MARKETING CONTINENCE


This was the title of a workshop conducted by the Continence Promotion Committee (CPC) at the International Continence Society (ICS) meeting in Athens in August 1996. It was coordinated by Christine Norton and attended by approximately 50 ICS members.

Fifteen national continence organizations were represented. There were seven presentations that gave different perspectives of marketing strategies. This included attracting the attention of the media on marketing to consumers, health professionals and government bodies.

It was agreed that, given the sensitivity of the subject, special strategies are required firstly to attract the interest of the media and then to help them find a way to promote the message. Strategies could include:

* introducing the media to people with incontinence
* briefing of the media by medical and nursing personnel
* dress rehearsal by those being interviewed of information that is to be conveyed, especially recognizing the media tendency to look for the more sensational aspects of a story
* ensuring the key critical points are presented up front so that if time runs out, as it is bound to do, the critical issues would have been addressed
* nurturing "friendships" with the media.

In marketing to health professionals it was recognized that a different approach is required:

* because the needs and interests of different groups of doctors, nurses or physiotherapists are likely to be different
* because there is often indirect competition between these groups
* conducting of focus groups may help identify realistic objectives for these various groups.

Various government bodies are important as sources not only of income but also for policy issues related to incontinence. Therefore it is important to develop specific marketing strategies that are geared to this. These could include:

* understanding local structures of government bodies
* identifying personnel and committees who may have responsibility for incontinence
* identifying the position of the respective government political parties on continence-related issues
* recognizing that various diverse departments may have a potential interest e.g. schools, prisons, health, environment etc.

The manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries are an important potential source of support and independently have their own marketing strategies. It is therefore important to develop joint approaches wherever possible. Strategies could include:

* identifying common areas of interest that could unite the various competing companies which could be developed and promoted
* advising industry on possible strategic approaches that would complement the activities of national organizations
* looking at how to utilize the expertise of recognized health professionals in the work of the industry

The incontinent person and their carer (the consumer) are obviously the most important group to target. The critical importance was recognized of choice of language in affecting how they might or might not respond. Input should be sought from these consumers in planning marketing to ensure that the strategies are both relevant and sensitive.

The workshop provided an ample opportunity for a productive and open exchange of ideas between representatives which should help their endeavors in future activities.