S2 E10: Nora Snoddy on How Marketing Can Further the Behavioral Health Conversation

As a marketing strategy consultant and mental health advocate, Nora Snoddy believes in using marketing as a force for good. So, how does she help behavioral health organizations educate and connect with the public in a way that breaks down complex issues and fights the stigma that keeps people from seeking help?

Podcast Transcript

Nora Snoddy: Hi, I’m Nora Snoddy. I am a local Nashville marketer with about 10 years experience with campaign planning, marketing strategy, and marketing analytics, and I’ve lived in Nashville for about six years now and have two adorable little fur babies, Lola and Gaston. So, a little bit about me.

David: So, from Beauty and the Beast?

Nora: Yes, that’s what happened. He really takes on that personality as well. I probably shouldn’t have done that.

David: Well, Nora, glad to have you with us here-

Nora:Thank you for having me.

David: at the Mental Health Marketing Conference in Nashville. Thanks for being with us.

Nora: Of course. Thank you.

David: We’ll start with your story, your background, how you got interested in marketing. Walk us through that journey.

Nora: Sure. I never meant to land in marketing. I am a public relations and art history major. I thought I was going to go work for a museum, let alone a B2B tech company, years down the road. So, it wasn’t really in the plan. One thing, things just lined up for me really nicely, and I credit it all to networking with people and talking to people and being open to new opportunities.

About 10 years ago when social media started to become the hot new thing, and it was being used as a marketing channel, I happened to be the youngest at an agency I was at. I remember my CEO coming to me and saying, “Hey, we have a client that wants social media. You’re the youngest one here. Can you do it?” I’m like, “Sure. I don’t know how to use this for marketing, but I’ll figure it out.” I read every book out there, talked to a lot of people, downloaded so many calendar templates, and just really dove in. From there, I was able to build out this practice at a very young age. I still don’t know why they trusted me with this job but they did.

I started my career really in marketing through social media. My journey has been very much a result of just who I’ve been connected with. From doing social media, I dove in a little deeper, I went to a social media agency and then came down here to Nashville to work in the music industry and do social media for artists, and then was using Emma Tech software for our marketing and got connected with them and they were hiring in marketing, and I said, “You know what, I love the people. I’m going to give this a try.” I was there for over four years before leaving and taking on new opportunities to help startups grow their marketing and digital presences.

David: You’re here at the conference today, the focus is on mental health. From the background you just described, you’re bringing this outsider’s perspective into behavioral health marketing. What does that look like for you? Using those eyes, that perspective, what surprised you?

Nora: It’s been really interesting. It’s been a great learning experience. First and foremost, coming from software, where you are marketing to marketers. Marketers are very smart, savvy people. They are up on the trends. They know all the gimmicks. You can’t trick them. I think you’re doing this really forward, future thinking type of marketing, and you’re having to be innovative.

What I’ve learned from being in the mental health space and the health space, in general, is that some of those trends that we see in the digital space or in technology haven’t quite made it to the healthcare stage.

David: They’re just a step or two behind.

Nora: It’s a step or two behind which is also great. There’s a lot of learnings out there that marketers in healthcare space can take and implement into their programs. You see specifically with email marketing, I see a lot of email newsletters. Those are really loglines with multiple columns that you’re like, “I don’t even know where to read.”

David: It’s a PDF?

Nora: Exactly. Things like that. SEO actually has been the most challenging thing I’ve noticed from an outsider. It’s really easy to pull keywords about email marketing. It’s not so easy to pull keywords related to mental health. People aren’t always searching those terms, either. What are those other keywords that you could be leveraging?

David: The general public may not even know the terms.

Nora: They may not even know. Exactly. I’ve learned with being in the mental health space here, there’s a little bit of a gap when it comes to education around mental health. That’s why Psych Hub is such a great mission, trying to educate consumers about mental health, but people don’t know what to search for. That’s, I think, a unique challenge, this space, and something that I think the industry will have to figure out, how to work with. Those have been the two things that stood out with me the most, I think, through this experience.

One, when it comes to email, you’re not seeing as many newer tactics being implemented. They’re not so new but they’re – I like to use the term human-centric. You’re not seeing a lot of that personalization or really the focus on the user experience. I think that’s embedded very much in tech and not so much in healthcare. That’s one piece of the puzzle, and then you have other channels like your website and trying to leverage SEO, and it’s hard because you’re dealing with sensitive topics and words that people might not even know that they need to search for. It’s a totally different challenge than I think a lot of other industries face.

David: You used the term human-centric marketing. What does that look like? In a perfect world, what would that be?

