Campaign: Voluntary Sector - Booby Birds fly high for breast cancer

Campaign: Breakthrough Booby Birds
Client: Breakthrough Breast Cancer
PR team: PHA Media
Timescale: September 2009-June 2010
Budget: £14,000

Nearly 1,000 women die of breast cancer each month in the UK. In response to this, charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer decided to launch a fundraising initiative, Breakthrough Booby Birds. Fourteen senior businesswomen were asked to raise at least £20,000 each for the charity and take part in a tandem skydive in May 2010. Breakthrough Breast Cancer chose a skydive to symbolise the feeling of 'free fall' following the diagnosis of breast cancer.


- To help recruit the Breakthrough Booby Birds

- To offer PR support to each businesswoman and help their fundraising efforts

- To generate creative PR coverage for each participant and raise awareness about the campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.


When the PR team came on board, Breakthrough Breast Cancer had already recruited ten Booby Birds, each one a successful, inspirational businesswoman. The agency's first task was to help recruit new members and then raise the profile of all the Breakthrough Booby Birds in the regional, trade and business press.

Breakthrough Booby Birds networking events were held, to which PHA Media invited journalists to achieve press coverage. The agency also secured a large feature in The Times on Breakthrough Breast Cancer's research centre, which provided the charity with a significant piece of coverage highlighting its work.

For most of the campaign, support and publicity were also given to the many fundraising activities the businesswomen undertook to help them achieve their £20,000 targets.

As the date of the skydive drew closer, there was an extra drive for additional coverage and interviews with the Breakthrough Booby Birds. The PR team also helped to find a production company to produce a corporate film for the charity that could be used for recruitment purposes.

On 22 May, the Breakthrough Booby Birds completed their skydives, with photographers from national media, regional journalists and a camera crew all present.

After the skydive, the PR team secured follow-up features with the Breakthrough Booby Birds in national magazines and regional and trade press.


The campaign appeared in regional and trade press such as Cambridgeshire Times, Edinburgh Evening News, the Derbyshire Magazine and the South Wales Echo, as well as radio interviews on BBC Radio Derby, Oxford and Three Counties. Nationally, the campaign appeared in The Times, the Daily Mail, City AM, Natural Health magazine and the website of British Vogue.


All of the Breakthrough Booby Birds either met or exceeded their fundraising targets and Breakthrough Breast Cancer has announced it intends to expand the campaign and make it an annual event.

SECOND OPINION - Richard Evans, Head of comms, World Cancer Research Fund

While cancer research findings generate headlines on an almost daily basis, I know from experience that getting journalists to write about methodology is an altogether taller order.

This is why PHA Media is to be congratulated on The Times covering the work of the research centre so prominently.

The article in The Times is something that anyone in PR would be proud to secure. The fact that the client was mentioned five times is the icing on the cake.

It is also a good example of using scientific research to get a national newspaper to mention a fundraising campaign that it might not otherwise have.

The rest of the coverage is a little more pedestrian but, given that cancer fundraising is a crowded marketplace, this is only to be expected.

The tactic of securing human-interest coverage for the businesswomen themselves was sensible. The result is a clutch of solid local and regional coverage.

A good thing about the campaign name is that it incorporates the name of the charity, which means there is a benefit to Breakthrough's name recognition every time it is mentioned. This is important because with so many cancer charities, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.

My only real criticism of the campaign is around the measurement and evaluation.

All the businesswomen may have met or exceeded their targets, but it is unclear to what extent this was because of the media coverage.

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