Campaigns: Voluntary Sector - St John Ambulance makes a difference

Campaign: Life Lost
Client: St John Ambulance
PR team: In-house and GolinHarris
Timescale: October 2009-June 2010
Budget: £60,000

St John Ambulance wanted to demonstrate its relevance in the 21st century and worked with GolinHarris to positively change people's perceptions of the organisation.


u To encourage the public to think again about St John Ambulance and recognise the importance of its work

u To highlight the importance of equipping the nation with first-aid skills

u To increase the numbers of people learning first aid, donating to the charity, and purchasing first-aid training courses and iPhone apps.

Strategy and plan

Ad agency BBH developed a brand strategy for the charity called The Difference, to emphasise how first-aid skills could be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

A marketing campaign centred around five photographs showing five common situations where people die when basic first-aid could save them. However, the ad campaign did not translate to editorial beyond the marketing press.

The PR team used the content so that the five circumstances pictured in the ads - choking, heart not beating, severe bleeding, heart attack and a blocked airway - were those where simple first-aid techniques could make the difference.

The editorial angle of the campaign was to demonstrate the material impact of the nation's lack of first-aid skills. Based on figures from the Office of National Statistics, the PR team came up with the statistic that up to 150,000 people a year could be given the chance to live if more people knew first aid.

The PR team pulled together a broad range of personalities to help support the campaign. Spokespeople included a mother who believed her son might still be alive today if he had been given basic first aid, and journalist John Sergeant. This was backed up with consumer research, showing the public's lack of first-aid skills, and press materials including a free first-aid guide.

Stories were tailored to and sold into national newsdesks and consumer titles along with case studies. Sue Killen, CEO of St John Ambulance, was positioned as the figurehead for the campaign.

A series of ads were 'washed' into dirty pavement stones in areas where St John Ambulance volunteers had provided first aid, such as on the route of the London Marathon. These helped direct traffic to the campaign Facebook page.

Measurement and evaluation

In total, the campaign generated more than 350 pieces of coverage, including six on national TV, three on national radio, 19 in national print titles and 11 in consumer print titles. The Facebook page had an 18 per cent growth in fans over a two-month period.


There were 53,000 requests for a free firstaid guide, sales of £1.6m worth of St John Ambulance training courses, and 13,756 downloads of the iPhone app, generating revenue of £20,000.


Richard Evans, Head of comms, World Cancer Research Fund

This is a campaign that ticked all the boxes. GolinHarris and the SJA in-house team should be proud of a piece of work that was well-executed from the planning stage through to evaluation.

They seamlessly integrated their PR with the advertising campaign and then had solid celebrity endorsement and case studies to help the media tell the story. The statistic about the number of people who could be given a chance to live was a compelling way of creating a sense of how high the stakes are.

I know from my own experience of raising awareness of cancer risk factors just how effective this technique can be.

So, taking all this into account, it was not surprising the team secured such impressive coverage and then got people to act on it by requesting guides and booking training courses.

Overall, this is the kind of campaign that is great for the public relations industry. It shows PR can make a positive difference and can lead to the kind of change - in this case more knowledge of first aid - that can save lives.

One small point is that they could have measured attitudes to the SJA brand before the campaign. This would have meant they could have tracked how the campaign altered people's brand perception.

The campaign changed my perception of the SJA as being an old-fashioned organisation to one that has an important role to play in the 21st century.

I am sure many others had their minds changed too.

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