Nora: Sure. I love data. I’d much rather be in a spreadsheet than creating something. Don’t ask me to go into Photoshop, it is a disaster. I think when you think about human-centric, there’s two aspects to building a marketing campaign. One, you want to take the data that you have already, if you have it, look at research about your industry, but then I think there’s this piece of doing customer discovery that is not always prioritized but so important to help create those meaningful experiences. I think sometimes, as marketers, especially, we think we know best because maybe we looked at the data and we think like, “This is the answer.”

David: Because you’re the experts.

Nora: Exactly. We’re the experts, people should like what we like, but that’s really not the case. Having that communication with your customers or your target audience and really understanding them and providing value to them is so important, and getting feedback as well and really uncovering what drew people to certain content, and then helping develop content based on those insights. I think that that’s a piece of the puzzle that isn’t quite always prioritized in marketing, is that discovery. I’m really big on, how can you make that a priority for your organization?

David: Understanding what caused that person to light up when they saw–

Nora: Yes. Why did so many people like this one post with- there was a lot of red. One thing that we found was there was, something about that color that really just engaged people. It helped us build content that, one, was not only going to perform well, which every marketer wants, but it also going to resonate with your consumer and your audience and provide them with that really good brand experience. Because, it’s a relationship between your audience and your brand and so you need to make that as personal as possible.

David: You’re here speaking about email marketing, specifically. I think it’s interesting looking at email marketing because I feel like it’s been around for so long. It gets overlooked.

Nora: I looked it up – it’s 40 years. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.”

David: You’re just like, “Why are we still talking about email marketing?”

Nora: Yes, “Is email dead?”

David: But tt’s the most effective, in a lot of ways.

Nora: It is.

David: Why is that?

Nora: I love email and I totally light up when I talk about it. It’s one of the few channels that’s still really personal. I pulled a screenshot from my phone, and there was an email from Nordstrom, an email from, I think the other one was Paper Source, and then an email from Nashville Junior League, and an email for my boyfriend about our friend who was babysitting our dog. If you think about how powerful that is, your brand is sitting side by side with messages that are really important to me. I don’t think you get that anywhere else. With social media, you buy ads now. It doesn’t feel like your own personal space.

David: You can tell. Your brain can tell this is an ad.

Nora: Exactly. You’re like, “Oh yes.” You go into Instagram, you can’t tell me that that feels like, “Oh, that’s my area,” like just my newsfeed is mine. I think with email, we still feel that ownership. I think that’s why it can be such a powerful place, and when brands do email well, they will see those results.

David: Another element of this is telling a story, which when you’re a brand, especially a brand in behavioral health space, can be difficult to even figure out like what that story is. How do you help people, a, discover what the story is and what they want to be telling, but then implement it and get it out there?

Nora: Sure. From more of a tactical perspective, and if we’re looking at email, one of the best places to tell your story is right at the beginning. We see this a lot. You sign up for a newsletter, you get that first email back, and it’s, “Thank you for signing up, here’s the promo code”, whatever. A lot of organizations miss the mark and miss that that is an opportunity for you to start to build that relationship and tell your story to your new subscriber, which in the long run is going to help build that emotional connection. We talked about this a lot during my time at Emma, was, extending that welcome, what we call the welcome series. You have that first email that, “Thank you for signing up, here’s your promo code”, but then using those three to five next emails to really build that relationship, and you can tell your story that, like, what is your mission, maybe tell customer stories, or case studies are so powerful, because people also trust other people, they don’t want to hear too much from the brand. As much as you can leverage those, it’s really successful.

Then starting to show your subscriber, here are all our offerings, and paying attention to that behavior. Is somebody clicking on– Let’s say you have an addiction center, if somebody click on a specific location, that person is indicating to you that I’m interested in that and that’s a great opportunity for personalized follow up. Then, you can eventually ask for maybe some more Information like, somebody, “Hey, can you update your email preferences so we can make sure we get you that right information?”

You don’t want to start that too early on, because people don’t know you. I think when you’re talking about telling a story and introducing yourself to your new audience member, and if you’re looking at it from an email perspective, there’s a lot of opportunity in those very first interactions to make that impact and build that relationship.

David: You touched on it earlier, the personalization part of this. How do you recommend that people use that in a way that’s not overusing it or maybe creepy?

Nora: Yes they think it’s creepy right? Oh my gosh, I once got one email that was like, had my first name, last name, Belmont University where I did my MBA, all these really creepy. I’m like, “Wow, this is my job title.” Way too much. I was like, “Buddy, this is too much.”

David: I don’t know you.

Nora: I don’t know you. What’s really great about personalization, and I think we think of it as first name and a subject line. That’s not what personalization is about. Personalization is about being relevant. There’s different ways that you can do that. I think the stat is about 50% of marketers don’t feel like they can do personalization, because they don’t have clean data. They don’t have first name, last name in their email accounts.

David: You don’t want to get it wrong.

