British Columbia Ministry of Health: Taking a Leadership Role in Social Marketing

In September 2014, I had the opportunity to work with the British Columbia Ministry of Health’s Population and Public Health Division to co-host social marketing sessions in Vancouver and Victoria to explore shared strategic approaches for social marketing and engagement across health promotion and disease/injury prevention partners in British Columbia.

The sessions included presentations from experts on social marketing and behaviour change, branding and the latest trends in marketing and engagement.  Participants also heard about the Healthy Families BC policy framework and the Ministry of Health’s mandate to support a more collaborative approach to health promotion and disease/injury prevention social marketing across BC. Participants also had the opportunity to provide feedback through facilitated sessions.

This is an important initiative and it is great to see the province of BC taking a leadership position in social marketing.

Governments and non-profits in Canada spend millions of dollars on attempting to change the behaviours and attitudes of Canadians. Much of the social marketing we see at our Centre across Canada is not strategic, or well-structured and effective campaigns with measurable results are hard to find. As I stated in a previous blog surely it is time for public sector and non-profit organizations to move from public education campaigns which are mostly focused on awareness to social marketing campaigns which engage and motivate audiences to change their attitudes and behaviours.

What we find at our Centre is that many organizations presently involved in attitude and behaviour change campaigns have different approaches to campaigns to change attitudes and behaviours. To be successful, these organizations should be engaged in following the key principles of social marketing best practices with emphasis on a consumer focus, consistent messages, market segmentation, clear calls to action, controlled channels and monitoring and evaluation. This includes a shift from promoting public education interventions that prescribe how people should behave to one that engages the audience to identify what motivates them and what actions will nudge them toward a new behaviour.

Getting back to the BC Ministry of Health their next steps will be the formation of a working group of marketing leads from the BC Ministry of Health and from each of the health authorities. This working group will report to the Provincial Public Health Committee.  The group will also develop its terms of reference collaboratively, and work through the recommendations  prepared by the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing in conjunction with the Health Engagement Unit, Ministry of Health BC to improve social marketing activities in BC . A key action will be to develop a broader, collaborative community of practice to engage all health promotion/disease prevention marketing partners throughout BC – government, health authority and non-government.

The Health Engagement Unit will also share Healthy Families BC brand guidelines and create a network to share information. They will look to improve collaboration where partners have common objectives.

healthy families BC

Collaborating on health promotion/prevention strategies and sharing communication channels, assets and learnings among partners in the health and NGO sector should also result in achieving better economies of scale for health promotion/prevention social marketing activities.



The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing has a Social Marketing Planning Workbook that is designed to provide communicators and marketers with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for a successful social marketing program. We also run training workshops to help marketers and communicators to prepare a social marketing plan that is actionable, has maximum impact, and leads to successful implementation.


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