What makes a ‘healthy’ health awareness campaign?

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Following the combined efforts of six different cancer organisations (Bowel Cancer Australia, the Gut Foundation, the GI Cancer Institute, the Bowel Cancer Foundation, the National Bowel Cancer Coalition and the Cancer Council Australia) last week in raising awareness of Australia’s second largest cancer killer, bowel cancer, it prompted us to ask: what makes a ‘healthy’ health awareness campaign?

Poignant call to action

Poignant call to action

If we take a look at Bowel Cancer Awareness Week as the most recent example, the issue dominated health news headlines all week, generating some 200 media impressions each day.

While there were varying messages from all of the organisations vying for a voice, the most common and resounding messages were: this is a cancer beginning to hit younger people (emotional), screening is critical (call-to-action) and society needs to put ‘social awkwardness’ aside when it comes to talking about bowel cancer (quirkiness).

Some organisations harnessed the power of celebrity to get their message across including Lara Bingle, George Calombaris and John Singleton, while others embraced research, personal stories and a touch of humour to spread the word.

With over 160 local, national and international health awareness days, weeks and months formally recognised by the Australian Department of Health & Ageing each year, why is it that some stand out from the crowd and demand such public and media attention, like Bowel Cancer Awareness Week, while others remain almost unheard of?

We know that not all health awareness campaigns are created equal and when embarking on a health awareness campaign, whether it’s an NGO, charity or pharmaceutical company, there needs to be a number of critical ingredients in place for a level of noise to be achieved. A host of important decisions must be made and depending on the topic/issue in question, one may find they have to work that little bit harder than their counterparts to pique the interest of media and ultimately get their target audience to act.

Working in the area of health and having played a part in many a health awareness campaign over the years, we’ve put together our top tips (with a couple of examples showing these in action) for what can help make a ‘healthy’ health awareness campaign:

1. Compelling, new research & statistics

2. Clear call-to-action that can be measured

3. Celebrity/high profile personality including MPs

4. Appeals to wider community – not just those that are affected

5. Real life stories

6. Specialists, key opinion leaders, clinical spokespeople

7. Original, creative or quirky take on getting the message across

8. Finding a journalist/media outlet with a personal connection

9. Ways to extend the campaign beyond the ‘day’, ‘week’ or ‘month’

10. Strong online presence

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