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I tried to know the 5 signs, and came away with 5 lessons

For months I have seen posters and banners telling me to know the 5 signs – so ok – I finally bit and Googled the name. They got me! Let me start by saying that any public information campaign that touches behavioral health is tricky. And any attempt to move the discussion forward is to be lauded. There is a social stigma around mental illness, and it is a place where we need to do much better. If we threw around racial terms similar to “crazy,” “nuts,” and “out of your mind” people would look at you as if to say “Hey, that’s not cool.” But with behavioral health, we have a long way to go…

So, I looked at the site, thought about the campaign and took away these five lessons:

Call to action. The goal of any informational marketing effort is to educate and motivate. When I found the website (which had great SEO) I was dropped into a big page full of news and all kinds of stuff. It was a bit overwhelming – and while there was a “Campaign Goal” – it was mixed in with so much information that I did not know exactly what to do – I like websites that are simple and to the point, less is more. Be clear with your message, explain who you are, what you want- and what the reader can do to help. People get distracted and move on in a few seconds. Take all the news and endorsements and videos, and put that lower and not all over the opening page – less is really more.

How can I make a difference? The site I saw had some pretty tough statistics, so I get that this is a real issue – but I don’t get how I can help. Nonprofits tend to paint dark clouds with a heavy brush– and the danger is if the problem seems so endemic - so difficult – the reader thinks it is hopeless and moves on. It is human nature to say: This is too big for me, I will focus on a place I can make a difference.

Ask for a reasonable first step. The campaign asked a lot from me: Learn the signs, take care of myself, and sign up to do something. My concern was, there was an implication that I too could be on the road to behavioral health issues- and while that might be true – that tends to scare more than comfort. It was a big ask, and a bit overwhelming – and there was no inbound marketing engagement to get me to share, ask and listen. And that is behind the times in marketing and communication.

Be clear. To be honest, the five signs all kind of looked the same. There were subtle changes in each stick figure “happy face “– so I am left at a loss –this is so complicated that I have to really look. So, I am not sure of my ability to know 3 of the five signs and I get frustrated.

Test it. I am left wondering if this big website was market tested in NH. It is very worth it to test any marketing material, specifically one that attempts to change beliefs and understanding. Spending a lot of money on ads comes with a responsibility to test the product with key audiences, otherwise you are left with something that you THINK will work, but have no insight into how it will be received.

So, to be clear – this is a worthwhile effort- but it feels too big, not local or focused. I applaud the effort at work here, but I have to say that the overall product has a lesson we can all take way to better target and aim informational campaigns in the future.

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