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Fronting climate change

Media relations case study: motivating hay fever sufferers to manage their symptoms

Grazax was launched in January 2007 as the first sublingual immunotherapy tablet, recommended for patients with moderate to severe hay fever uncontrollable on traditional treatments. A campaign was needed to drive eligible patients with severe hay fever to consult with their GP so that in appropriate cases immunotherapy could be initiated before the hay fever season began.

A critical success factor for the campaign was to achieve awareness through media articles in press covering specific primary care trust areas where a positive environment for the uptake of Grazax already existed through shared-care protocols. To address these requirements, a highly targeted and creative regional media campaign was identified as the approach required to deliver the best results.

The campaign contained three essential components; a highly targeted approach, focusing on positive PCT areas; a creative campaign theme, to cut through competition for media coverage and bespoke media materials with specific relevance to the regions being targeted.


Poster to promote the regional hay fever campaign, including various press clippings of stories involving hay fever
Media coverage reached an audience in excess of 1.8 million


To motivate severe hay fever sufferers to visit their GP and seek advice on how to reduce and manage their hay fever symptoms, concentrating awareness initiatives only in those regions where Grazax had been approved on a shared-care protocol.

Development of creative media hook:
Research carried out by The National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit (NPARU) revealed that climate change is extending the traditional length of the pollen season in the UK. This provided the hook, with climate change being responsible for subjecting potentially thousands of hay fever sufferes to prolonged symptoms each year.

Uncovering the local impact of a national event:
Despite being of interest and significance, this change in climate and subsequent affect on the pollen season is a global phenomenon. In order to achieve the specific campaign objectives it was necessary to provide a regional or local angle to the story.

Through contacting the Met Office it was possible to gain data about the average temperature and sunshine levels over the past few years in each identified campaign region. From this data, it was further possible to show a pattern of climate change specific to that region. Using this data and local information on the number of people per region affected by hay fever it was possible to provide a local slant on the perennial problem of hay fever.

Expert local spokespeople and patient case studies prepared:
To tailor the press releases further, key allergy specialists were identified for each region and they, in turn, identified patients willing to share their experience of suffering from extreme hay fever. Working with these local spokespeople, it was possible to develop a series of targeted press releases for each region.

Tailored press materials provided by region:
Using the data from the Met Office, local data on number of people affected per region by hay fever and including quotations from the local allergy specialist and patient, it was possible to develop more than 30 tailored press releases; six per campaign region. 

Specialists involved in the campaign stated seeing a significant rise in the number of people with severe allergic rhinitis during and after implementation of the campaign. In some cases this increase in presentations was more than 60 per cent higher than the previous years. In a number of cases, patients specifically asked about immunology as a treatment option and demonstrated a reasonable level of understanding about how it worked and benefits it could offer.

Media coverage was extensive with 81 pieces achieved during the spring campaign (from outreach to approximately 250 media outlets), with total audience reach in excess of 1.8 million. Of this coverage 23 per cent was online; 32 per cent print; 40 per cent radio and 5 per cent television.

Criteria based on media targets and message inclusions were agreed in advance of implementation with the client, so the campaign could be given a 'good' or 'exceptional' rating. By completion, 70 per cent of coverage had a positive tone, 60 per cent of coverage was completely accurate and at least one of the three key messages was included 70 per cent of the time. In 80 per cent of the target regions the campaign was agreed to have achieved an exceptional rating by the client.

Paul Radford, senior product manager at ALK-Abelló said: "This was a highly targeted and highly tailored media campaign which directly reached areas of the UK where we knew there was genuine support – both financial and clinical – for immunotherapy. By working with carefully selected immunotherapy advocates and offering the local media a well-researched, ready-made story on a plate, we were able to achieve huge success."


Case study details

Client: ALK-Abelló
Agency: Packer Forbes Communications
Campaign: A changing climate for hay fever sufferers
Timescale: Spring 2008

11th March 2010


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