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Why can’t we be friends? Bridging the academic/practitioner gap in social marketing

Liz Foote (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Phill Sherring (New Zealand Social Marketing Network, Wellington, New Zealand)
Sharyn Rundle-Thiele (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 28 November 2023

Issue publication date: 2 January 2024

1312

Abstract

Purpose

In this paper we (a pracademic, a practitioner, and an academic) aim to explore the academic/practitioner gap in social marketing and offer recommendations to close it, while amplifying existing examples of best practice from within the field. We also propose a research agenda to spur dialog and guide further investigations in this area. Insights from prior research, coupled with the co-authors’ experience and observations, indicate that a disconnect does exist between academia and practice within social marketing, though it is admittedly and unsurprisingly not uniform across contexts and disciplinary areas. Given social marketing’s identity as a practice-oriented field, there are many existing examples of academic/practitioner collaboration and the successful linkage of theory and practice that deserve to be amplified. However, the challenges associated with the very different systems and structures affecting both worlds mean the disconnect is problematic enough to warrant systematic change to ensure the two worlds are more aligned.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper (a pracademic, a practitioner and an academic) explores the academic/practitioner gap in social marketing and offer recommendations to close it, while amplifying existing examples of best practice from within the field. The authors also propose a research agenda to spur dialog and guide further investigations in this area.

Findings

The authors suggest five key reasons that focus should be placed upon closing the academic/practitioner gap in social marketing: demonstrating societal value by contributing to practice; embedding and developing theories in practice; adding to the social marketing literature; contributing to social marketing teaching; and communicating the value and effectiveness of social marketing. To close the gap, the authors propose specific recommendations within four broad areas: marketing the academia and practitioner collaboration offer; building ongoing relationships; creating collaborative partnerships; and changing the publishing model ensuring communications are accessible to all. They also suggest ways for social marketing associations and peak bodies to play a role.

Originality/value

The concept of a disconnect between academia and practice is by no means new; it has been a pervasive issue across disciplines for decades. However, this issue has not been the subject of much discussion within the social marketing literature. Recommendations outlined in this paper serve as a starting point for discussion. The authors also acknowledge that due to long standing “bright spots” in the field, numerous examples currently exist. They place an emphasis upon highlighting these examples while illuminating a path forward.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the many individuals who answered their call to share examples and/or review early drafts: Erik Cateriano-Arévalo, Julie Colehour, Mel Dalley, Sameer Deshpande, Doug Evans, Giuseppe Fattori, Jay Kassirer, François Lagarde, Nancy Lee, Rick MacPherson, Gael O’Sullivan, Mahmooda Khaliq Pasha, Claudia Parvanta, Tom Staite, Jennifer Tabanico, Alan Tapp, Diogo Veríssimo, Abigail Abrash Walton and Nedra Weinreich. Their contributions strengthened the manuscript and illustrate the range of inspirational collaborative social marketing work underway within the field. The authors would also like to thank Griffith University for creating the Executive in Residence program that gave Phill (the practitioner) the opportunity to embed amongst a bunch of incredibly welcoming and supportive academics at Social Marketing @ Griffith. This paper (and its broader research agenda) is a direct result of that experience. Also, the first two authors would like to make clear that for months they incessantly fought over authorship order for this paper and Liz only conceded accepting first authorship due to being an early career researcher and the “metrics” she’s unsurprisingly not a fan of having to use.

Citation

Foote, L., Sherring, P. and Rundle-Thiele, S. (2024), "Why can’t we be friends? Bridging the academic/practitioner gap in social marketing", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 26-51. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSOCM-09-2023-0232

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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