Social Workers Can Create a Buzz About Their Profession
By Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW
Business entrepreneurs are sometimes thought to be the only ones who create buzz around their professions, or engage in marketing efforts, but social workers also have the strengths and skills to be savvy marketers. You can harness your training to carry out traditional marketing activities such as branding, selling, and social media networking that can have a powerful impact on your work. And you might already by taking those first steps into marketing and not even realize it.
Be Your Own Spin Doctor: Personal Branding
Identify your attributes, such as your strengths, challenges, passions, and values, and record these thoughts in a simple document. There are many books and articles on this topic; for example, Personal Branding For Dummies is full of tips that can help you structure your approach. This is a get-to-know-yourself exercise and an evaluation of your world from your own perspective. As a social worker, you often consider how people interact within their environment, so ask yourself; what are the elements that influence you the most? How do you react to events and news around you? What are your best qualities and skills that impact your community and colleagues?
The good news is, you're already trained to do this type of high-level assessment. Turning your evaluation skills inward is valuable and will help you strategically think about how to present yourself. Also, to make this work much easier, just be honest and true to yourself. Once you summarize your attributes, have a colleague or mentor give you feedback. This will determine if you're on target or missing a special skill or trait you should be highlighting about your brand.
Once you identify these crucial elements, it's time to craft narratives for communicating your brand. Two common tools developed are the elevator pitch and personal statements. Your elevator pitch is often presented verbally (in the time it takes for an elevator ride) and gives someone a quick introduction about who you are and your skills and experience. Your pitch invites questions and engages conversation. A personal statement is brief, maybe no longer than 10 words, and incorporates your previously identified attributes. Both types of narratives can be incorporated on your LinkedIn profile, résumé, cover letters, and websites, and should best highlight your career goals and personal aspirations.
When you're ready to roll out your brand, there are myriad ways to do this. Social media tools, like Twitter and LinkedIn, are crucial and a good way to share content and showcase your expertise that's connected to values and causes you're passionate about. Pictures and videos provide better engagement, too, so use them if you're comfortable. Consider launching a personal website that's brief and encompasses a blog, biography, résumé, and links to your social media profiles. Do try to present and write articles around your expertise to gain exposure for your skills.
Social Workers as Natural Marketers
Strategies utilized by corporations that promote social responsibility programs or cause-related organizations focused on issues such as cancer awareness, marriage equality, and suicide prevention have benefited both from creative marketing strategies, as well as sound program planning.
As more corporations are giving back to communities, it's also viewed as a useful strategy for maintaining healthy bottom lines. Target has hired social workers in their stores and committed to supporting causes. Even if you believe it's merely a ploy to engage customers and inspire good feelings about shopping at Target, it's still leveraging the social work value of "doing good" to engage their community. This cause-related marketing has a unique place in our profession, and often is led by social workers.
Cause-focused organizations have created savvy marketing campaigns, too. One example is the Human Rights Campaign, along with many other advocacy groups focused on LGBT issues. These groups successfully fight against discrimination of LGBT Americans and created a world where marriage is now legal for same-sex couples. Advocates in the LGBT movement marketed and communicated to the general public the importance of their mission, and told compelling stories and humanized those they advocate for. Legal work, reaching the hearts and minds of people, and a good public relations strategy forever changed the laws. While the times and people's attitudes change, many of the great movements of our century had a marketing component.
To demonstrate the relationship between marketing and social work, here are concepts commonly used in these professions and a description about how they are related or similar.
Strengths Perspective = Brand Equity
Assessment = Marketing Plan
Advocacy = Promotional Campaign
Person-In-Environment = Target Market Identification
Empathy = Relationship Marketing
Since social work and marketing skill sets can come naturally, this gives you the power to create a more positive perception of the work you do and enhance the success of your causes. Additionally, changing how people perceive the social work profession can both improve our reputation and strengthen our missions.
— Kristin Battista-Frazee, MSW, is a marketing consultant and freelance writer based in McLean, Virginia.