The business of caring

The business of caring

Implementing a public awareness programme is not an easy job. Right from administrating the funding, logistics to meeting deliverables, it is an uphill task all the way. Garima Arora traces the marketing initiatives managing a project so big commands

2007121537-7937249With great power comes great responsibility. And the Indian pharmaceutical companies do not seem to be shying away from theirs. The social value attached to being successful in the corporate sector, today finds voice in the form of public awareness campaigns. As most of these campaigns are driven and funded by the ‘big fish’ in the pharma industry marketing your campaign rightly has become an important part of fulfilling one’s corporate social responsibility.

Trickle down v/s direct approach

Every public awareness campaign has an underlying objective. The key to a successful campaign is the approach to this very objective. Though the intent of creating awareness is common to most campaigns what differs is the approach to the same. The approach may differ depending on the layers of operations or tiers a campaign might encompass. As the campaign comes together, a chain of events of sorts is formed as the approach towards fulfilling the underlying goal depends on the target audience of the campaign. For e.g. the NGO Helping Hand that has undertaken a breast cancer awareness campaign directly looks to educate women suffering from the disease. As their target audience is the patient itself their approach to the objective is single tiered and direct.

On the other hand Project HOPE (health oppurtunities for people everywhere), which is a multi tiered project looks to improve standards of diabetes care through partnering with institutes of excellence, who in turn will train a pool of trainers to become qualified ‘diabetes educators’. These ‘diabetes educators’ are responsible for creating awareness amongst patients and provide support. In such a multi tiered scenario, a trickle down approach becomes most feasible.

However, what seems to be working best is a combination of the trickle down and direct approach. In this approach, the campaign targets both the effected (the patient) and the affected (the doctors, family members, peers etc). For eg. the WHO Collaborating Centre In India For Research, Education and Training in diabetes has taken up a programme to create awareness about childhood obesity in schools in India.

Prevention of childhood obesity and diabetes Obesity and diabetes Increase awareness.
Prevent childhood obesity and diabetes.
‘Ten commandments for prevention of diabetes’ for school authorities. Manual on prevention of childhood obesity and diabetes.Tie ups with school boards and state governments Covered around 10,000 schools in three years
Project HOPE Diabetes Improve quality of patient care. Increase awareness. Team based approach Training special ‘diabetes educators’ Forming cadre of master trainers to train diabetes educators Partnering with institutes of excellence The project has just rolled off
Breast cancer awareness programme by helping hand Breast cancer Creating awareness about breast cancer. Importance of early diagnosis and early treatment. Importance of getting tested regularly. Provide affordable and people friendly mammography facilities. Conduct regular talks and meeting. Print and electronic advertisements. Mobile mammography van. Screened over 1000 women in two months

The organisation offers direct

counselling to students and at the same time, directs schools on dealing with the problem of childhood obesity. Striking a mid ground like this provides for a more holistic approach to a problem.

Finding the Void

Lack of awareness about a disease amongst the general public is caused due to a void or vacuum in the pool of knowledge pertaining to that particular disease. The main marketing strategy of a public awareness campaign stems from identifying this void and coming up with an innovative solution to fill the same.

An interesting way that is gaining popularity amongst managers of public awareness campaigns to fill in the vacuum is through creation of properties. For e.g. Helping Hand has invested in a “mobile mammography screening van” which is a major initiative the NGO has taken to create awareness about breast cancer amongst the public and provide affordable and a people-friendly mammography facility. This initiative has most definitely put the campaign on the forefront as people have always believed that breast cancer is incurable and is expensive to treat. Similarly many campaigns are investing in 24-hour support centres, galas, periodical summits and conferences, extensive TV and print ad campaigns etc.

Also furthering the cause of campaigns is celebrity endorsements and having brand ambassadors. Celebrities are considered to be effective tools in communicating with the masses as people look up to them, and hence, connect with them. One of the most apt examples in this case would be the worldwide AIDS awareness campaign which has seen the likes of Hollywood superstar Richard Gere and one of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates further the cause.

The right amalgamation

Finding the funding for a public awareness campaign becomes a big issue, not to mention managing the logistics and management part of the project. It always makes more economic and commercial sense to partner in on a public awareness campaign. Hence, presence of a right partner makes all the difference. The right profile of the partner in turn guarantees the right amount of exposure to the campaign. Project HOPE, for example, is corporate partners with some of the biggest names in the pharma industry today—Bayer Diabetes Care, Becton Dickinson, and Eli Lilly. This partnership has made it possible to implement aproject of such scale for the first time in the country.

Follow up

Gauging final results for a public awareness campaign is as important as evaluating any other business venture. The extent of impact on general public, reach of awareness initiatives, number of people benefited etc are some parameters which need to be evaluated. Hence most public awareness programmes are followed by a study to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. This initiative is independent of the main campaign and is implemented after a specific period of completion of the project. Since most campaigns span over a period of two to three years on an average, companies choose to implement evaluation programmes at regular intervals during the life of the campaign. This allows for any mistakes or incompetency to be corrected early in the project.

While the marketing side of business tends to hold sway over the ethical side, this should ideally not be the situation in a public awareness campaign. Though driving the project to new heights is imperative to its success, managers cannot afford to forget that they are dealing with real people with real problems. Constant psychological support and easy access to patients and family members is something that should be top priority at all times. Because afterall, the real test of a people project lies in the contentment of the people.

garima.arora@expressindia.com