Power Profile: Spare Change

Posted by on Sep 1, 2007 in Marketing | No Comments


Nedra Kline Weinreich knows social marketing (the type that involves promoting health and social issues). She wrote the book on it. Literally. (Don’t worry, she’ll be updating it soon.) Nedra’s blog – Spare Change – is her two cents on how individuals and organizations can make a difference with social marketing. Based in Los Angeles, she’s been adding her thoughts to the blogosphere since March 2006. Today, Spare Change hovers around 115 on the Power 150 ranking of top marketing and media blogs.

While Nedra’s not much for gadgets (she just bought her first iPod – used on Ebay), she’s one smart cookie with degrees from both Harvard (MS) and Berkeley (BS). When she’s not blogging about social marketing, she’s teaching UCLA students or counseling clients of her own consulting firm, Weinreich Communications. Using her extreme depth and breadth of social marketing expertise, the Mimi Rogers look-a-like has counseled several non-profit and government agency clients such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. Yes, her next car will be a hybrid. She’s also worked with Population Services International to evaluate their social marketing AIDS work in Africa.

She recently learned to play the cello, enjoys watercolor painting and challenges everyone to correctly define the term “social marketing.” Or just rebrand it as “social change marketing.” Learn more about Nedra in her Power Profile:

How would you describe your blog to your dad?
My dad reads my blog regularly and sends me notes about it every so often. If I were to talk about it with my mother-in-law, who I’m not sure even knows what a blog is, I would tell her that I write about how to apply marketing principles to promoting health and social issues. She already gets that I work with nonprofits and government agencies to help them bring about health and social change, so it’s not too much of a stretch to understand that I write about it online.

What blog posts (of your own) are you most proud of and why?
Back in November, I was exploring Second Life and came across a CDC-sponsored health fair being held in-world. I conducted a fascinating interview with John Anderton, who had built the CDC’s virtual headquarters. It was truly breaking news, and turned out to be the most popular post I’ve done. The post still gets the most hits of any that I’ve written.

Another that I’m proud of is on marketing to introverts. The post laid out how we introverts make decisions differently from extroverts, and how to take those factors into account in a marketing approach. The post struck a chord with many people, who suddenly felt understood and validated in this extrovert-oriented world. However, I experienced somewhat of a backlash from introverts who complained that I was giving away the secrets that had kept us from being marketing targets.

What two blogs do you read most often?
I currently have 121 blogs in my feed reader, so it’s hard to narrow it down to just two. The two that are most relevant to what I write about are R. Craig Lefebvre’s “On Social Marketing and Social Change” and Katya Andresen’s “Nonprofit Marketing Blog“. Both are well-written and right on target with my interests.

Which blogger would you most like to meet in person?
That’s also hard to narrow down. I still haven’t had the opportunity to meet Katya (above) in person, though we have spoken by phone. I would also love to meet Beth Kanter, who is one of the most prolific and generous bloggers I’ve seen. She lives to teach the things she knows about nonprofit technology, even as she is learning them herself. And CK seems like she would be an awful lot of fun to hang out with.

What two podcasts do you listen to most often?
I’m not a fan of podcasts – it’s just a matter of how my brain works. I absorb things much better through reading. When I listen to people talking on a podcast (and on audiobooks as well), my mind starts wandering and I realize I’ve missed half of the things they’ve said. So I’m always thrilled to see when people post transcripts of their podcasts. Britt Bravo is someone who does this often, which I appreciate.

How many hours a week do you spend blogging?
I’m doing about 2-3 posts a week nowadays, which probably takes about 5-6 hours. That doesn’t count the constant reading I do to find things to blog about, though.

What non-blog websites and publications do you read?
Though I mostly read blogs online, I also read some news sites like Drudge and Reddit for fun. I read the Wall Street Journal, which is one of the most enjoyable newspapers around. There’s the Social Marketing Quarterly, to keep up with the field. But the only magazine I subscribe to is Cooking Light. I just don’t have time for much additional reading, though I’m currently trying to steal away to read the new Harry Potter a few pages at a time.

What cell phone do you use? Who is your service provider? How would you rate them?
I have a very old Motorola phone that’s at least a few years old – so old that it doesn’t even have a camera built in. I’m definitely not at the front lines of the technology innovation curve, and I figure if it still works there’s no reason to get a new one. I use Verizon and have been quite happy with them.

Mac or PC?
I’m a Mac gal, and have been since I got my first Mac Plus in college in 1988. I currently have an eMac on my desk and an iBook for traveling. You’d have to pry my Mac from my cold dead hands before I would ever buy a PC (how’s that for brand loyalty?).

