Blog Post

Fighting Public Health Misinformation

As public health marketers it is our job to encourage people to make informed choices based accurate information. This, however, can be difficult. Often public health data is misinterpreted, and misinformation is spread. One way to combat this misinformation is to educate our audiences on how data should be used, as well as how to spot misinformation in the future.  

Education is Key

Although the information others put into the world is out of our control, we can educate our audiences and lead them toward accurate interpretations of information. Dr. Katrine Wallace is particularly effective at this kind of educational work. She is an epidemiologist, science communicator, and social media influencer, who has been working diligently to provide her followers with timely and accurate information regarding public health topics. With accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, Dr. Kat is redefining what public health marketing can look like.

Her social media centers around responding to claims made by individuals misinterpreting data and spreading misinformation. Along with her regular updates, Dr. Kat also works to educate her audiences on misinformation techniques and how to spot them. A prime example is her video on base rate fallacy, where she explains how public health data can be misinterpreted when comparing populations.

Understanding how to use public health data is important when fighting against misinformation. Therefore, educating audiences is important in stopping its spread. As public health marketers we must developing engaging approaches to educate our audiences and ensure they’re accurately interpreting information.

Blog Post

Cognitive Bias and Public Health Policy

As public health marketers it is our job to promote policies and behaviors that will promote informed decision making. To do this work, marketers must combat cognitive biases people may hold, especially when these biases would result in worse health outcomes.  While individual biases will always occur, we as marketers should keep them in mind when developing messaging.

Pandemics and Bias

The Covid-19 pandemic uncovered several biases within our public health systems. One of the most notable was the Availability Bias. Since the US had not experienced a large-scale viral outbreak since 1920, American populations were less likely to see Covid-19 as a major threat. Meanwhile, South Korea has been impacted by novel viruses more recently, so their people took precautionary measures more seriously. 

In the US, the Identifiable Victim Effect also had major implications to public health policy. Public health data is often given on the population level, which can make it difficult for individuals to conceptualize the threat. Early on, people were much more concerned with the availability of ventilators than social distancing and masking. The tragic stories of people unable to find a ventilator were much more immediate given the bias toward individual stories. However, while the availability of ventilators was important, proper mask use and social distancing was much more effective at decreasing the mortality rates.

There will always be personal biases that prevent individuals form engaging in public health actions. However, as public health marketers we must understand these biases to address them. The success of public health policy depends on convincing a wide range of people and overcoming pre-existing thoughts and beliefs in some segments of that population.  

Blog Post

Using Facebook to Market Public Health

Facebook remains one of the largest marketing platforms available to organizations, so it makes sense to explore its potential for communicating public health information to communities. However, using Facebook advertising effectively can be challenging because studies have shown some limitations on one way communication through Facebook for audience engagement.

For example, in the Truckin’ Healthy campaign in Australia, researchers found that Facebook was not a good fit for their audience. This was because the truck drivers were not the right age for using the platform and that they lacked some of the technological skills that would have helped them use the app effectively.

Likewise, the campaign Don’t Know? Don’t Drink designed to encourage healthy choices during pregnancy in New Zealand did poorly as well. Researchers found that the one-way communication of advertisements on Facebook were perceived as condescending by participants and was unlikely to change a user’s mindset.

Finally, there is the American Healthy Adaptations for Life (HAL) campaign, focusing on nutrition and physical activity with menopausal women. Researchers found that although the ad was able to reach a large number of users, there was a lack of data on whether the ads changed behaviors.

Overall, these studies suggest that using Facebook for public health advertising can be a difficult task. Organizations seeking to use the platform should makes sure that it’s a good fit for their audience while also considering they can measure the effect of the ad on actual health behaviors.

Blog Post

Storytelling to Promote Public Health

As marketers one of our most effective tools is storytelling. Audiences are more likely to connect with and remember a message that is associated with a story. Public health marketers can use this strategy highlight and reinforce their public health messaging.

Establishing Familiarity

As public health marketers it is important for us to establish familiarity with our brands. Communities are more likely to listen to organizations that they can connect with on a personal level. By engaging with storytelling, public health marketers can bring public health policy home and make personal for their audiences.

As public health marketers it is important to connect with our audiences and gain their trust. Audiences are more likely to connect with personal stories than generic messaging, therefore we must work to connect policy with the lived experiences of our audiences in order to promote public health.

Blog Post

Audience Management for Successful Public Health Campaigns

Audience management is an important aspect of any social media marketing strategy. This is especially true for public health marketers trying to disseminate information about sensitive health topics. Sexual health and education are often seen as taboo and require in-depth knowledge of your audience to be successful.

Knowing Your Audience

It is not uncommon for individuals to be a bit uncomfortable or embarrassed when asking health-related questions, especially those surrounding reproductive and sexual health. Therefore, it is important to identify both your audience and their needs in order to tailor campaign messaging. Layla’s Got You was a successful multimedia campaign by the Public Good Projects out of Syracuse, NY to increase contraception knowledge of young Black and Hispanic women.

Collaboration is Key

The success Layla’s Got You stems from the incorporation of key audience members in the creation of the campaign. By collaborating with their intended audience, developers discovered that participants felt more comfortable speaking with a trusted friend about sexual topics. Using this information allowed Public Good Projects to develop the Layla, a chat-bot that can be used anonymously to answer questions regarding sexual health. To date, it has received 4,390 messages related to contraception or sexual health.

