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Raising awareness: award-winning healthcare campaigns

The hallmarks of a successful campaign and tips for communications teams
Raising awareness

Budget and choice of agency will always play an important role in any disease awareness campaign. But success - or failure - boils down to three key factors: the audience, the message and the media. Tara Craig looks at three campaigns judged best-in-class at the 2013 Communiqué awards and considers what sets them apart. 

The audience
At the risk of stating the obvious, anyone planning a disease awareness campaign must know his audience. Who and where are they? How old are they? What media do they use? How resistant will they be to the message you are trying to get across?

Cancer Research UK, winner of the 'Excellence in Public Health Communications' Communiqué award, showed an exceptional understanding of its target audience. The R UV UGLY? campaign was designed to highlight the dangers of sunbed use. Working with marketing agency Unity, the charity targeted both the influenced (the 16 to 18-year-olds using sunbeds) and the influencer (parents and siblings falling into the 28 to 44-years age bracket).

In addition to knowing these audiences, Cancer Research UK knew how best to target them with a campaign that, according to the charity, “appealed to the vanity of sunbed users by physically showing them the damaging effect overexposure to UK rays was having on their skin”. 

Caroline Cerny, senior health campaigns manager at Cancer Research UK, told PMLiVE: “The campaign was insight-based. We knew that the health message wouldn't work, and felt that making our message appearance-based would make it more relevant to our audience. We also wanted what we said to be more personal, so we made our message focus on the audience's own faces.”

Cancer Research UK and Unity took their message directly to the audience, by means of the 'R UV UGLY? photobooth', which incorporated UV scanning technology to show users how they would look if they continued to use sunbeds.

In another nod to its audience understanding, the charity brought on board celebrity advocates and convinced a number of top UK model agencies to adopt a zero sunbed tolerance policy for their models.

The resulting campaign, said the Communiqué judges, “was a standout winner”.

“It really understood its target group and it perfectly leveraged their insights and their motivations to engage with the programme,” they said.

Follow-up data, measured eight weeks after the initial campaign ended, showed 46 per cent of respondents reporting that they had stopped using sunbeds, or were using them less. R UV UGLY? was so successful that the Department of Health has chosen to continue with it, and Cancer Research UK is looking into adapting it to include sunbathers in general, according to Cerny. 

The message
“Viral hepatitis is the eighth leading cause of death worldwide, killing as many people as HIV/ AIDS every single year,” said World Hepatitis Alliance president Charles Gore in the run-up to the 2013 World Hepatitis Day. “500 million people worldwide are chronically infected. In the face of these numbers, how is it possible that viral hepatitis receives so little priority across the world?”

Last year's World Hepatitis Day campaign was tasked with helping to remedy the situation. Asked why they chose the iconic three wise monkeys as their theme, Red Door Communications associate director Julia Holt told PMLiVE: “The theme was based on a globally recognised proverb that symbolises denial and ignorance of a problem. Given hepatitis is a global problem that is woefully under-recognised, it seemed the perfect theme.”

As a global campaign, it was crucial that the theme was appropriate to all communities, and the three wise monkeys fitted the bill. Red Door's campaign - which has won the McCann Complete Medical Award for Innovation in Healthcare - used Twitter to call on global audiences to tweet photos of groups and individuals in the three wise monkeys pose. Measured by means of the hashtag #seehearnospeakno, 1.7 million tweets were posted, included a number from celebrities, such as Boy George and Fat Boy Slim.

Tweeters received automatic replies thanking them and letting them know of Guinness World Record attempts taking place in their country, aiming to have a record-breaking number of people performing the 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' actions across the world in a 24-hour period. Photos were posted in an online gallery linked to the World Hepatitis Alliance website, Twitter feed and Facebook page.

The carefully-chosen theme was so widely recognised, indeed, that 45 countries participated in the online three wise monkeys campaign and 21 countries in the Guinness World Record project. Events took place in 8 per cent of European countries, says Holt, while Japan and India showed particular enthusiasm, with Guinness World Record events in the two countries attracting more than 21,000 participants.

Holt says that she wouldn't have done anything differently, adding that the campaign “produced a greater level of involvement of member organisations in centrally-led World Hepatitis Day activities than ever before”.

The media
Choosing the media for a disease awareness campaign is closely tied to understanding your audience. Conscious that Twitter would work in some countries but not in others, Red Door opted for a targeted SMS text-blasting campaign across harder to reach communities in Africa, including Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. The response was excellent - 1.45 million people were reached, and 24.5 per cent of people texted in South Africa responded asking for further information.

“This campaign excelled in the use of old-style technology alongside new technology, with great integration of multiple channels to ensure the right message reached the right patient, across different geographies,” said the Communiqué judges.

NHS Blood and Transplant was faced with severe budget restrictions when asked to launch a public appeal to increase blood stocks by 30 per cent in time for the 2012 London Olympics. Past experience had shown them that even regular donors miss appointments during national events and celebrations as routines are disrupted. This, combined with the high numbers of international visitors with a different native blood mix from that of the UK's own, potentially put higher than normal demand on specific blood groups. Hence the need to attract a significant number of donors across all blood type groups.

An additional challenge was that the organisation was dealing with a subject that was, if anything, over-familiar to the British public. The answer - which saw the agency Red Consultancy win the Excellence in the Use of Innovative Media Outreach award - was to create the 'Blood Art-ery' video, showing eight volunteers, representing the four main blood groups, being body-painted to show veins, arteries and hearts.

Once painted, the volunteers visited a number of locations in a bid to capture public attention and encourage those they encountered to make an appointment to give blood. The video (see below) also featured interviews with people who had benefited from blood transfusions.

The video generated 264 pieces of mainstream coverage, involving all of the main TV news channels, and prompted an immediate public response. In a single day, 30,000 people visited blood.co.uk and calls from potential donors increased by 29 per cent. The media outreach was designed to set the scene for a further three months of PR activity, and had to show why donations are vital without causing public concern over a potential shortage of blood.

“This campaign used exceptionally creative content to overcome the challenges of an already well-reported topic," said the Communiqué judges. “They integrated traditional and digital media to great effect, which met the objective of replenishing blood stocks for the Olympic Games. A brilliant achievement.”

The campaign captured the nation's mood, added NHS Blood and Transplant assistant director Jonathan Latham. 

Why these campaigns worked
Common to all three of these winning disease awareness campaigns was thorough preparation. Before launching their activities, all three teams made sure that they understood their audience, their message and their media.

And the devil was in the detail – whether it was Red Door varying the media according to their audience, or Cancer Research UK communicating not just with their target audience but with those with the power to influence them. The ability to catch and keep the public's attention was also crucial; no-one who saw an NHS volunteer body-painted with blood vessels was like to forget him.

If you want similar success, do your homework - know what you need to say, to whom, and how you want to say it.

Article by
Tara Craig

freelance journalist

3rd February 2014

From: Marketing

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