Social Media: BHF succeeds with hands-on approach

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) wanted to increase the UK's low cardiac arrest survival rates, which it partly ascribed to potential lifesavers being put off by the thought of providing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The BHF decided to launch a campaign promoting the effectiveness of hands-only CPR.

Vinnie Jones: Demonstrating hands-only CPR
Vinnie Jones: Demonstrating hands-only CPR

Campaign: Hands-only CPR
Client: British Heart Foundation
PR team: In-house
Timescale: January 2012
Budget: £4,000



  • To increase low cardiac arrest survival numbers in the UK
  • To make the public aware of hands-only CPR in order to save lives.

Strategy and plan

The BHF's multimedia team developed a social media campaign to spread awareness of hands-only CPR.

The message was kept as simple as possible: in case of emergency, bystanders should call 999 and push hard and fast in the centre of the chest to the beat of Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees. Actor and former footballer Vinnie Jones appeared online in a humorous training video demonstrating hands-only CPR. It was designed specifically for a YouTube audience, with a Twitter share function embedded in the video.

The BHF decided on a 'digital first' strategy, launching the video and a shorter ad exclusively on its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels before they aired on TV. On Twitter, the campaign was advertised with #hardandfast as an attention-grabbing hashtag, using promoted tweets and a 24-hour promoted trend to reach a large audience. As well as working together with Twitter to choose the best day for the 24-hour promotion, the BHF's team timed Facebook posts to appear at peak traffic times. To answer questions, it created Q&As tailored for social channels.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign received widespread media coverage including articles in the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail,as well as on the Huffington Post's UK website. The training video was featured on multiple sites such as BBC Health and The Daily Telegraph.


The BHF claimed at least 23 people used hands-only CPR in a medical emergency after seeing the ad. During the campaign, someone tweeted that a colleague had saved someone's life using hands-only CPR.

The YouTube training video was viewed more than two million times, including more than 500,000 views via Facebook. It was shared more than 100,000 times in the first ten days, resulting in the video entering Brand Republic's Viral Video Chart in top spot, beating Coca-Cola, Apple and ESPN. The TV ad received more than 367,000 views on YouTube.

The campaign's website has been viewed 161,000 times, increasing traffic to the BHF's site by 88 per cent in January, compared with the previous year. The hashtag #hardandfast received more than 7,200 mentions and 4,000 retweets, plus a seven per cent engagement rate. Moreover, the campaign achieved five trending topics - British Heart Foundation; Vinnie Jones; Stayin' Alive; #hardandfast and CPR.

The BHF became the first UK charity to be featured as a case study on Twitter's Best Practices business website.



This was a brilliant example of humour being used to convey a deadly serious message. It was funny but not trivial, and the messages were accessible without sacrificing clarity or dumbing down.

The use of Stayin' Alive was inspired and when combined with the ridiculousness of the Vinnie Jones scenario, it made the idea of performing CPR less daunting and instantly memorable.

Beyond content, the attention to detail in the implementation through social media was exemplary. The BHF acknowledged that, unlike traditional PR editorial, social media required paid-for promotion to be most effective; things do not magically 'go viral'.

By promoting tweets, timing Facebook updates for peak times, and treating each channel individually with tailored Q&As, the campaign showed a respect and understanding for social media PR that is vital for success.

The coverage and increase in web traffic demonstrated impressive metrics. Of course, the ultimate measure of success will be the number of lives saved.

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