By Kelley Dennings, Founding SMANA President

The Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA) is a membership organization serving the professional needs of social and behavior change agents in Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and the United States. Members are practitioners, academics and students and represent multiple disciplines – social marketers, behavioral scientists and economists, conservation psychologists, behavior change communicators, entertainment educators, health communicators, and design thinkers. The evolution and success of the organization has been rapid. Details are below.


In 2014 there were four social marketing associations – the Australian Association of Social Marketing (AASM), the European Social Marketing Association (ESMA), the International Social Marketing Association (iSMA) and the Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association (PNSMA).

iSMA wanted an association representing all North American social marketers. It organized a small planning meeting at the June 2014 Social Marketing Conference supported by the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa. While there was interest at that meeting in creating a North American social marketing association, no one was prepared to step forward to lead its creation.

After the conference discussion, Kelley Dennings, living in the Washington, D.C. area and working for a small nonprofit, reached out to Win Morgan (iSMA’s President) and Jay Kassirer (iSMA’s Membership Chair) about creating an ad-hoc social marketing networking group in the D.C. area. They supported the idea and thankfully had a robust list of social marketers working within the Washington, D.C. metro area. They also had connections to colleagues at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). With their help, the first Washington, D.C. social marketing networking event was held in partnership with the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change (BECC) conference in November of 2014. Conference attendees and local social marketers were invited to the networking event. Attendance was strong (over 35 RSVP’s and many drop-ins) and there was support to meet again.  


Throughout 2015 the Washington D.C. networking group continued to meet.

At the end of 2015, iSMA requested that a group of individuals who were interested in creating either regional networking groups like the one in Washington, D.C. or a U.S. nonprofit association come together to identify potential next steps. Since the PNSMA is in the North American region and was already incorporated as a nonprofit, Dave Ward, a representative from that group, participated in these discussions. Participants in these early talks were:

  • Jay Kassirer, Cullbridge Marketing and Communications, Canada
  • Kelley Dennings, Action Research, U.S.
  • Abigail Fredenburg, Ketchum, U.S.
  • Tony Panzera, Federal Employee, U.S.
  • Lea Pounds, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, U.S.
  • Eric Greene, Ohio Department of Health, U.S.
  • Laura Sanagorski, University of Florida, U.S.
  • Brian Biroscak, Yale University, U.S.
  • Dave Ward, Puget Sound Partnership, U.S.
  • Jim Mintz, Center of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing, Canada
  • Mike Newton-Ward, Independent Social Marketing Consultant, U.S.

In November a group of stakeholders met under the facilitation of Mike Newton-Ward and Kelley Dennings. The SMANA Membership Benefits Survey, a Survey Monkey-based questionnaire, was conducted by Tony Panzera and distributed over the Georgetown social marketing listserv to gauge the needs of social marketing change agents and how an association could support them in their careers and campaigns.

The value proposition principles, written by this early group of supporters which are still applicable today, include the following:

  • We connect practitioners, academics, and students within the North American social marketing arena.
  • We aim to build a stronger legacy and community of practice and to disseminate best practices across broad geographic and topical areas.
  • We provide assurance that our social marketing efforts are scientifically rigorous and informed by practice to better position social marketing as a viable intervention framework.
  • We facilitate opportunities for organizations, agencies, and other stakeholders to take advantage of our membership expertise in behavior change strategies.
  • We advocate for the advancement and use of social marketing.


During this organizational building period the geographic boundaries defining “North America” (not northern America) were agreed upon by the group. The decision was made to be holistic and include Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean as these groups were not currently being supported by other social marketing associations. 

Association Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation were written based-off those created by the Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association. Resolutions for the creation of director positions, the election of officers and the establishment of dues structures were agreed upon. Membership benefits were negotiated with iSMA, a 3-year budget was created and the association incorporated in the state of Virginia.

The association did not want to compete with iSMA for members — those that joined SMANA were also automatically part of iSMA. Based on a survey conducted by Tony Panzera in 2015 to 2016, we built the following membership benefits:

  • Ask-the-Expert webinars
  • Discounts on conferences and journals
  • Guaranteed admission to regional networking events
  • Advanced access to SMANA’s newsletter
  • Support of the social marketing listserv
  • Access to iSMA’s webinars (valued at $50/webinar)

From January to June the group continued to meet and build the association’s infrastructure. Lea Pounds built SMANA’s first website. The name SMANA was chosen because it was an available url at the time.

The Social Marketing Conference supported by USF was held in June of 2016 and the organization seized upon this opportunity to unveil itself. USF provided keynote podium time to announce the creation and a lunch-time breakout session to hear from potential members about their needs. Jessica Howard, a USF alumnus, volunteered to build the first membership database and standard operating procedures.

