Campaign: HealthWatch cardiac monitoring service launch
Client: Broomwell HealthWatch
PR team: Pazang
Timescale: September 2004-January 2005
Budget: Around £15,000
Despite the high incidence of heart attacks, few people regularly have an electro-cardiogram (ECG) examination. Cardiac monitoring service provider Broomwell HealthWatch devised a home system that would reduce unnecessary hospital stays - it allows an ECG to be connected by phone to cardiologists, who can make a diagnosis and call an ambulance if necessary. Broomwell hired Wilmslow-based agency Pazang to publicise the launch of the system. Objectives
To generate sales by raising awareness of cardiac home monitoring among patients, GPs and NHS decision makers. To encourage enquiries via telephone and the company's website.
Strategy and Plan
The service was launched last September, with Pazang sending press packs to print and broadcast media health editors, following them up with case studies. In December, journalists were invited to Broomwell's cardiac monitoring centre in Manchester to interview patients, cardiologists, GPs, staff and company chairman Joshua Rowe.
In January, activity focused on the centre's other services - including various home monitoring and weight control products. PROs visited national newspaper health editors to demonstrate the systems.
During the campaign, the PR team capitalised on related stories, such as research from University College London last November, which showed that people who did not take sick leave from work when ill doubled their chances of heart disease.
One challenge was to explain to journalists that Broomwell's system was safer and more sophisticated than other home testing kits of the kind available at chemists. PROs set up face-to-face meetings with journalists to explain these benefits, while engagement with GPs focused on the small size of the products.
Measurement and Evaluation
The service gained coverage on ITV's This Morning, Sky and BBC regional TV and radio shows. The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express and Sunday Express covered the story, as did the Manchester Evening News and trade titles Nursing Standard, Healthcare Equipment & Supplies, GP News and Ambulance UK.
FT.com, countrydoctor.co.uk, and manchesteronline.co.uk gave Broomwell an online media presence.
Pazang used cuttings agency Romeike to analyse the coverage. Eighty-six per cent of articles mentioned the Broomwell website or its telephone number.
The company says it has beaten its initial sales target for the service, with 100 ECG units sold so far, and attributes much of this to the PR campaign.
Broomwell sales staff have reported an increased awareness of the service within the NHS, and the company believes its appearances on This Morning and in The Daily Telegraph were crucial in raising its profile. Following this success, Broomwell plans to launch a home diabetes monitoring service next year.
BBC Greater Manchester Radio managing editor Mike Briscoe says: 'I commissioned the story because it followed a different line on heart disease. The PR team gave us good, early warning, so we were able to plan. It gave us real people - a patient, GP and hospital administrator.'
Nicky Smith is director of consumer healthcare at Nexus Communications.
The cardiac monitoring service was an unusual product to enter the market, with the challenge of highlighting its clinical, life-saving technology while making it appear simple and reliable enough to be placed in your average Joe Bloggs' hands.
The quirkiness of the service was on the PR team's side, but there was a danger of it being downplayed as quack-science and useless gadgetry, so it was vital that healthcare professionals' support was gained early on.
Good PR is about proof - of efficacy and safety, expert approval and patients' positive experience. Broomwell employed this strategy perfectly, by involving GPs, cardiac specialists and patients from the start, while case studies added a human touch.
Although this project is unlikely to win any prizes for creativity, the strong media results show that sound bread-and-butter techniques and intensive media relations works. Tagging on to third-party research was also effective.
But more could have been done to evaluate coverage. It is difficult to measure real results from a list of publications or programmes, as we cannot gauge whether editorial tone is one of recommendation or ridicule.
PR is still the poor relative of the advertising world - and as long as much of the industry spends little effort on measurement and evaluation, this will never change.