Sexual and reproductive health is a sensitive topic that can be difficult to talk openly about. Therefore, it is important to develop culturally sensitive content to connect people with the information they need. By collaborating with audience members to develop content, marketers can improve community buy-in and reduce negative health outcomes.

Blog Post

Communication Strategies for Public Health Marketers

As public health marketers, our communication strategies must work to build healthier communities. Poor communication, however, can lead to skepticism and mistrust from the communities we are trying to serve.

Missing the Mark

While well-intentioned, some types of public health communication are not going to work. Placing blame or shaming individuals who do not follow health recommendations does not work. Conversely, it will only further alienate individuals and dissuade them from asking questions or seeking help.

Inclusive Solutions

Well-received public health messaging meets people where they are and answers their questions. Not everyone has the same educational and cultural background, and it is important to take these factors into account when developing messaging. Utilizing the help of local community leaders in the development process can further improve how the information is received.

Working with communities is imperative in developing effective public health communications. Placing blame on individuals will not change their behavior and should instead be met with patience and understanding. Effective public health communication is important in maintaining the health and wellness of our communities.

Blog Post

Measuring Return on Investment for Public Health Programs

As public health marketers, we strive to improve the health of our communities. Stakeholders, such as policymakers and community members, want to ensure that campaigns will be worthwhile before investing public funds. Therefore, it is important to highlight the benefits of a program such as return on investment when presenting programs for approval. 

Return on Investment

As public health professionals, we know that money spent on public health programs is a good investment. A UK study showed that on average the ROI for public health intervention was 14.3 to 1. By isolating the effects of a public health program, you can convert the benefits to monetary values and compare them to the cost of the initial investment.

Alternative Measures of Success

Although metrics such as ROI are easy for stakeholders to understand, they often do not give a full picture of the benefits provided. Many public health programs are implemented for their non-financial benefits to society. The Human Capital Approach is an alternative that views people as capital investments. This approach addresses a worker’s potential economic productivity or loss of productivity due to illness or injury.

Measuring the benefits of public health programs can help make a case for funding future programming. Measures such as ROI and the Human Capital Approach can help to quantify the often-diffuse benefits of public health programs so communities know that public funds are being invested wisely.  

Blog Post

Familiarity in Public Health Messaging

As public health marketers it is our goal to get communities to follow through with policy and guidelines. Too often, public health policy is seen as intrusive and invasive by the communities it is trying to help. Therefore, it is imperative for public health marketers to make new public health policy seem as familiar as possible by likening it to already established norms.

Introducing Initiatives

Introducing new public health initiatives can be difficult for public health marketers. It can be hard for communities to see the value in changes, especially when they change the way they live their lives. For example, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic it was difficult to get western populations to wear a facial covering in public. Regions that were successful in their ‘mask-up’ efforts did so by likening wearing a mask to other safety precautions that we take every day.

Making the Unfamiliar Familiar

In American culture we highly value our independence and personal freedoms and often lose sight of what is best for our collective good. To many people, being told to wear a mask outright was seen as an attack on their personal liberty and bodily autonomy. Conversely, in regions where wearing a mask was likened to established norms like wearing a seat belt in a car or a helmet on a motorcycle, people were more open and willing to wear a facial covering in public. By associating wearing a facial covering with already accepted safety guidelines, public health marketers were able to better convince populations to wear facial coverings and consequently lower their region’s infection rates.

Introducing new public health policy can be an uphill battle, and it is the job of public health marketers to make new policies seem as attractive and beneficial as possible. Likening new policies to those that area already well established and accepted can make this job easier by making people feel more familiar with the changes being made. Connecting new policy to those already accepted by the community will make implementation easier and help communities thrive.

Blog Post

The Success of Planned Parenthood’s Brand Personality & Positioning

As public health marketers, our goal is to position our organization as a trusted source of information and care. Planned Parenthood is a great example of an organization that has been able to cement itself in the public mind as a trusted source of information and healthcare. Planned Parenthood has been successful in using its brand elements to convey its personality and position itself.


The personality of any brand is important, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like reproductive health. Planned Parenthood finds its success in down-to-earth and reliable messaging that engages viewers. By using approachable imagery and artwork, Planned Parenthood is able to discuss serious and sensitive topics without losing its audience.


Many non-profits are funded in part by public donations. This makes it that much more important to ensure that their positioning is effective. Planned Parenthood’s motto of “Care, no matter what” helps it to position itself as a trusted source of healthcare that is accessible to anyone in the community.

Personality and positioning must be in alignment with a brand’s other elements to support long-term success. Planned Parenthood has been successful in developing brand elements that match its personality and position. Strong branding is necessary for your non-profit to be seen as trusted and responsible.

Blog Post

Smartphones Impact on Public Health Behavior

As public health marketers, it is our goal to encourage healthy habits and the utilization of public services in our communities. The rise of smartphones has impacted the way people see their health and how they search for information. Smartphones and apps allow healthcare agencies to directly link with community members to better answer questions and meet their needs.

Mobile Apps

Many healthcare agencies now have their own mobile apps for users to go in and find information, ask questions, and be connected with services. This direct connection with the community builds respect and trust, making your organization a reliable source of information. Getting the correct information to the public in an efficient manner can help alleviate confusion and increase the utilization of services.

Smartphones and apps have a direct impact on the decision-making process for individuals. It is often the first place people will look for information and recommendations. Utilizing smartphone technology can assist healthcare agencies in reaching and serving their communities.