BF media and Alzhiemer’s Research UK entered into a partnership at the start of 2021 that would see BF media provide broadcast media relations support for 12 months and the aim of our first project together was to drive petition signatures as a means of holding the government to account over spending promises they made for dementia research in 2019. Reaching the milestone of 50,000 signatures would allow the charity to take their message to Downing Street.
With the petition having launched in 2020 and with circa 40,000 signatures already gathered, our role was to inject new momentum into the campaign.
The latest angles to drive awareness of the petition centred on the announcement of Dame Julie Walters joining the campaign and new data which highlighted the number of dementia researchers who were considering leaving the field due to a lack of funding.
However, both of these presented a challenge from a broadcast perspective. Dame Julie would not be available for any interviews and whilst eye catching, the new data at our disposal focused solely on those working within research.
A crucial role we play as a broadcast agency is to identify ways of making stories relatable to as many people as possible. Our recommendation was therefore to remove all reference to Dame Julie’s involvement and instead focus on the catastrophic impact COVID-19 had on those living with dementia over the past year. We were made aware of an ONS stat which showed 1 in 4 people that had died in England, Scotland and Wales during the pandemic were living with dementia. Even though the data was already in the public domain, our recommendation was to use this as the lead talking point as it would help contextualise how important funding for research is when it comes to finding a cure for a disease that will affect 1 in 2 people.
Now that the story had a new, broader focus our thoughts turned to spokespeople on the day. Despite access to Alzheimer’s Research UK CEO Hilary Evans and Director of Policy, Susan Mitchell, our time with them was limited and fragmented.
In order to ensure there would always be someone on hand to respond to an interview we worked with the charity to line up as many alternative spokespeople as possible – everything from people living with Alzhiemer’s, to researchers and to frontline NHS staff who had seen first hand the devastating impact the pandemic had had on those living with dementia.
At a time when the majority of presenters and producers were working from home and therefore could only offer limited windows to conduct interviews, being able to offer flexibility and always have an option for the them to speak to on air allowed us to secure 128 broadcast interviews over a three day period including TV interviews on Sky News, Good Morning Britain, STV, ITV Calendar and Look East plus national radio coverage on Kerrang!, Magic, Times Radio and Absolute delivering a reach of 16.5 million and increasing petition sign ups by almost 20%.