Nora: It’s terrifying, then you’ll end up with last name and the first enter sign and brackets, but what is really cool is there’s a lot of other tactics you can use that will give that subscriber a more relevant experience, I’d even argue, than plugging in data. For example, going back to that welcome series, that’s a great example. That is an element- that’s being personal. That is creating a relevant experience. You are not sending that new subscriber an email you are sending to somebody who’s been on your list for five years and knows your brand. You’re being relevant to them. It’s all about where they are in their journey with you as a brand.

David: It’s less about them as the person – “Nora Snoddy” – it’s more about, where are they?

Nora: Exactly it’s more about their relationship with their brand. If you go back to this idea of this human-centric marketing approach, it’s about knowing where your audience is and their relationship with your brand and making it all about them, too. I think that’s what we often, as marketers, we don’t really think about that. It’s our job to make our consumers lives as easy as possible. The focus should be on that. Think about it from a relationship perspective, no one wants to hang out with a friend that talks about themselves the whole time, you want somebody who’s interested in your life as well.

Another way you could do personalization, I’m really loving this and it’s based on real time delivery, when somebody receives the email having content that is up to date. For example, one organization was selling tickets to a conference, and they had a countdown in their email. It was based on whenever somebody opened that email, how much time was left for them to get that early bird discount. It’s very subtle, but it shows your consumer, your audience, that we care about where you are when you are opening this. We want to get you the most up to date information, because let’s be serious, nobody is sitting there opening their email as soon as it’s sent. Providing that is being thoughtful about your consumer and your audience and making it the best experience possible for them and making sure it’s relevant. Really, at the end of the day, personalization is about being relevant.

David: All right, so bringing it back around to mental health, what would be one thing, in a bigger picture sense, one thing that you wish our culture, our country understood better about mental health, about healthcare?

Nora: Sure. I think the thing that has been so interesting to me a mental health advocate and somebody who’s a huge believer in people getting the care that they need was, how the system doesn’t really start with education. I think that has become a big piece of the puzzle that I’m really passionate about and that’s Psych Hub’s whole mission and why I was so excited to work with them and help them get their digital presence launched.

People don’t know always what they’re looking for. I like to use the analogy. It’s like asking people to ride a bike without training wheels. You hear a lot of organizations say, “Tell your story, get help, tell your provider.” Well, if people don’t know the signs, if people don’t even know the words always to use, how are they going to feel comfortable telling their story and breaking the stigma or going to their provider to get help? I think that initial piece of getting that free education to people is just so crucial.

David: Even understanding that something’s wrong.

Nora: Exactly. Then that there are options too and I think understanding types of therapies. People don’t like to go to therapists, they don’t know what they’re getting when they go to- They’re like, “Am I going to sit on a couch?” There’s great evidence-based practices out there that people should know about when they enter into that journey. I think, education. I wish people understood that’s okay to go look for information and get educated on these topics.

David: All right, so for someone who wants to dive deeper into the education on this subject, what would be a book or resource that you’d recommend for them to follow up with?

Nora: Sure, well, of course, I mentioned Psych Hub, go to psychhub.com, watch some free videos. Everything is clinically sound, trauma informed, you know you’re getting good content. I think one of the other challenges with mental health is you don’t always know what you’re getting online, like any health information, but then also MHA is a great resource, NAMI, Jed Foundation, all have very credible resources to learn more.

David: To wrap up with this last one, what would be a favorite piece of advice, something that’s meant a lot to you that you’d want to pass on?

Nora: My mother.

David: It’s a good place for advice to come from.

Nora: When you’re younger, you’re like,”Oh, mom, she doesn’t know anything.” The older I get, I’m like, “No, she is actually pretty wise.” She told me, “Talk to everybody you meet because everyone has a really interesting story and listen.” Especially, you hear such powerful stories in this space, and it really helps put life in perspective a lot of times. I also think about as a marketer listening to what consumers want and providing that good experience.

As marketers, sometimes we just think we have to do a job but we actually get the privilege of communicating with people who are spending their time and their money with our brands and that’s really powerful. We don’t always look at it from that lens. Listening to them, and then– I feel like, I’ve been so fortunate in my career and the network that I’ve built and the opportunities I’ve had, and that’s all because I’ve not been afraid to just talk to people and introduce myself and listen and hear what they’re doing, even if it’s nothing related to marketing, you never know.

I got my first job because I went into an art gallery and I just started talking to the artist and her husband owned a marketing agency and I ended up going to work there. That piece of advice has opened a lot of doors for me and has made me just happier person and better at my job as well.

David: Because you never know where it might lead.

Nora: You never know, exactly, like this.

David: Nora Snoddy is a marketing strategy consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition to her work with growth in email marketing, she’s also served as Director of Marketing for Psych Hub, an online platform for behavioral health education. Check out their resources at www.psychhub.com.