Case study: London's public sector comms shows united front to boost COVID-19 testing

Comms teams across the capital joined together for a 'Keep London safe' campaign that has resulted in a surge in people getting tested for the coronavirus.

The 'Keep London safe' campaign brought together public sector comms professionals from across the capital
The 'Keep London safe' campaign brought together public sector comms professionals from across the capital

The integrated comms campaign involved 27 London boroughs, the Mayor of London, Greater London Authority, Public Health England, NHS London and London Councils, as well as emergency services, directors of public health and MPs.

It was initiated by the London Chief Executives Group and Professor Kevin Fenton, director of public health for London, amid concerns over low levels of awareness about testing. Less than half (44 per cent) of Londoners knew how to get a test, according to research by YouGov for the GLA.

A budget of just £10,000 was provided to develop the campaign, which was boosted by campaign partners contributing research and other resources.

Keeping it simple

Making sure that people knew how to get a test, encouraging them to get tested and building confidence in and engagement with contact tracing were the key objectives of the campaign. It was designed to complement national campaigns, using public health messaging tailored to local audiences.

The core message was kept as simple as possible, with the wording “COVID symptoms? Get tested now” and pointing people to and the new 119 coronavirus testing contact centre number. A secondary message was to “protect your friends and family”.

Making an impact

Central messaging which formed the basis of all communications, along with design assets and brand guidelines, helped to ensure consistency and accuracy.

The campaign was aimed at the general public and mapped areas of digital exclusion to help target the use of non-digital channels. Boroughs targeted audiences at a local level, while public sector-owned channels and platforms were used to promote the campaign.

'Keep London safe' was launched in July with media relations and social media activity highlighting the need for people who think they may have the virus to get tested.

On the day of the launch, there were 383 social media posts with a reach of 6.1m and 9.9m impressions.

Just weeks later, 22 boroughs pooled their resources to fund a £55,000 out-of-home advertising campaign that resulted in a combined reach of 6.5 million, with 52 million impressions over four weeks.

Tangible progress

One month after the campaign launched, the proportion of Londoners who were confident that they knew how to get a test had risen from 44 per cent to 61 per cent.

And the number of daily tests across London had risen from 10,850 on the day the campaign launched to 19,617 by October 14.

Emer Delaney, director of communications at NHS Improvement London, said: “'Keep London safe' has united the NHS and the boroughs in a unique partnership to ensure that we are able to deliver consistent messaging on COVID-19 at a pan-London, local and hyperlocal level.”

Louise Neilan, head of external affairs for the London Borough of Southwark, commented: “By joining forces in developing strong design and messaging, tested on residents, and combining our purchasing power, we were able to maximise our impact in keeping our city safe.”

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