Ps!

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