What is your next big technology purchase going to be?
Well, I just bought a used iPod on eBay, so I can finally listen to my mp3s while I exercise. There isn’t really anything else I absolutely need at the moment. You are probably getting the idea that I don’t get excited about acquiring bright and shiny new toys (though I would love an iPhone if someone wanted to give it to me as a present). I just bought a new house, so that’s going to have to do for now.

What one thing would you change about your blog if you had the time?
I have been wanting to change the template for a long time. I would love a 3-column style but haven’t found one yet that I like enough to adapt for myself and don’t have good enough web design skills to start from scratch. The fact that I host my own Blogger blog via ftp means that I can’t take advantage of their new template formatting system. I suppose I could hire someone to design it for me, but it hasn’t been a priority.

What is your favorite blog plugin?
I just love Performancing Metrics (I’m not sure that counts as a plugin, but I loved it so much I paid to get the upgraded version). Real-time user stats that let you track a single user’s activity by IP address, full URLs of inbound links, and tracking of outbound links all give you much more than you can get from any other almost free package I know of (the free version is great, and you can get all the features for $20 a year).

What other hobbies do you have?
A couple of years ago, I decided to learn to play the cello. So, I’ve been taking lessons and enjoying the sometimes excruciating process of learning something new and difficult. I also enjoy drawing and watercolor painting, though I don’t often do it unless I’m on vacation. For a while, I was writing children’s stories and trying to get them published, but that’s fallen by the wayside for now. Most of my downtime I spend with my husband and kids.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that your readers don’t already know.
My name, Nedra, comes from the Hebrew word that means “vow.” While there’s no dramatic story about my parents making a vow upon my birth, my mother first heard the name when she was a teacher and had a little girl in class who pronounced it like “Ned-ra” with a short ‘e.’ My parents changed the pronunciation to “Need-ra” with a long ‘e’ and the rest is history. Believe it or not, at one point I worked with a woman named Nedra who spelled and pronounced it the same way as I do.

What famous person do you most look like?
Someone just told me last week that I look like Mimi Rogers, Tom Cruise’s first wife. I had to google her, since I had no clue what she looked like, and maybe there’s kind of a resemblance. We both have brown hair. And my stepsister recently showed me a model in the airline pocket catalog that she said looked just like me. So, picture Mimi Rogers holding an international alarm clock.

What is your full-time job?
I’m a consultant who works with nonprofits and public agencies to help them apply social marketing principles to the issues they care about. That’s social marketing, as in working to get people to adopt healthy or pro-social behaviors, not just the new use of the term to mean social media marketing. I started my company, Weinreich Communications, in 1995, and offer services such as strategy development, audience research and evaluation, message and media development, campaign implementation and training. I have a semiannual training workshop called Social Marketing University that I offer around the country for folks to build their social marketing knowledge and skills.

What is the greatest threat facing the social marketing industry?
Some may think this is a minor point, but it’s been a major crusade of mine. Though awareness of the field of social marketing is growing like never before, the field has been under a semantic attack that threatens its identity. Social marketing has been around for about 30 years and has developed its own academic and practitioner community. However, in the past couple of years, the term “social marketing” has been coopted to refer to the use of newer online tools like social media and social network marketing, as well as word of mouth and viral marketing. It’s already become quite confusing, as I never know which definition someone means when they say “social marketing.” I think the field is going to have to rebrand itself as something like “social change marketing” because my and others’ efforts to stem the tide of the misuse of the term have not gotten very far.

Let’s talk more about social marketing. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with definitions. What is your definition of social marketing (or “social change marketing”)?
Social marketing is the use of marketing tools and techniques to promote health and social issues. Instead of the bottom line being focused on profits, as for commercial marketers, our bottom line is behavior change. So, social marketers could be working on anything from encouraging kids to be more active, getting adults to schedule a colonoscopy, promoting recycling or increasing voter participation.

And what about social media? How would you define social media?

Social media are the online tools that enable people to connect with each other around the issues that they feel passionate about. These technologies are changing the face of marketing from a one-way flow of information to a multidimensional conversation around issues and products that can be much more engaging and effective.

What kind of clients are you providing social marketing counsel to?
I’ve done a lot of work for various Federal agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. One of my favorite projects with HHS was working with the entertainment industry to raise public awareness of human trafficking via dramatic television series and feature films; the Lifetime TV Human Trafficking miniseries came out of that.

I’ve worked with Population Services International to evaluate their social marketing AIDS work in Africa. My current clients include a statewide nonprofit to advocate for people with developmental disabilities, and with an Israeli internet startup on a service for nonprofit fundraising and community building. No project is ever like the previous ones, and each one is cool and interesting in its own way.