One of the first assets the group supported was a revamp of the Georgetown social marketing listserv. It was moved to a Google group by Meghan Kelly and is available to all throughout the world regardless of membership affiliation. Besides the Executive Committee and the Governance Committee, the association built External Affairs and Program committees.

The original board voted on the following executive committee for 2016 through 2017: Kelley Dennings (President), Brian Biroscak (Vice President), Lea Pounds (Secretary) and Abigail Fredenburg (Treasurer).


In May of 2017 the World Social Marketing Conference was held near Washington, D.C. The association received pro-bono support from M Powered Strategies to write the first strategic plan at the conference since many board members were in attendance. The strategic priorities identified at that meeting and completed within 12 months were:

  • Development of officer job descriptions.
  • Document roles and responsibilities for the executive committee, committee chairs and volunteers.
  • Develop sponsorship tier packages.
  • Draft a marketing plan.
  • Develop a webinar series.

SMANA received in-kind support from the FL Prevention Research Center in its second year to administer its membership database by grad student Virginia Liddell. Board recruitment continued throughout the year.

Committee progress:

  • Under the leadership of Abigail Fredenburg SMANA started an external affairs committee. They created a logo, built a style guide, contracted for the creation of a WordPress website and distributed our first e-newsletter.
  • Under the leadership of Kelley Dennings, the association’s program committee conducted social marketing webinars and trainings with the Federal Communicators Network and chapters of the American Marketing Association. Building upon the success of the Washington, D.C. networking group, other events were held in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, New Orleans, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco. Committee volunteer, Marie Dessanti, held two Ask the Expert calls with Nancy Lee and Mike Newton-Ward.

At the end of 2017 the organization had 146 members and the board voted on the following executive committee for 2018: Kelley Dennings (President), Sandra Paredes (President-elect), Brian Biroscak (Vice President), Tony Panzera (Secretary) and Andrew Lentini (Treasurer).


In the middle of the year, the organization welcomed new president, Sandra Paredes, and Kelley Dennings moved to Past-president.

Association leadership participated in The Social Marketing Conference convened by USF. This included sponsoring a new award for Commitment to Elimination of Social Disparities, reviewing conference proposals, staffing an exhibit booth and holding SMANA’s first annual general meeting.

Committee progress:

  • Under the leadership of Sally McCaffrey, the association started a fundraising committee. She built SMANA sponsorship tiers, drafted fundraising standard operating procedures and created a committee structure. Tracey Haldeman brought in SMANA’s first sponsor, Entercom.
  • The external affairs committee, under the leadership of board member Brooke Tully, built the organization’s first communications plan and committee members supported all creative aspects for the social marketing conference.
  • As part of the programs committee, networking events were organized by Kelley Dennings and held in Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont. Under the leadership of Jill McLean the program committee conducted two webinars and Sally McCaffrey updated an iSMA academic/trainers list.

External partnerships continued via a webinar series with the Partnership for Food Safety and SMANA’s Inaugural Forum titled “Leveraging the Intersections” as a post-conference event to the Behavior, Energy and Climate Change conference.

At the end of 2018 the organization had 208 members and the board voted on the following executive committee for 2019: Sandra Parades (President), Brian Biroscak (Vice president), Tony Panzera (Secretary) and Kelley Dennings (Past-president and Treasurer). The 2017-2018 annual report highlights all accomplishments.


SMANA board member Jim Mintz passed away in 2019. He was a pioneer in the social marketing field in Canada and was an outspoken advocate for the application of social marketing methods to government and non-profit settings. To honor his legacy the association built a memorial conference scholarship fund.

The North American Social Marketing Conference (NASMC) is hosted by SMANA, in partnership with Fuse Events. President Sandra Paredes led the first North American Social Marketing Conference in October 2019 in Ottawa, Canada.

Committee progress:

  • Under the leadership of Tina Robinette, the external affairs committee created a jobs board on LinkedIn, built out our social media presence and started to publish the quarterly e-newsletter via MailChimp as well as additional marketing emails about upcoming programs.
  • Under the leadership of Melissa Schock the program committee conducted seven webinars and drafted a mentorship program. Networking events were held in Arizona, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

At the end of 2019 the organization had 513 members due to the inclusion of those from PNSMA and the board voted on the following executive committee for 2020: Emily Patterson (President), Tina Robinette (President-elect and Vice president), Sandra Paredes (Past-president), Tony Panzera (Secretary) and Kelley Dennings (Treasurer). The 2018-2019 annual report highlights all accomplishments.

This is a pre-print of the following work: Dennings, K. The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Social Marketing, TBD, Palgrave Macmillan reproduced with permission of Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The final authenticated version will be available soon.