Among other duties, social marketers help identify and share solutions to life’s great challenges. We research what works, disseminate the findings, and put new plans into action. But are we sharing solutions in ways that really resonate? How do we measure our own progress?

Most recently this need to examine the breadth and depth of an effort’s reach was highlighted in an article called, “The solutions to all our problems may be buried in PDFs that nobody reads,” from The Washington Post’s Wonkblog. The Post noted that the World Bank recently analyzed how many of its policy briefs were downloaded and the result was fairly dismal, with only 13% having more than 250 downloads. 517 reports had never been downloaded at all.

Sometimes I fear that the best thinking in social marketing will be similarly overlooked by people who most need the information. Perhaps our findings are inaccessible to practitioners, or unclear. If you disagree, ask yourself: How many times will we need to suggest that a few focus groups “do not a research program make,” only to review another initiative that relied exclusively on focus groups for formative research?

So, what should we do? The knee-jerk reaction is to want to share more, do more, say more. Yet Greg McKeown’s bookEssentialism proposes that to make our highest contribution, we should not do more but rather “do less, better.”

With that in mind, let’s investigate the best ways to share the highest-quality information from our field with front-line decision-makers and choice architects. As a field, we need to measure the progress we are making in truly resonating with these influencers of change. As the World Bank has done, let’s examine the areas where our focus will make the greatest impact.


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