Social Marketing and Its Successful Application in Public Relations Campaigns


Behind the seemingly pushy and money-focused exterior, salespeople often utilize thoughtful, strategic methods to market their products. Automobile market researchers, for example, closely analyze the wants and needs of a particular audience, using the audience’s preferences and attitudes to craft a product and its subsequent campaign. This detailed environmental research, also known as social marketing, is as commonplace in public relations as it is in the business and marketing worlds. If used properly, public relations practitioners can target specific audiences, creating focused, well-researched campaigns.

Social marketing’s purpose is to encourage audiences to adopt social concepts or values. A concept or value is pushed and marketed the same way a car would be by utilizing the “Four Ps”: product, price, promotion and place.

  • Product = desired behavior of the target audience
  • Price = costs related to adopting desired response
  • Promotion = compensation for the costs of adopting the desired response
  • Place = availability of information regarding the desired response

Traditionally, social marketing applies for-profit marketing tactics to pro-social health development programs. For example, The Way to Clean Air campaign aimed to reduce air pollution by telling Toronto residents how to lessen their carbon footprint. After detailed environmental research regarding several different audiences, educational programs were implemented in schools, online and in the workplace. The “Four Ps” of The Way to Clean Air campaign were clearly outlined and accessible to residents, making the campaign’s outcome both successful and easily measurable.

  • Product = decrease air pollution
  • Price = use of energy efficient methods versus traditional energy methods
  • Promotion = application of tangible incentives (e.g., prizes and awards)
  • Place = availability of educational materials (e.g., brochures, leaflets and school curriculum activities)

The Way to Clean Air example illustrates social marketing at its best. It is through detailed research and an organized, strategic method that public relations practitioners can design focused campaigns. In addition to being well-constructed, The Way to Clean Air campaign contributed to significant energy and pollution reduction in the Toronto area. Social marketing is just one of many methods known for garnering such results and widespread practice.

(Information provided in this blog post is from “Useful Concepts from Other Theories,” chapter four of “Effective Health Risk Messages: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Dennis Martell, Gary Meyer and Kim Witte. Image provided by Francis Anderson’s blog, “Making a Connection.”)


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