Partnerships are a powerful tool in social marketing and public awareness campaigns. Once you’ve determined and segmented your audiences, finding organizations that have the respect and the trust of your target audiences can be critical to your success. Campaign partners can help you reach your targets in a variety of ways, many more than any one organization could. In some instances, partner organizations can also bring resources to the table to make the campaign broader and richer. Partners can help in your efforts to reduce barriers to desired actions.
But the first question you need to ask yourself is: What’s in it for the partner?
Too often, partners are treated as passive promoters at the end of the line. A major mistake is not involving them from the beginning. Treat them the way you want to be treated. At Hager Sharp, we’ve developed partnerships with a wide range of organizations committed to improving health, creating educational opportunities, and transforming communities through behavior change. Along the way, we’ve picked up some important tips:
- View partners as a priority audience. When developing campaigns, we always define the target audience and do research to determine their needs and wants. The same should be done for partners. If possible, conduct an evaluation with potential partners to determine their satisfaction, commitment, likes and dislikes, and any perceived challenges.
- Bring them in early. To truly engage, bring them in early, when the campaign is still in the development phase. It will show your partners that their opinions matter. You may also benefit—your partner organization may bring with them important insight to help guide the campaign.
- Increase the benefits and reduce the costs. To make partnerships work, they need to be truly collaborative. For some partners, the benefits may be as simple as public recognition at conferences, on your website, and through your social media channels. Other times it’s a matter of being helpful and flexible, such as providing technical assistance or empowering partners to take some ownership of the campaign. Sometimes it can even be helping partners connect with other partners.
- Communicate often. Don’t wait until you need something to reach out to partners. Engage with them on a regular basis. For example, set up quarterly calls to give partners an opportunity to share their ideas, provide input, and give you feedback. Regular communication will also make partners feel more engaged.