Research by Bupa suggests that mental health is now a boardroom priority for 63% of businesses. Of those survey, 28% revealed that mental health is now a bigger problem among their teams than physical illnesses.
Despite this, there has long been an inexcusable stigma surrounding mental health. Not just at work but across the wider society.
I’m writing this post during Mental Health Awareness Week, whose theme in 2020 is, simply, ‘kindness’. It arrives at a time when the world and our way of life has turned completely upside thanks to COVID-19. It encourages us all to be mindful of one another and do all we can to help our fellow human beings.
It’s not much to ask, is it? And, when it comes to the world of business, there’s an awful lot marketers can do, too.
But first – let’s address that elephant in the room.
Marketers suffer from poor mental health, too
In 2018, Bupa’s Dr Pablo Vandenabeele neatly illustrated the pressures placed on marketing professionals.
“Marketing is very much a knowledge-based industry, so therefore it isn’t good enough to make sure that physically you are fit and well, it is crucial that your mental wellbeing is preserved,” he said. “Marketers need to maintain their concentration and work towards tight deadlines, which can all be very stressful. And, of course, we know that stress can be a big precipitant for mental ill health.”
Dr Vandenabeele talks about the “skill of failure” and the fact that many marketing graduates lack this vital tool when they first set foot into the industry.
Dealing with setbacks in marketing can be challenging if you’re not familiar with the skill – and importance – of failing. It heaps pressure on people who aren’t prepared for it and, in turn, that can severely impact their mental health.
Marketing leaders, therefore, need to ensure their teams work under a model that’s aware of mental health and which retains a positive, open attitude towards it. We’re all in this together, right?
So, before you consider how your marketing campaigns can help raise awareness of mental health issues, it’s probably a good idea to take a closer look at your team. And, don’t forget your own mental health. Is the support in place to ensure you can deliver these campaigns effectively, and, more importantly – with a happy, positive and healthy mindset?
Is it an opportunity to sell more stuff?
Mental Health Awareness Week shouldn’t be used as an excuse to sell stuff, but you can certainly use it to raise awareness of your brand. If that results in more sales of something – great!
There have been examples of brands getting this kind of marketing hideously wrong. Sunny D, for instance, decided to use Mental Health Awareness Week to give control of its Twitter account to team members, asking them to “express their feelings of hopelessness”.
You can imagine what ensued.
Clearly, the idea was to draw some short term, albeit voluminous attention to the brand, and while that certainly worked, any marketer will know that flash-in-the-pan promotion of that kind is both short-lived and dangerous if misused.
Instead, marketing that coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week needs to be far simpler in its messaging and mindful (excuse the pun) of its audience. And that’s what ‘normal’ marketing is about, anyway, so it shouldn’t be particularly difficult to adapt!
Here are a few ideas for mental health awareness campaigns which any business can latch onto.
1. Start a conversation
One of the most effective things you can do as a business to support mental health awareness is to start (or keep) the conversation going.
There are numerous examples of this. Most recently, the English FA teamed up with Heads Together to create ‘Heads Up’, a campaign designed to encourage men to ask for help.
This particular campaign recognised that men are less likely to ask for support, and used the FA’s brand power and market positioning to kick off a massive conversation. You could do the same.
2. Run or commission a poll
Data is powerful. I’ve already quoted a few statistics in this blog post, but imagine if I’d linked out to your company’s website and its findings on mental health?
One of the best ways to make your brand visible within the mental health sphere is to add to the fascinating (yet concerning) numbers that surround the issue.
Run a poll among your customers or a subset of your local community that asks questions specific to mental health. The insight you gain can form a content marketing campaign which will demonstrate how socially-conscious your business is. It’ll win you plenty of fans, and you’ll positively contribute to the wider mental health awareness discussion, too
3. Launch a social content campaign
Putting Sunny D’s slightly questionable approach to one side, social media marketing is a brilliant way to get involved in mental health awareness as a business.
Even LADbible has done this, when they launched the brilliantly-titled ‘UOKM8?’ campaign in 2016. It was again inspired by statistics (in this case, the harrowing thought that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45), and extremely well positioned.
Can you think of a social content campaign that nods towards mental health data and which provides an outlet for people to add their own content or share the message?
4. Start a charity
Charity? This is a marketing blog, right?
Indeed it is, but there are few better ways to prove that your business has a social conscience than to get involved in charitable endeavours. Mixing business and good cause is a great way to draw more eyes towards your company and mental health is a great place in which to make your mark.
This requires funds, of course, but if your pockets are deep enough, why not start something new today and put some of your marketing weight behind it?
You’ll notice that I haven’t once suggested above that you talk about your business or its products. But, sometimes, that’s what marketing is all about.
This is all about your audience – their challenges, frustrations and fears. As marketers, we should all be capable of providing messaging, content and interactivity that raises awareness of mental health.
It’s thought poor mental health costs employers as much as £42 billion each year. But that’s irrelevant when you take into account the human cost.
As marketers, we all have a responsibility to raise awareness about mental health, but also take care of our own and that of our comrades.