Air ambulance renews pride via TV coverage

County Air Ambulance (CAA) is the largest service of its kind in the UK, but the registered charity was suffering from a recognition problem.

Campaign County Air Ambulance
Client County Air Ambulance
PR team Golley Slater PR
Timescale April-May 2005
Budget Part of retainer

One of its main concerns was around its name, which implies that it serves a single area – in fact the CAA covers nine counties across the Midlands (from Gloucestershire to Staffordshire), giving it a remit of 8,000 sq miles and a population base of seven million residents.

The CAA wanted to highlight its work on TV via human-interest stories that would differentiate it from other air ambulance services. CAA also wanted to raise awareness of its reliance on donations and volunteers.

To further increase CAA's profile in the Midlands area. To enhance recognition of its red helicopters, and boost awareness of its charitable status. To increase funding for the service.

Strategy and Plan
Retained agency Golley Slater PR wanted to target TV viewers likely to donate cash or volunteer their time for the CAA, so it approached BBC Midlands Today. The current affairs programme reaches more than nine million viewers a day and, of course, covers much of the area in which the air ambulance operates.

The show's producers were offered filming time at RAF Cosford, where the CAA's operations centre and one of its helicopters is based. Discussions were held about filming methods, the use and type of cameras that could safely be used in the aircraft and, when called to an incident, camera set-up, positioning and stability (as well as patient confidentiality).

To demonstrate the idea of 'meeting the people behind the organisation', the CAA let the BBC film its  fundraising fashion show, and helped set up an interview with an avid nine-year-old air ambulance fan. Personnel including air operations controller Dave Turner and Selly Oak Hospital consultant Keith Porter were also filmed in action.

Important for the human-interest angle, Midlands Today was given
access to two patients, charting their progress from air-ambulance rescue to recuperation.

Measurement and Evaluation
From an initial idea to dedicate three minutes to CAA, the depth and quality of material obtained by the BBC enabled it to give 13 minutes of airtime to the charity. The footage was featured in evening and lunchtime broadcasts, giving the service a potential audience reach of 36 million viewers.

Since featuring on Midlands Today the service has taken calls from prospective volunteers asking for more information on getting involved. In the long term it is hoped that funding will increase from individuals and businesses inspired by the TV programme.
The CAA has also reported an increase in motivation among the
ambulance crews, ground staff and other volunteers as a result of the programme, which it says has created a sense of pride in the service.

Midlands Today journalist Ian Johnson says access to the CAA gave it an ideal story. 'The service is hugely popular and it gave us good pictures and human stories. We didn't want blood and gore, but to show what happens behind the scenes, from being picked up by a helicopter to treatment at the trauma unit in Birmingham.'

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