Social Marketing Mistakes Public Health Professionals Should Avoid

Published: March 28, 2024 / No Comments

A recent campaign on Linked In by the Washington State Department of Health missed the mark. Here’s why:

1. Sub-optimal channel

Conversations about sexual health are inherently private and personal, which is the opposite of what LinkedIn is for. This belongs on Instagram and Facebook, but unless you are swimming in cash, it’s hard to justify spend on LinkedIn.

2. Awkward message

The pitch to “professionals like you” to share this info with “young people” feels awkward and off target. Who are these generic professionals? And In what context is it appropriate for professionals like me to share a link about sexual health clinics to young people at work? (Yikes.)

HR professionals: Share this guide to sexual health clinics in WA state as part of your employee health benefits information packet.

3. Non-specific targeting

Let’s pretend the real target is public health or HR benefits professionals, which would make more sense. In that case, the message, and ad spend, should have focused on that target.

4. Friction

Even if we fix all this, sharing is not as easy as it should be. That’s because the agency hired by the Washington State Department of Health to build this campaign forgot to remind them to add a share widget on the clinic finder page to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (X) and email.

5. Missed offline opportunity

The graphic in the ad makes a pretty good poster. So why can’t I figure out how to download and print it from the clinic locator page?


I don’t blame the DOH. They are staffed by professionals who are working hard to advance better healthcare outcomes in WA state, and they never signed up to be healthcare marketers. And agencies who win government contracts are often so happy to be picked and recoup bid costs, they do whatever the RFP demands, even if it makes no sense.

That’s a shame because this clinic finder is actually a really good tool, and deserves to be well known among people of all ages. For the taxpayers of WA state, I sure hope it finds its audience.

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