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80/20 Rule for Promoting Wellness Programs

by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

Health promotion professionals often forget that at least half of the job is promotion (we would argue it’s closer to 80%) and spend a majority of time on health. While it’s great that you have stored vast wellness and disease prevention knowledge, it doesn’t do your organization much good if you can’t promote health to the masses.

Job 1 is getting them interested in what you have to offer. That’s why we spend so much time exploring promotion ideas that work. Here are a few more:

  • Staggering promotions. Design program schedules to catch the “planners” and “procrastinators.” An effective model is the bell curve, where you start out with subtle, low-cost promotions, build to your primary ones, then close with more modest reminders right up until the deadline.
  • Using referrals. Solicit referrals from current participants and call or email promotions to their friends/colleagues. This is a little more time consuming, but it results in a much higher return than blanket promotions.
  • Repeating promotions. If you find a technique works particularly well with a segment of your population, repeat it to the same group immediately. Again, you’ll beat blanket promotions 9 times out of 10 if you repeat effective promotions to interested groups.
  • Testing price and product. Select a few dozen potential participants to test different combinations of fees and features before rolling out a new service. You wouldn’t be the first to find a more expensive or less involved activity attracts more interest.
  • Using testimonials. Real life, believable testimonies bring in fence-sitters. Use them.
  • Adding graphics that contribute to the message. Whether you’re giving a presentation or distributing a 1-page flier, any pictures or illustrations should reinforce your message, not detract from it.
  • Focusing on benefits. Features don’t mean much; people want to know how they’ll look better, feel better, live longer, have more energy, etc. The length of the program, format, and instructor credentials are merely footnotes to these main messages.

Spend 4 of your 5 days a week (80%) working on the promotion side of health promotion this quarter to see if your participation starts to climb.