I just returned from Nashville where I sat in on some of the Training Institutes for developing local systems of care for children and adolescents with mental health needs and their families. The meeting convened over 2,700 professionals, kids and families who work within local coalitions to tackle these issues in communities across the US. For social marketers interested in issues such as reducing mental illness stigma, the work goes on in these communities on a daily basis - complete with funded staff positions entitled 'social marketing coordinators.'
I went to the opening session to meet up with Dr. David Satcher who was receiving a lifetime achievement award and listen to his address to the meeting (Dr. Satcher was the Director when we at Prospect Associates began supporting the CDC in its venture into the worlds of health communication and social marketing). He was preceded to the podium by Dr. Gary Blau who provides the leadership for this overall effort at SAMHSA. Midway through his talk, Gary asked the crowd "Who here is a social marketer?" and everyone yelled back "We are." A quick check with other people sitting at my table confirmed that yes, for over 7 years the projects funded by SAMHSA have all adopted the rhetoric (if not quite the practice as I saw it there and think about it here) of social marketing. Who knew?
And who knew that over 1,000 social marketers would enroll in the social marketing e-conference; 300 would attend the Social Marketing in Public Health conference (despite worries about the availability of travel funds for government-funded projects and state agency staff); that as of this past Friday Alan Andreasen reports there are 1,758 social marketing listserver subscribers - and then there's the over 500 loyal subscribers here! It seems time for the movement to coalesce social marketers to begin.
Stay tuned - there was one session in Clearwater Beach exploring the prospects of a society of social marketing where the discussion focused on questions of what the conceptual base for a society could be (marketing, health communication, behavioral or social sciences), the fields of practice it might include (PR and advertising people, social workers, community nurses - who IS a social marketer?), its geographic scope (US, North American, global) and the structure of the exchange between the organization and its members (service and member benefits and features). This is just the beginning of the conversation among people who gather at social marketing meetings; make a note that two more such gatherings are planned at the CDC health marketing conference in August and the world social marketing conference in Brighton England in September. To broaden our ability to participate and capture a true range and sense of the community on these and other issues, should we get some pages started for an extended conversation about a professional association of social marketers on the social marketing wiki? Or leave your comments here.