Set up a steering group
What is it?
A group of people who will work with and support you for the duration of the social marketing process. More >
The group will take collective responsibility for the project: they will manage the process all the way through and ensure deadlines are met.
Why do this?
The group will have the knowledge to understand the marketplace and what is required, the expertise to implement your proposals (or tap in to external resources when required), the ability to see, and therefore avoid, potential pitfalls and, perhaps most importantly, the energy and enthusiasm to ensure that whatever needs to be done, will be accomplished.
How might you do this?
- First decide what skills and experience you need and then try and identify a selected group of people who have the skills and experience and will work with, and support you, for all or part of the process. More >
The steering group can be made up of people from inside or outside your own organisation. They might be from local government, a primary care trust or the voluntary or private sectors. It will be up to you to consider who is most appropriate. It is important, however, to invite those who will bring a range of skills, experience and relevant contacts to your project. If possible, include colleagues who work on the issue you are addressing and those who have essential technical skills. For example:
- Marketing research and analysis
- Expertise in interventions and best practices related to the current challenge
- Programme development
- Social marketing
- Be prepared to bring in additional help to supplement steering group experience if required. More >
If you are short of particular expertise, such as qualitative research, you may need to commission an external researcher to carry out certain initiatives with the target audience. If this is the case, include it in your budget and try to have someone with experience of commissioning research sitting on the group.
- Invite prospective steering group members to a briefing where you present the issue you are addressing and explain the social marketing process. More >
Explain what they should expect, negotiate decision-making early on and resolve conflicts as they arise. Make sure that only those people who will play an active part in the process, and are prepared to take on responsibilities, are included in the steering group. At this point, you will begin to develop a clear project plan, outline your working budget and set timescales. You will also define clear roles and responsibilities and allocate the work required to complete the scoping phase.
- Manage group processes to make sure that the scoping phase and the entire programme are completed on time. More >
Managing Group Processes
- It is important to make sure that the scoping phase and the entire programme are completed on time. However, it is also important to ensure that there is time to develop a shared understanding of what is required. Often people don’t have a very developed sense of what effective social marketing and behavioural intervention work involves. Doing things like priming people with short NSMC leaflets about it – or holding an initiation workshop or stakeholder workshop to ensure people develop a shared understanding - can be important. This can save time in the long run.
- It is also important to make full use of skills and experience that members of the steering group, and other stakeholders, bring with them. Often, people talk about the same thing, but use slightly different language or approach it from a different perspective, so you need to recognise that this can happen.
- Some degree of conflict can be a good thing. Involving only ‘safe’ people who can be counted on to always agree with you can mean that alternative solutions may not be explored. Try to encourage constructive debate while minimising conflict.
- The steering group should meet at least once a month to monitor progress and keep the project moving forward. At each meeting you can clarify who is doing what and when they are doing it by, and you can reiterate the final deadline for completion.
- Members of the steering group may represent their own stakeholder group and others. You therefore need to ensure that responsibilities within the group include a means to communicate with those interested parties. How will other stakeholder groups be kept informed or their opinions obtained? Consider the use of websites, local newsletters, forums and advice clinics. Determine how this will be made available to the steering group and how it will be acted upon.
- It is advisable to keep the steering group reasonably small (between five and six people).
- Involve people who can invest the necessary time.
- Try to get a diverse range of skills involved, which means avoiding people with similar skills or backgrounds.
- At an early meeting, try and develop a clear project plan, outline a working budget, and set guide timescales.
- Key players identified and recruited to commit the necessary time and effort.
- A steering group with a clear understanding of their individual roles and responsibilities.
- An effectively functioning steering group with processes for shared understanding, decision making and conflict resolution.