Campaign: Plight of the elderly at winter gets recognition - Public Sector PR

Campaign: Fuel Poverty Client: Faculty of Public Health PR team: Fishburn Hedges Timescale: December 2003 Budget: Pro bono

During a health seminar last October, representatives from the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) bemoaned the lack of media coverage of fuel poverty compared to other health issues such as SARS. Fishburn Hedges offered its services to the FPH free of charge with a brief to capture the media's interest in the issue.


To raise awareness of fuel poverty and the FPH among journalists and inform the poor and elderly of the benefits available. To raise awareness in the Government to encourage better co-ordination of help for the vulnerable during winter.

Strategy and Plan

The PR team promoted figures from the Meteorological Office estimating the number of deaths during a cold spell. The start of the campaign was timed for 23 December when a particularly severe cold spell was predicted.

Met Office medical consultant Dr William Bird agreed to supply the death estimate figures and be a spokesperson. A release was then drafted stating that 2,500 people would die in the pre-Christmas week due to the cold weather. FPH president professor Sian Griffiths was made available all day for interviews.

Measurement and Evaluation

The story was widely covered in the press, including a Guardian editorial titled 'Cold and Old'. Griffiths and Bird gave 46 broadcast interviews.

Precise monitored press coverage, while TNS measured broadcast, showing 100 per cent of stories mentioned the FPH.


At a Government level, the issue was moved up the agenda, with secretary of state for health Dr John Reid expressing his concern publicly. Media calls to the FPH have increased ten-fold since the campaign.

BBC regional news service senior producer Peter Owen says: 'The campaign was very well run with a good regional breakdown, which made it interesting.'

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