Role of Social Media in Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) Change Marketing

Behavior change marketers focus on identifying and reaching the individual target audience they want to motivate to change – but what if there was another way to achieve the same thing? Targeting the policies, systems, and environmental changes (PSE) that can enable or discourage the behaviors you want to change can create a two-pronged approach and will contribute to meeting your behavior change goals.

This all sounds great, right? But how do we drive change that leads to new policies, rethinks systems and rules, or makes meaningful environmental changes? Instead of targeting the individual to motivate them to adopt healthy eating, for instance, what if you partner with the city planning board to develop a new neighborhood garden? Or develop a healthy meal plan in conjunction with a school system?

One of the most effective channels for reaching and engaging with those who influence PSE change is through social media. Creating engaging content for social media that supports your push for policy, systems, or environmental change can reach your target audiences and encourage and inspire action that can grow momentum through sharing. Learn how to create a social strategy for your PSE behavior change campaign that is relevant and engaging.

Overview of Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change (PSE)

Policy, systems, and environmental change is a way of modifying the environment to make healthy choices practical and available to everyone in a specific community. PSE approaches seek to go beyond interventions and focus on individual behavior to influence the systems that create the structures in which we work, live, and play. By changing policies, systems and/or environments, communities can help tackle health issues like obesity, diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases.

Policy changes – policies changed at the micro or macro level:

  • Passing laws, ordinances, resolutions, mandates, regulations
  • Federal, state, local government
  • School or park districts
  • Community institutions
  • Work sites

System changes work hand-in-hand with policy:

  • Changing infrastructure and rules within an organization that lead to healthier workforces/communities

Environmental changes – changes made to the physical environment:

  • Population-focused efforts
  • Physical (structural changes), social (promoting positive or supportive behaviors and attitudes), and economic (financial incentives or disincentives to change behavior)

PSE & Social Media: Finding the Behavior Change Marketing Magic

When integrated into health communication campaigns and activities, social media can encourage participation, conversation, and community – all of which can help spread key messages, influence decision-making, and promote behavior change. Social media can impact all three areas!

Social media arose from the desire to connect people online, but no one really expected the level of influence today’s social media would have on people’s everyday lives. Targeting a message to a specific audience is when you find social media campaigns really gaining traction.

Using social media as a channel for your PSE behavior change marketing campaign only makes sense; it is where you can target and reach the audiences and communities you are looking to impact, while also reaching those who impact PSE. As part of your PSE campaign, we recommend using social media for the following objectives:

  • Policy change: communicating to those making decisions and to those who are impacted by the decisions.
  • System change: communicating to those impacted, how things are changed and communicated by your organization.
  • Environmental change: providing access to information, changing the conversation, and using those who have influence to help alter behavior.

PSE Behavior Change Marketing Campaign Case Study

Eat. Gather. Go.

Purdue University’s Extension Nutrition Program came to us for help with a new PSE behavior change marketing campaign. The objective was to target and motivate low-income moms in Indiana to make the switch to healthy habits for their families and them. Before the launch of Eat. Gather. Go., we did some research on our audience’s behaviors and found that:

  • Facebook is the preferred social platform of supermarket shoppers – 89% use it
  • New Parents use Facebook mobile 1.3x more often than users without children
  • 63% of SNAP-Ed eligible population use social media on a daily basis
  • 66% of adults who make less than $30,000 use Facebook
  • 73.5% of SNAP-Ed eligible population access social media through their smartphones

Knowing where our audience consumes information, we began to develop videos (delivering an emotional connection with other moms), how-to articles on physical activities, and recipes (simple, low/no-cost ideas) that were targeted to moms. We published content about the PSE initiatives as well as the individual behavior change marketing strategies to Facebook and Instagram 2-3 times per week, knowing the majority of our audience checked it daily.

The results? A 36.2% YOY increase in engagement with our target audience.

About Ethos

Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that specializes in behavior change marketing programs designed to reach specific target audiences across multiple communication channels to encourage measurable change.

At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.

With Ethos, you get more than a behavior change marketing agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.

Learn more about the Ethos approach and the work we’ve done for our clients. Contact us!

Written By

The ETHOS Team