Nedra Kline Weinreich is the president and founder of Weinreich Communications and is one of the foremost experts in social marketing.

A frequent speaker, Nedra teaches social marketing at UCLA’s School of Public Health and was adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. She is the author of Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide and a prominent blogger on social marketing issues at the Spare Change blog.

Ok, so, real simple for those of us who went to public school, what is social marketing?
Hey, I went to public school too, so it can’t be too hard to understand. Basically, it’s using a marketing approach to promoting health and social issues. In social marketing, our bottom line is not profits, but behavior change. So, when organizations like nonprofits or public agencies want to bring about health or social change, they are turning more and more to the same kinds of methods used by companies like Apple or Nike. The field of social marketing has been around since the 1970s, but it’s only recently that awareness and use of it has trickled down to the community level.

Some people have recently starting lumping together things like social media marketing or social network marketing under the term social marketing. It’s becoming awfully confusing because now when I talk about social marketing for the first time with a new person, I have to clarify to make sure we are both using the same definition. I often feel alone on my semantic crusade.

You’re the second Google result for ’social marketing’ after Wikipedia. That’s impressive; but we bet you’re a little miffed you’re not the first, right?
Thanks. Google is my friend (though I did used to be first!). I don’t mind being behind Wikipedia though, because there are still a couple of links in there to my book and blog. I’ve had the website since 1995, when I started my company, and from the beginning tried to make it a helpful resource, with articles and links, for others interested in social marketing. Google hadn’t even been founded yet when I started, but my approach has since paid off with a dozen years worth of links.

What has been your most rewarding social marketing project or accomplishment?
My favorite project was one for the Department of Health and Human Services, focused on raising awareness about the issue of human trafficking via the entertainment industry. We held briefings for writers, producers, researchers and others working on dramatic TV series and feature films that included discussions with experts on the issue and people who were former slaves telling their stories. The Lifetime TV miniseries called Human Trafficking with Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland came out as a result of that, as well as inclusion of the issue in plotlines of series like CSI: Miami, Strong Medicine and The Shield. Modern-day slavery was already an issue I cared about deeply, so when HHS announced this contract I was determined to be the one to win it. We had an uphill battle convincing entertainment industry folks that the slave trade was still happening today in the US, but those who participated in this project became passionate advocates about the issue and reached many people.

Can you name one or two of the stupidest social marketing endeavor you’ve encountered?
There are many campaigns that were not well thought-out or executed out there over the years. But a couple come to mind because I was recently talking about them. About a year ago, a well-intentioned campaign came out with the tagline ‘Terrorism has no religion’ and was intended to deter would-be suicide bombers in Iraq from their task. The PSA, which had quite high production values, showed the human consequences of a bomb in an outdoor marketplace. Unfortunately, it also demonstrated just how effective a suicide bomb on a busy street can be in achieving the objectives of killing and maiming as many people as possible. Appealing to a terrorist’s value for human life? Perhaps a better approach might be to show the bomber arriving in heaven eager for his 72 virgins and getting the door slammed in his face. I wrote more about it on my blog.

Another absurd campaign I just learned of is the Baltimore Believe initiative. Apparently, signs with the word ‘Believe’ appeared around the city of Baltimore a couple of years ago, but with no additional information or context, not even a URL. Nobody knew what it meant. After much web searching, I found some vague references and learned that this was a $200,000 city-funded campaign to address drug abuse and related problems by turning around the perceptions about whether things could change in the city. Maybe less faith and more action would have helped.

You’ve self identified as an introvert, yet you do a great deal of public speaking. Any tips on how to become a better orator?
I think introversion does not necessarily affect one’s ability to do public speaking one way or the other. But it does mean that the style will be different than how an extrovert might do it. Many of the best speakers and actors are introverts, and lots of extroverts are terrified of getting in front of a group of people and talking.

Some things that I have found help me feel more comfortable and effective when I speak include:

  • Knowing exactly what I’m going to say and practicing it as much as possible (I am not a very good extemporaneous speaker).
  • Having confidence in my knowledge of the topic
  • Knowing who will be in the audience, how much they already know about the subject I’m speaking on, and what their main interests are
  • Using stories and examples to help my points sink in
  • Trying to make the session interactive, not just me talking at them
  • Creating PowerPoint slides that are graphics heavy and text light so the audience can focus on what I’m saying rather than on reading the slides
  • Keeping a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself when things do not go according to plan

You wrote about your beliefs in how movies can bring about social change or social recognition of an issue, citing films like ‘Philadelphia,’ ‘Lorenzo’s Oil’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ Do you think that films have an even greater ability tio create negative social attitudes (e.g., portrayal of inner cities or minorities in most films; smoking as cool)?
I think movies and TV have the potential to affect social attitudes both positively and negatively, it can easily go either way. In many cases, we form our conceptions of how the world works and how people are supposed to act in particular situations by watching and learning from characters in the media. It’s Social Learning Theory in full force. We can observe what decisions the characters make and whether they receive positive or negative consequences for that behavior. When the characters in a movie or on TV are similar to ourselves, we identify with them and may use them as role models for how we should behave.

If you’re trying to raise awareness of an issue, a movie is a great way to go because you can educate and entertain at the same time, and bring emotions into the learning process as well. A study just came out that shows that people who watch the TV show ER were 65 percent more likely to report a positive change in their behavior after watching episodes about obesity, high blood pressure and healthy eating. But on the negative side, study after study shows that portraying things like smoking in movies increases the likelihood that kids will end up smoking.

Ok, so who should read, and why should they read, your book Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide?
The book was written for anyone who is interested in bringing about health or social change, whether as an organization, public agency or community group. It leads you through each of the steps involved in developing a social marketing program, and is intended to serve as a ‘consultant’ to ask you all the right questions and guide you in carrying out the process. The book is written in a friendly tone, and I tried to make it as easy to read and un-textbook-like as possible. There are worksheets, checklists, resource lists and examples throughout.

There are quite a few good books on social marketing out there to learn about the theoretical foundations of the field, but this is the only one that was designed for practitioners to use in their work, it’s very practical and action-oriented. I’m currently working on a revised edition that will incorporate information on social media marketing and other developments in the field, along with updated case studies, but until then, the original edition is still very useful.

Oddpodz thanks Nedra for her time and sincerely hope you check her out further at Spare Change.