First Step Social Marketing Project


First Step Community Project with backing from Support from the Start are piloting a practical example of using a social marketing approach within a community based early years organisation. The aim is to develop capacity within a group of parents and grandparents to identify and respond to their community health needs in the early years. The project will utilise the expert knowledge of the parents and grandparents to develop appropriate intervention for health improvement.  At an early stage the food and health was chosen as a focus.

Who’s involved?

We have worked with service user from various groups who attend First Step which has included our Young Mums Group (yummy mummies) grans group, me time group (mums from all the areas of the project), Wednesday Group (families affected by substance misuse), Dad’s Work, parents who use the playrooms and staff to try to identify and respond to community health needs in early years.

After an attempt to get a “voices” or champions core group together, we realised that at the early stage both staff and those in the community were uncertain and unclear about what social marketing meant.

Health Survey

To raise the profile of the project and to try to enter into meaningful debate with the all service users we then carried out a health survey. This was collated using Survey Monkey. In the introduction to this survey we brought together the gran’s group and the “me time “group for a discussion to give us an intergenerational insight into their thoughts about health. We also had a discussion with the young mum’s group. There were 55 respondents in total to the survey.

Once this was collated we brought the Me-time and Grans Group together again to discuss the findings from the survey. The discussions and feedback of this focus group was videoed.

Social Marketing

Around this time two members of the steering group attended a three day training course, delivered by NHS Tayside and the National Social Marketing Centre as part of the Scottish Government Social Marketing pilot. This training was helpful in understanding the principles and processes of the Social Marketing approach. The learning from this was shared by providing training to First Step staff during an in-service day.

Scrapbook Project

As part of a wider project Support from the Start were asking groups to complete a Scrapbook and take photographs in response to the question “Does the physical space of our communities contribute to creating good health in the early years and support parents in raising healthy children”? First Step participated in this activity with input from five families.  A session was arranged with Jane, Tina and Morag from the Steering Group and parents who had taken part in this project. Various insights were gleaned from this process and the discussions that took place reflected common themes. The group successfully put together a scrapbook which was then presented at a wider community event.

Nutrition in Young Mums

Around the same time and independent of the Social Marketing project, Dr Jeni Hardin, Senior Lecturer at Napier University approached First Step to interview young mums as part of her research into nutrition. The findings from this preliminary research were presented to the steering group and copies of the report made available


Focus on Food

Information from the survey, focus groups, the Scrapbook and Dr Hardin’s research provided insight into local health concerns and informed the priority issue for the social marketing approach. The evidence from these scoping activities identified food and health as the focus for the social marketing project.


A New Concept

One of the difficulties about this project was that social marketing was a relatively new concept for staff, steering group members and First Step parents and grandparents. It has taken time to develop an understanding and agree how best to proceed. Additionally there have been changes and transition of staff within our organisation so it felt that we were always on catch up.

The initial proposal for a small group of First Step users to take this forward did not work because it was difficult to communicate what they were required to do. However in working this through in other ways we now have a core of parents who are interested in taking this forward.

Family Engagement

Unique to our approach was the involvement of the First Step families to identify the health concern in the first instance. Most other social marketing projects are set a health challenge from policy or research e.g. a “top-down” issue. It has been time consuming to reach this point however the steering group was comfortable with the “bottom-up” approach that we had to adopt from the start as it was in keeping with the underpinning social marketing principle of “customer orientation “.

Wider Involvement

The local community have been involved in all aspects as described above and based on the insight gained through this involvement it has been agreed that “food and health “ will be the issue to take forward and work with.

Next steps

Drawing from all the information we will be setting behavioural goals around food and health. We are finalising the statements to make them more user friendly, but the overarching goal will be to maintain and improve healthy food practices amongst First Step users.  The draft sub goals are:

  • To start the day with a healthy breakfast
  • To replace one unhealthy snack a day with a healthy snack
  • To be able to cook more healthier meals on a budget
  • To be able to cook more meals from scratch
  • To learn to share parenting strategies around food and children
  • To understand the relationship between adult (parent) food practices and their children’s food practices

We plan to use participatory appraisal techniques to test the phrasing and interest in these behavioural goals. We are also considering what baseline information we need to gather. We hope to tie some of this work into the First Step 21st birthday celebrations.  Following this the identification, development and implementation of “interventions” to achieve the behavioural goals will go ahead.  The Steering group is considering appropriate means to map existing food and health activity, services and information.

Fact & figures

55 respondents to survey
20 Me time and grans focus groups X 2 sessions
9 yummie mummies focus group
8 young mums in research
5 Scrapbooks
Training for staff
5 young mums at Cooking Bus
12 staff attended in-service training on Social Marketing Approach

Financial report

The funds were allocated to:

  • Part of salary cost
  • Additional hours for other key members of staff.
  • Crèche facilities for focus groups.
  • Staff training