Show and tell: Using Influencer Marketing to Change Policy

Kate Speer and Bryn Austin

You’re reading Show and Tell, which highlights communication “wins” from our community. Want more inspiration like this? Subscribe to our Call to Action newsletter. What to see your work here? Tell us about your win

Who we are: Kate Speer, a mental health advocate and marketing strategist at the Center for Health Communication, and Bryn Austin, a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the founding director of Harvard Chan School’s Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED).

What we created: Last year, we built out a public health policy campaign on social media to urge the governor of New York to sign a bill that bans sales of weight loss and muscle building supplements to minors. With STRIPED’s Out of Kids‘ Hands Campaign and the Eating Disorder Coalition, we set up an action alert to message the governor directly. Then, using Kate’s expertise in influencer marketing and community building, we built a campaign with influencers in the body positive and eating disorder recovery space that amplified the importance of the legislation and called on followers to use the action alert. Thanks to the power of influencer marketing practices and creator communities, the campaign had five times the engagement of past Eating Disorder Coalition action alerts for the Out of Kids’ Hands Campaign. The bill was signed into law in October 2023 and went into effect in April of this year. We are so grateful for the result and excited to see how more creators can amplify public health policy campaigns in the future to empower systemic change.

Why it matters: Weight loss and muscle building supplements are poorly regulated and often deeply harmful to youth, both physically and mentally. Minors who use these products are far more likely to develop eating disorders, among the deadliest of mental health conditions. Preventing sales of these products interrupts the harmful cycle that weight stigma perpetuates and the physical harm that comes from using these products. Additionally, this campaign offers a playbook for future public health campaigns on how to best amplify public health challenges on social media to pressure legislators.

What we learned: Influencer marketing is not solely an advertising practice that increases the bottom line. It can be a real-world powerhouse of good if we choose to use it that way.