Campaign: Meningitis body tackles 'complacency' - Voluntary Sector

Campaign: Race Against Time

Client: Meningitis Research Foundation

PR team: In-house

Timescale: September-November 2004

Budget: £20,000

Despite recent successes in the battle against meningitis, fatalities - from the disease itself and from septicaemia, its blood-poisoning form - are on the rise. Concerned that coverage of the success was causing complacency, the Meningitis Research Foundation sought to re-ignite public awareness about the threat through a PR campaign, named 'Race Against Time'.


To raise awareness that meningitis is on the rise and highlight the speed at which it can progress. To increase awareness of symptoms and encourage the public to contact the charity or read its leaflets for further information.

Strategy and Plan

Autumn was chosen to launch the campaign because it coincided with children and young adults returning to school and university, therefore presenting a time when there would be a heightened risk of the disease spreading. The charity also launched the campaign with simultaneous events in Bristol, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin, where it has local offices.

In order to convey the importance of identifying the disease early, and its risk to the young, the events were given a sports theme, as well as involving children.

In Edinburgh the launch took place at Meadowbank Sports Stadium, a school sports day was held in Belfast, and, in Dublin, Irish Olympian Catherina McKeiran was recruited.

The Bristol event sought to highlight the number of deaths from the disease.

Schools that previously had a pupil die from the disease were asked if students would release 370 balloons to represent the number of lives lost through meningitis in 2003. Nationally, a press release was issued focusing on the rise in fatalities, and case studies were provided to a variety of media.

By coincidence, a day after the launch it emerged that singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor's baby, Sonny, had survived meningitis. This provided further interest from the national media about the campaign, with many journalists seeking to link the stories together.

Measurement and Evaluation

According to in-house evaluation, national press coverage included articles in the Daily Express, The Independent, the Daily Mirror, News of the World, Mother and Baby, Practical Parenting, Women's Own, Now and Bella.

Locally, around 70 articles appear-ed in print, while MRF staff and members, including experts and those with first-hand experience of the disease, took part in 38 radio interviews.

Five TV stations covered the campaign, including BBC West which focused on the Bristol launch.


Within a month of the campaign's launch, 650 members of the public called the charity's 24-hour helpline requesting more information. The campaign also involved the distribution of leaflets to GPs' surgeries and primary-care trusts, following requests from staff.

Cumberland News reporter Mike Larkin focused on a local case study. 'I was happy with the information on the release,' he says.

'It was quite simple. I just called the person for the case study on the press release and took it from there,' he adds.

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