Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scientific Research + PR = Healthier Lifestyles?

Everyday, Americans are bombarded with new scientific reports that pertain to the delicate issue of human health and safety. One day a researcher claims to have a cure for preventing breast cancer, the next day there's a study that announces the healthiest foods to eat, and another day we hear how to treat a case of the cold. The updates are seemingly endless, but boy do those scientists know how to get PR!

The news media gobble up these reports to announce to their concerned (though probably confused) audience, since people like to hear about ways to live longer. Frustratingly, however, many of these reports are either discredited later, or the ones that are legit often go unnoticed. For instance, some reports we hear suggest there may be links between cell phone usage and brain tumors, yet other reports find no correlation whatsoever; meanwhile, we ALL know the downsides of obesity, yet obesity rates in America are only just now showing signs of improvement...approximately 33% of Americans are obese, a rate that's held steady since 1999 and may be on a downward trend. Sometimes a big message needs a while and enough time to sink in.

So today I came across an article announcing that salt is the hidden killer in our food. Within the article, it claims, "the American medical association says cutting people's sodium intake in half could save 150,000 lives a year".

Well, now there's a number for you! 150,000 lives could be saved just by cutting salt? How come this number isn't dancing all over the place? Why not put that number in the headline? Why isn't there any uproar about demanding that restaurants and food manufacturers cut salt immediately?

Quite simply, the problem of salt intake is a backseat issue in most Americans' minds. "Salt is just salt... it can't be that harmful," you might say. Or, "I don't care about my salt levels, I'd rather eat tasty food."

Meanwhile, a gunshot kills a pro football player and the entire nation is grieving. Sad, yes, absolutely, but it just goes to show that there's not much in the way of dramatic PR when it comes to a person dying because of heart disease from too much salt intake. "Celebrity Overdoses on Salt During Course of Lifetime, Dies" is not a headline you're likely to see.

So, let me make the segue into marketing here... if you're a marketer, and the story you tell about your product doesn't make the big headlines, what can you do?

Well, welcome to the challenge of marketing. Ultimately if you're like most marketers with a limited budget or without a "big bang" product or service, you've got to use lots of smaller messages and spread the word in more of a grassroots fashion. People will catch on, slowly but surely.

It's kind of like sprinkling your message around like a salt shaker, a few grains at a time. After a while, those grains start adding up and people will take notice.

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