Interview: Johannes Parkkonen

Johannes 2In preparation for the upcoming European Social Marketing Conference(ESMC) this September we took the time to interview ‘our man in Finland’ Johannes Parkkonen, Researcher at The Finnish Association for Mental Health, European Social Marketing Association Board Member and aspiring ultra marathon runner!

“ESMC is coming to the Nordic region for the first time, as a native Finn does this excite you? What opportunities do you think the conference brings to Finland?”

Yes, this is very exciting. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to showcase many promising initiatives we have going on in Finland, as well as learn from colleagues across Europe and form new partnerships. And of course this is a great way for us to show the delegates many other exciting things to see in Espoo and Finland in general. I really encourage people to stay for the Saturday after the conference and take the opportunity to visit the Haltia Nature Centre on the doorsteps of the Nuuksio National Park for an experience of Finnish nature.

“Is Social Marketing growing in Finland as a discipline? Are there particular areas of study or practice where Social Marketing has been applied successfully so far?”

We have a long tradition in public awareness campaigns and providing well-researched, fact-based information to people with the aim to influence their behaviour. But I think social marketing is seen by many people as an approach that will enable a more structured and systematic way to ensure that the work is insight driven with clear segmentation and targeted delivery. This will increase the focus on the impact and effectiveness of action, rather than just on how much we do. There are a number of exciting examples starting to emerge in Finland, for example in smoking reduction in vocational education, and our first applied social marketing course has also started that will produce more case studies.

“How did you discover Social Marketing as a discipline? Did you always set out to become a behaviour change advocate and practitioner?”

I’ve worked for 12 years on different social causes – homelessness, refugees, and mental health – and those are areas where people still face a lot of stigmatising attitudes and discriminatory behaviour. So I guess I got gradually interested in social marketing as an approach to dismantle some prejudices and influence people’s behaviour to reduce discrimination. But my involvement in social marketing got a real start at the World Social Marketing Conference in Dublin in 2011, where the process to set up ESMA was also born.

Find out more about the upcoming European Social Marketing Conference.