This practical guide has a touch of ambition, says Russell Collins

It is clear from the list of contributors that this book offers the authoritative guide to social marketing and public health in the UK. To argue that this material is better suited to the internet would discredit Jeff French and his colleagues, who have brought together important contributions within a single, readable volume.

It covers the principles that the National Social Marketing Centre has done so much to standardise and promote. The later chapters take the concept further, including a timely and relevant contribution by Graham Lister on demonstrating value for money.

I am sure that the lack of case studies will be dealt with through further publications. My only real concern was with the opening chapter, which spoke of “people power”, “the acknowledgement that governments cannot do it alone” and a “citizen-driven business model”. While social marketing undoubtedly develops engaged customers, I am not sure it can be fully described as an approach based on citizenship. Yes, social marketing has ambition to empower and co-produce, but is it enough to assume a “mandate for change” from market research insight alone?

Think tanks on the left and right, such as Demos and ResPublica, are leading an increasingly vocal, exciting and influential debate on the power of citizen based approaches. Perhaps this was a missed opportunity to reflect on the impact of these approaches on social marketing. These, however, are minor quibbles to an otherwise comprehensive guide which should be required reading for any healthcare professional with ambition to effect sustainable social improvement.

Russell Collins is a consultant at healthcare consultancy Finnamore.


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