Voluntary Sector - NCT calls for more choice for mothers

Campaign: Location, Location, Location

Home births: part of campaign
Home births: part of campaign

Client: National Childbirth Trust (NCT)
PR team: In-house
Timescale: October 2009 - ongoing
Budget: Under £10,000

In England, the Government guaranteed in its guidance Maternity Matters that all women would be able to choose where to have their babies (from home, birthing centre or hospital) by the end of 2009. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, however, there is no guarantee and the NCT wants to see a commitment to choice of place of birth in these three countries.

To find out if choice was realistically available to women throughout the UK, NCT commissioned research that was developed into a report entitled Location, Location, Location. This looked at the amount of progress needed in the UK before choice could be said to be realistic.

Objectives

- To show the shortfall in delivery of the choice of place of birth guarantee in England

- To raise awareness among parents-to-be that they have a choice

- To encourage supporters to sign up to NCT Active, an online activist forum, to lobby their elected representatives.

Strategy and plan

The research found 95 per cent of women in the UK did not live in areas where the full range of choice was reasonably available.

The NCT press team developed a number of packages for different media audiences. These included interviewing and selling in case studies, selling in features on the options available to women and writing opinion pieces for national and health trade press.

An exclusive with The Guardian newspaper was negotiated for the day of the report launch. Specific targeted activity in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also followed, and locally and regionally the best and worst performing trusts and boards for choice of place of birth were published in the local press.

This activity generated media interest and kick-started the campaign. Case studies of women being denied their choice of birth setting were used to illustrate and to help readers make an emotional connection to the issue.

Running alongside the media campaign, the charity's website drove visitors to join NCT Active, an online network, supporting activists to engage in campaigning activities, as well as providing easy actions for local campaigners to take.

Measurement and evaluation

In total 80 articles appeared in print, online and on broadcast outlets. Highlights included BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour, Sky News, an exclusive in The Guardian, coverage in the Daily Mail, The Times, the Mail online, Telegraph online and in regional press. The story also appeared in parenting media such as Prima Baby and the Mother & Baby website.

Results

A further commitment on choice of place of birth from the Government was made on the Radio 4 Women's Hour live discussion with then health minister Ann Keen, and Belinda Phipps, CEO of the NCT.

The major political parties have since made firm commitments to retain the guarantee of choice of place of birth in England. The NCT Active website has generated more than 400 actions to date.

 

SECOND OPINION - Jo Spink, Director, Spink

The NCT raised some important issues with this simple campaign designed to highlight the right of women to be offered a choice of place of birth. Tactically, the campaign illustrated the effectiveness of comparing healthcare regional variations and policy vs practice in achieving widespread national and regional media coverage. The simple use of a survey provided an effective platform for expert commentary and discussion.

A broad range of national coverage and two pieces on Radio 4 is impressive - even more so with the health minister making a public, on-air commitment on choice of place of birth from the Government. Online coverage was also impressive.

The campaign objectives could have been more specific. Calling on the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments to make a similar commitment to the English Government would perhaps be better positioned as a follow-up objective.

This was essentially a media relations campaign and should have had some detailed targets in terms of reaching the key audience of young mums and healthcare providers.

In terms of reaching mums, increasing awareness of choice would have been more powerful if it had been accompanied by more positive messaging. Case studies underlining the positive experience and benefits of home birth would have helped engage the mums' audience more emotionally with the issue.

I would also like to have seen further online activity targeting influential parenting communities.

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