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Vital Stories

Lessons from the World Social Marketing Conference

Christina Curell

Policy, Advocacy and Communication team

On May 15th, 2017, I went to D.C., along with several members of Vital Strategies Policy, Advocacy and Communications team, to join social marketing colleagues for the biannual World Social Marketing Conference.

Public health issues took center stage, with global colleagues coming together to share their experiences and lessons learned in areas such as social marketing for tobacco control in the United States and abroad, alcohol, and sexual and reproductive health, among other issues.  We attended sessions ranging from program planning models and research studies, to branding obesity prevention campaigns and lessons learned fighting Big Tobacco that now apply to the Soda Wars.  One recurring thread throughout the program was the idea of “systems thinking,” an approach to management that looks at the linkages and interactions between different components in a system, in order to better understand the system as a whole. More and more, social marketers seem to be utilizing this approach to understanding complex issues contextually.

Our team reconnected with colleagues and made new connections with global partners.  It was energizing to hear new perspectives and find opportunities for collaboration around things like audience segmentation on social media and emerging field research on attitudes about tobacco in Jakarta.  Notable also was the value of Vital Strategies’ experience, particularly in tobacco control communication, to colleagues in our field.  Our high-quality creatives, whether victim testimonials, adaptable PSAs, or new anti-industry work, have clear importance among our peers.

After two full days of engagement at WSMC, the team left with valuable new connections, lessons for our own work, and a renewed sense of collaboration with our allies around the globe and across health issues.