What are some social marketing best practices or philosophies that you live, work and counsel by?
I think the most important cornerstone of any kind of marketing is listening to your audience – learning as much as you can about them, in terms of their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around the issue, what they care about, and what their lives are like. Without that basic understanding of who you are trying to reach, you will likely be unsuccessful in convincing them to change their behavior.

One of my favorite rules of thumb for creating a social marketing product (generally a specific behavior), which comes from Bill Smith of the Academy for Educational Development, is that you need to make it seem fun, easy and popular. Fun, in terms of the great benefits that someone will receive when they adopt it. Easy, by taking away the barriers that are keeping people from adopting the product. And popular, by showing that other people like themselves are using the product and are happy with it.

Ignoring any larger strategy for now, what are some of your favorite social marketing tactics? Discuss a few of your favs or perhaps rank your top 5 social marketing tactics (1 being your most fav).
\\ 1. Cheap and easy ways of getting your message in front of people at the time and place they need to act on it – for example, hand stamps at nightclubs with the phone number of a taxi service and a reminder not to drink and drive, or signs by elevators reminding people that they should take the stairs to get more physical activity.
\\ 2. Word of mouth – still the best way to give credibility to your message, and works for populations that are not online..
\\ 3. E-mail – at this point, it’s old-school technology, but it’s another cheap and easy way to reach most people as long as you send it in a way that it gets read.
\\ 4. Social media – by getting people actively involved in your issue, they are more likely to want to make a change
\\ 5. Mobile messenging – has the advantage of being able to reach people at the right time and place with your message when they want and need it

Have you used a social media release for any of your clients? What do you think about it?
I don’t do a lot of straight PR, so haven’t had an opportunity to use this format yet for my clients. But I think it makes so much sense to provide information to the media in a way that makes it easier for them to get the information in a usable format, and also makes it more likely that members of your target audience will find the information themselves in an internet search. I don’t see any downside to it unless it is provided in a less-than-compelling way, or if a reporter just has a preference for the traditional press release format.

Where is social marketing going from here?
I see two interesting trends in social marketing. First, a recognition that marketing is about more than just communications. We need to think about how to make the social and physical environment support health and social change, about how we distribute and shape the product itself, and how to make it easy for people to take action.

Second, new technologies are providing ways of reaching many people in more effective and efficient ways. Because many nonprofits and public agencies do not have large budgets to use for their social marketing efforts, the fact that many social media tools are free or very low-cost (aside from staff time) is very attractive. Social marketers are exploring all the same types of media as commercial marketers – everything from blogs and social networks to virtual worlds like Second Life and mobile technology – and it is transforming how we engage people with our issues.

Ok, enough about social marketing. What was your first job in high school, college or earlier?
When I was in high school, I was sure that I wanted to become a doctor. I spent the summer between 11th and 12th grade living with my uncle and aunt in Atlanta, working in the emergency room run by a friend of theirs. While I was mostly doing receptionist work, a doctor there took me under his wing and decided to teach me some things about medicine. I learned about the electrical patterns of the heart as shown on an EKG, I learned how to stitch up a wound (by observation only), and he taught me how to draw blood from his very own arm. Unfortunately, on my first attempt, I ended up squirting him with his own blood (he was very forgiving). Though I later decided to go into public health rather than medicine, I still draw on some of the things I learned at the ER that summer.

What kind of car do you drive? What’s the next car going to be?
I drive a 1998 Honda Accord (our other car is a 1996 Toyota Camry). We’ll probably drive them into the ground until they don’t run anymore, but when we eventually do buy a new car it will likely be some sort of hybrid.

Tell us about your 15 seconds of fame.
My home was recently featured on an HGTV reality show about people trying to sell their houses. It was an interesting experience, and somewhat embarrassing (I come off as the crazy clutter lady), but I haven’t been stopped on the street yet for an autograph. I wrote about it here.

How has the Power 150 helped you/your blog?
It’s helped in two ways. First, it’s directed more people my way (especially with the “W list” meme listing women marketing bloggers currently making its way around the blogosphere). Second, it’s been a great source for me to discover other excellent blogs I did not know about previously. Thanks, Todd, for creating this great resource for our field.

What would you do with $3 million dollars?
Pay off the mortgage, set aside some to cover the kids’ education, put some into retirement, and use the rest to fund worthy causes. Oh, and maybe buy an iPhone.

What’s the next big thing?
I need to work on a revised edition of my book (Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide), which was published in 1999. A lot has changed in the marketing field since 1999, and I really need to incorporate information about new online tools and other technologies, as well as offering some updated case studies. I’ve promised my publisher I would get that out soon, so I need to focus my attention on that for a while. Luckily, much of what I’ve written on the blog can also be adapted to use in the book.

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