The ISMA Intro to Social Marketing: My Experience

As a fresh upstart in the world of Social Marketing, coming from a background outside of traditional marketing, I started working at Hitch with a lot to learn. I had an intuitive understanding of how to influence peoples’ behaviour at best, with little training in the realm of behavioural theory. I am, however, a keen learner, and thus when I was offered the chance to enrol in the ISMA’s Introduction to Social Marketing course at the start of my time with the company, I was very happy to take part. The course was offering me the chance to learn the basics of every key aspect of Social Marketing, from determining which key target audiences to focus a campaign’s efforts on to evaluating the success of a campaign at various stages – why would I not take this opportunity?

The basic remit of the course was as follows:

All members of the cohort would have to devise a Social Marketing campaign in order to address a specific issue. Over a 12-week period, we would have to complete a write-up relating to each section of the campaign (I.e., week 1 would involve a write up on the background information, week 2 would involve a situational analysis, week 5 involved a write up on the relevant barriers, benefits, competition and motivators etc.) which would then need to be submitted to the course leader, Nancy Lee. Each week we would then receive feedback on our work, which was expected to be incorporated into any redrafted versions of our work. By the end of the 12 weeks, you should have a complete plan for a campaign which would cover all major aspects of planning and curation.

Upon beginning the course, I joined a Zoom call attended by people from all over the world, with people from various walks of life and levels of experience in the industry. There were attendees from Milwaukee to Mozambique, all looking to improve their understanding of the social side of marketing through the course and all of which had their own unique perspectives on how to approach Social Marketing. As we all operated in wildly varying contexts, there was a wide array of different campaign focuses, from improving the environmental situation in various green spaces across America, to my own work, which focused on encouraging primary school-aged children to participate in martial arts. Nancy was able to provide high-level, on-the-spot critiques and ideas throughout that was extremely useful to our work, alongside being receptive to the ideas that we as a cohort provided poignant bits of advice that I personally found crucial when trying to produce the best work possible. Without her input, the idea behind the campaign would not have been able to come to life in the way it did! We had meetings roughly every 3 weeks so we could catch up with each other, discuss our progress and share any tips we’ve discovered, which helped significantly in providing me with new ways of crafting my plan.

Although I do enjoy content writing, it’s not often that I describe an extensive piece of writing consisting of 14,753 words as ‘Enjoyable’ – Only a few months prior had I finished writing a 13,000-word dissertation on Roman propaganda surrounding the Punic Wars and their aftermath – but I genuinely had fun putting together my plan and watching it develop over time. My favourite element of devising my plan was conducting interviews with various people in order to obtain useful insights that I could use to guide my work. This element is a key one to account for as it’s easy for somebody to use their intuition to come up with a plan, but if you don’t account for the reality of a situation then your work may not be fully applicable in practice. Speaking to people and hearing the variety of concerns they raised was a significant part of my planning and it helped to highlight the real-world concerns of those who made up part of my target audience (parents of primary school-aged children). The experience also helped me in understanding the different constraints that come with working in the field of Social Marketing. As you work on each element of your campaign, you begin to realise that there are a variety of different things you have to account for when constructing a campaign (e.g. getting stakeholders onside when trying to get backing), meaning that the work you do helps to get you thinking about questions that you’ve never really asked of your own work before. This is key if you’re going into Social Marketing as the industry thrives on the back of new perspectives, things that only develop when you ask questions that haven’t been asked before.

To conclude, the ISMA Intro to Social Marketing course is great for people looking to get their career off on the right track. You learn the ropes of the industry from every angle, and you end up equipped with what you need to thrive. I would consider this course a must for anybody who is serious about Social Marketing as it helps you develop a full understanding of how the industry works, encouraging you to think about the smaller elements that add up when creating a larger campaign and helping you to be useful throughout the entire planning process.

Having completed this course, I now feel much more confident in my ability and becoming a valuable member of the team at Hitch, bringing my knowledge from the course to aid me in supporting the team within key discussions and campaigns. I am now looking to transfer these skills and work I completed to begin creating my plan into a real-life project.

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