About Time You Met: Sarah Greenidge, The Wellspoken MarkBy Angelica Malin
It’s about time you met: Sarah Greenidge, Founder of The Wellspoken Mark and the Register of Health & Wellness Influencers, which have been founded to regulate the content of the wellness industry and create more of a credible industry. We sit down with Sarah to talk Instagram, influencers and the future of the wellness industry:
What is the concept behind Well Spoken and the Register of Health & Wellness Influencers?
WellSpoken works to uphold the credibility of the wellness industry. We aim to address and counter the pseudoscience that has become commonplace in the wellness industry.
As an independent authority, we work with wellness brands and ambassadors to ensure that they provide consumers with the highest level of credible, authentic, evidence-based information on fitness, nutrition and emotional wellbeing.
The WellSpoken Mark is awarded to brands that are committed to providing trustworthy information. Our assessment ensures that consumer content developed by brands, meets a standard of excellence.
Register of Health & Wellness Influencers (RoHWI) operates a voluntary register for influencers working in the health and wellness field. It upholds and assures the professional standards
Wellness content is defined as any piece of information that is accessible by a consumer, whether that be articles, health tips, social media posts or vlogs. If it is providing wellness information to the public—it needs to be credible.
The fundamental aspect of our certification and registration process is auditing and working with applicants to establish the internal frameworks to uphold the development of credible information, going right to the roots of content generation.
The result of this two-pronged approach is an industry wide mentality shift of how wellness content should be produced and what the resulting content needs to look like. The Mark and registration are more than a seal of approval; it represents a wholehearted commitment by wellness brands and influencers to strive towards providing evidence-based authentic content to the public.
What inspired you to start the two organisations?
I started off my career in medical and healthcare communications and worked with national, Pan-European and global public health, regulatory and compliance teams in organisations like the NHS, NGOs and pharmaceutical companies, to ensure that internal procedures and external communications met regulatory expectations.
Throughout my career what has always captured my interest has been the need to increase public health literacy levels and the direct effect this has on an individual’s ability to achieve health and wellbeing. Coming from such a regulated healthcare space, where evidence-based information is king, I was concerned about the quality of consumer content in wellness, and that brand partnerships were largely based on popularity and not necessarily expertise.
After raising these issue to a few people working in the industry, I was met with the response that the industry was ‘different’ and ‘doesn’t need to be as strict.’ It was here that the mission to tackle this mindset was conceived and a year later The WellSpoken Mark was born with a mission to restore credibility to the core of the wellness industry.
The onus in wellness has always been for the public to decipher good from bad information; however, I believe that brands and influencers have a responsibility to make sure that the information they publish is of the very best standard.
What are some of the effects of the unregulated wellness market?
There have been some really obvious examples of poor-quality information—everything from miracle slimming supplements to the more dangerous claims around cures for cancer and serious chronic conditions.
These are very obvious examples of questionable information but for us, the real danger lies in the more subtle forms of poor quality information. From social influencers giving out-of-remit advice to brands partnering with influencers that are not appropriate. Online influencers/experts are trusted within their area of specialism, their word is often taken as gospel and their endorsement can be a hugely valuable marketing tool for brands.
Consumers look at experts and influencers within the relevant field to provide advice, recommendations and guidance from a qualified, experienced and ethical standpoint. Due to this level of public trust, we believe that businesses, and the influencers and experts they engage with, should seek to ensure that their partnerships and resulting content meet the highest standards of excellence.
No matter how polished content can appear, if it is not delivered responsibly and accurately to consumers, it can be received negatively and can have an undesirable impact on the reputation of a brand. The web has created a truly global landscape, where information is freely shared without borders. From backlash to boycotts, getting content wrong can have a very lasting impact on reputation. Once a groundswell of public outrage starts, it is incredibly hard to stop and to re-build trust.
How can this be fixed?
We are on the road to rectifying the state of wellness, by training brands, bloggers and influencers, on an information standard and the principles of health writing, we at WellSpoken hope to galvanise the wider wellness industry to proactively self-regulate the dissemination of accurate wellness information and to regain some of the trust that has been lost through negative press and poor quality content.
Should social media content be regulated and if so how?
Absolutely, until social networking sites truly come on board with the vision to eradicate both fake news and pseudoscience it will be incredibly difficult to regulate and police that online space. Post the Cambridge Analytica saga and the focus on misleading political geo-targeting, people are more open to having these discussions. Our goal is to really drive home that inaccurate and misleading health information is just as important and should feature higher up on the agenda.
The register is tackling the root of all online heath content – the content creators themselves. By driving better education and standards with those closest to the consumer we hope to influence the wider industry.
What is your message to consumers?
The reality is we as consumers of health and wellness information need to take action and there are some simple steps we can take to separate the wheat from the chaff. When it comes of influencers, it’s important to differentiate what is opinion and what is backed by evidence. If they don’t cite a source, take it with a large pinch of salt and do your own research before taking on board.
Checking qualifications is key, a nice body and motivational captions are not indications that influencers know what they are talking about. If an influencer is discussing nutrition and diets and are not accountable to a professional governing body like The British Dietetic Association, park that advice and seek help from people who have spent the time to learn the science.
Whether it be how much protein to consume, how many HIIT classes to attend a week or even understanding of the benefits and limitations of certain meditation practices – the choices you make can have a very real impact on your health. It is time to shift our mentality and see the content we consume as important as the superfoods we eat.
What are your future plans?
When it comes to The WellSpoken Mark we are really aiming to be the Soil Association of the wellness industry – leading industry standards as well as educating and building a strong community passionate about credible wellness information.
We plan to continue to grow the register and proactively push to make health and wellness influencers a protected term with mandatory government backed criteria and standards that all those who choose to share health and wellness content online will need to adhere to! The rest of 2019 will be heavily focussed on changing policy in this area.