CAMPAIGNS: Legal PR - Pure actively re-awakens BSE support

Client: Irwin Mitchell, lawyers for the families of human BSE victims

Client: Irwin Mitchell, lawyers for the families of human BSE victims

PR Team: Pure PR

Campaign: To promote human BSE victims' families' interests in the run-up to the Government's BSE Report

Timescale: September to November 2000

Budget: pounds 6,000

The Human BSE Foundation was established in 1995 after the first human death from BSE, also known as variant CJD. Legal firm Irwin Mitchell represents over 70 of these families in their claim against the Government for care and compensation packages.

Pure PR had been involved in some aspects of this work for three years before being appointed to run the intensive campaign leading up to the release of a Government enquiry report on the disease.

There is much variation among the attitudes of foundation members regarding media exposure of themselves and their loved ones. Some are keen to educate the public via the media, while others ask to be left in peace.


To maintain media and public focus on the human side of the variant CJD crisis. To sustain awareness of the need for a government care package for victims of the disease.

Strategy and Plan

There had been a lull in media coverage of the disease while the Phillips report was being written, so the first step in the campaign was to gather the targeted national and regional media for a series of briefings to re-awaken interest in the story.

Pure PR published a database of each victim's family, with a profile of their particular circumstances and an indication of whether they were willing to have contact with the media. The agency also compiled a series of case studies for individual journalists.

The night before the government released its report, there was strong media focus on a film of young Zoe Jeffries shortly before her death from human BSE. The agency worked with her mother, Helen, to arrange interviews with BBC Television and Channel 4 News.

On 26 October, the enquiry's findings were released at a media conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and the Department of Health. At this event, Pure PR communicated extensively with the media, encouraging them to deal with the families on their own terms. This was a particular challenge with 179 members of the press and 17 camera crews present.

Also on the report's publication day, the story of sufferer Donna Marie McGivern was highlighted in selected media after being brought to prime minister Tony Blair's attention. Various media carried the story that Tina O'Keefe, the aunt of the ill girl, had sent a video of her niece to Blair to engage him personally. Pure PR worked with the Press Association to carry out television and print media interviews with O'Keefe.

Measurement and Evaluation

The primary method used to measure the campaign's effectiveness has been regular communication with the victims' families themselves to ensure that their message is being conveyed correctly. Formal evaluation will involve assessment of coverage of the families' and the lawyers' perspectives in the local and national media. Two independent agencies will measure this coverage: Romeike and Curtice will assess the paper-based media and Tellex Monitors the broadcast media.


Although the final results will only be known after the campaign ends, Irwin Mitchell partner David Body said he was 'very pleased' with the way it had been conducted. He praised the PR team's effectiveness as a buffer between the media and Irwin Mitchell's clients, and said he believed that the media support had been very important to those who had lost loved ones to the disease.

The campaign may extend beyond its official close at the end of November if care and compensation packages are not finalised by then. To date the Government has announced that it is to establish compensation schemes.

There is still intense media interest in the story, particularly as reports are now coming in of 'meat mountains' of affected cow carcasses left to rot for years due to a lack of adequate high-heat disposal facilities.

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