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Hedgehog Hall of Fame: Aberfield PR - Making No Bones About Cancer

29th August 2013


Company: Aberfield PR Campaign: Making No Bones About Cancer Category: Media Relations Campaign of the Year - North - Shortlisted Not for Profit Campaign of the Year - North - Shortlisted Objectives • Use Bone Cancer Awareness Week (6-13 October 2012) to improve the public’s awareness and understanding of primary bone cancer and the role played by the Bone Cancer Research Trust (BCRT). • Raise awareness of the issue of delayed diagnosis by GPs, which impacts on bone cancer survival rates, and the need for faster x-ray referrals. Strategy & Target Audience About primary bone cancer: More than 450 people – mainly children and young adults – are diagnosed with primary bone cancer (PBC) each year. Only around half of those diagnosed will survive the next five years. Some patients who survive require a full or partial limb amputation. Our key audience was families with children, as they had the greatest need to understand the potential symptoms of bone cancer, and parental pressure is the best way to improve diagnosis by GPs. We knew that an “awareness week” strategy was highly unlikely to be effective in generating media interest and, from that, improving awareness of BCRT and of the issues surrounding bone cancer. Likewise, a feature-based approach – using case studies of people affected by bone cancer – was unlikely to have the required impact at a national, or even regional, level if we were unable to make it sufficiently ‘topical’ for the journalists. Case studies, however interesting, need a context. Instead, our strategy focused on establishing a strong news angle for the campaign (supported by good case studies) that would enable us to approach a diverse range of media, and to communicate BCRT’s key messages. Action We discovered a report written by the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit (WMCIU) highlighting poor bone cancer survival rates compared with other cancers. In conjunction with the charity, we approached the WMCIU and persuaded them to update the report and to publish it on the first day of Bone Cancer Awareness Week. By updating the research and adding a new executive summary, Aberfield created the news angle with which to approach national and regional media. A press release was produced for BCRT revealing details of the new report and using BCRT’s patient database, Aberfield approached the families directly and established a ‘bank’ of people with interesting and relevant stories to tell. The agency ensured the case studies covered all parts of the UK. Some were reserved for national media, to provide key broadcasters and newspapers with a degree of exclusivity. To allow journalists sufficient time to interview the case studies, and allow broadcasters time to plan their programmes, the press release and report were issued under embargo to key media approximately a week before Bone Cancer Awareness Week. With no celebrity supporters to act as interviewees, Aberfield lined up BCRT spokespeople and medical experts to provide media comment. Case studies were carefully matched to the media. Where parents and adult patients were being interviewed, they were briefed on the campaign messages and contents of the WMCIU report. Aberfield worked closely with the case study families, to ensure they were comfortable with the likely scope of any media interviews. A ‘breakfast exclusive’ was sold to BBC Breakfast, using Paralympic gold medallist Marc Woods (a former bone cancer patient) and a leading pediatric oncologist. For online media, links to a downloadable copy of the WMCIU report were provided, along with the news story. Aberfield also promoted BCRT’s Facebook and Twitter pages. To engage with families, Aberfield supported BCRT in exploiting its social media assets. Campaign updates were provided through Twitter and Facebook, and tweets/re-tweets involving other charities helped increase the message spread. Results The one-week campaign generated more than 100 pieces of media coverage, including a five- minute feature on BBC Breakfast, further broadcast coverage on Sky News and ITV, plus various regional BBC and ITV news programmes. Print coverage ranged from The Sun and The Independent, to the Health Service Journal and Nursing Times, plus more than 70 regional newspapers and websites, including Mail Online, the Huffington Post and BBC Online. The campaign reached more than 41 million people. Over a third of the media coverage featured case studies, which meant several double page spreads in print media and longer features on TV and radio than would otherwise have been the case. Total coverage was 152 per cent higher than for any previous Bone Cancer Awareness Week (the previous record had been set in 2008). Evaluation against objectives: i) Improve the public’s awareness and understanding of primary bone cancer and the role played by the BCRT • 60 per cent rise in Google searches for bone cancer during Bone Cancer Awareness Week • Traffic to the BCRT website tripled in comparison to the same period last year • Other cancer-related websites, e.g. Sarcoma UK, also reported a significant ‘spike’ in website visitors as a result of the campaign • 340 per cent rise in BCRT Facebook fans • 45 per cent rise in BCRT Twitter followers • over 700 people actively engaged with the charity’s Facebook page that week (significantly more than normal weeks) • 92 per cent of the media coverage mentioned BCRT and/or featured the web address ii) Raise awareness of poor survival rates caused by • Media coverage highlighting poor bone cancer survival rates reached more than 41 million people • 87 per cent of the media coverage carried the message that faster x-ray referrals are required • More than 70 per cent of the featured case studies referred to delayed diagnosis • GPs and other health professionals were reached through a broad range of medical publications and websites, including Health Service Journal, Spire Healthcare, BUPA Online, Nursing Times, Net Doctor and The Practitioner • Contributors to cancer forums discussed the diagnosis issue, and a parent worried about her son wrote into Best magazine after seeing the TV coverage The client’s view: “Aberfield managed this campaign expertly from start to finish. For such a small charity, with such a limited budget, the exposure we received far exceeded all expectations." “They really understood what we were trying to achieve. It felt like they were our in-house team, and in this situation, that familiarity was a winner. We’d have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them.” Julia Kermode, Chief Executive, BCRT URLs www.aberfield.com www.bcrt.org.uk The PRmoment Golden Hedgehog Awards 2014 are now open for entries. Here are this years updated categories.

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