Campaign: LAS gets CPR message across to Londoners - Public Sector

Campaign: Live or Let Die

Client: London Ambulance Service

PR team: In-house

Timescale: October 2003-ongoing

Budget: £25,000 excluding research

The ongoing challenge for the London Ambulance Service (LAS) is to encourage people to sign up to free cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training courses. Most cardiac arrests happen at home but few people have the first-aid skills to save a life. Objectives

To increase public awareness of the importance of CPR, specifically the difference early recognition can make to survival rates and the need for fast action when someone has a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Strategy and Plan

LAS commissioned MORI to undertake research in March 2003, which revealed that seven out of ten Londoners had never had training in CPR and two-thirds thought that more than half of cardiac arrest patients survive to leave hospital (the actual number is five per cent).

To convey the real threat of death that a lack of CPR skills presents, the PR team decided to take a direct, emotional approach with a poster campaign targeting Londoners. Press packs containing images of the campaign, and launch invites, including a training session, were sent to 70 local London newspapers. Packs were also sent to health and national newspaper editors.

The posters featured two images: a person who had collapsed and suffered a cardiac arrest in his home receiving compressions; and a gravestone to represent a person who had died because no one near them had known CPR.

Posters appeared at 1,000 sites across the London Underground network, as well as some overland South West Trains sites. More than 3,000 posters were put up in hospitals, community and religious centres and GPs' surgeries.

The launch was designed to generate editorial by using celebrities. Comedian Paul O'Grady lent his support, having suffered a heart attack and been treated to recovery by the LAS in 2002. Other members of the public who had been treated by LAS were available for interviews as well.

Arsenal footballers Thierry Henry and Ashley Cole, though not at the launch, endorsed the campaign by appearing at a photocall.

Measurement and Evaluation

LAS evaluated the campaign in-house and found that just under a third of the local media targeted ran the story, focusing on the free training courses, vital statistics and case studies.

London Tonight, Richard and Judy, Time Out and Health Service Journal also ran the story, but the campaign was deemed too London-centric by the nationals.

Radio station LBC also ran editorial around the case studies, in addition to airing free ads.


In the three months following the launch, 1,600 members of the public signed up to free training, which compares with only 200 for the same period of the previous year. An average of 30 requests continue to be received each week.

Harrow Observer reporter Emily Rogers was given a leaflet from the Harrow Primary Care Trust.

She says a personal interest in the issue and anxiety about her own lack of CPR skills when she read the LAS statistics prompted her to run the story.

'I had no idea how to do CPR and knew it was an important skill to have that I had never acquired. I thought that if I was interested, others would be, too,' she says.

Rogers adds that the launch was well structured because the CPR trainer opened the session with an in-depth lecture, outlining all the vital statistics, which meant she didn't have to organise a separate interview.

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