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Gaining cut through and raising awareness with real stories

25 January 2022

Securing media and public attention in today’s busy news environment can be tough. But at Brain Tumour Research this was exactly what we needed to do to raise awareness of the impact brain tumours have on young people’s lives. Specifically the fact that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer and 88% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour died within five years. A shocking stat, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

That’s why we were delighted when our recent Stop the Devastation campaign reached more than six million people and we secured high-profile media coverage including a live segment on Sky News on launch day.

So how did it all come about?

The campaign

Brain Tumour Research launched its Stop the Devastation campaign in summer 2021 with the objective to raise awareness of these stark facts about brain tumours. Exposing the history of underfunding for research into the disease, and encouraging people to donate to help find a cure.

With coordinated social media, PR and marketing, this hard-hitting campaign laid bare the powerful and painful truth about brain tumours – they are indiscriminate, they can affect anyone at any age, there is no cure, and for many, sadly, there is little or no hope.

The power of real stories

A key aim of Stop the Devastation was to highlight the indiscriminate nature of brain tumours and to shine a spotlight on people affected. We recruited a diverse cast of supporters each with their own lived experience of brain tumours to star in the campaign materials.

We wanted a campaign that would work well on the big screens at live events running throughout the summer and, working with creative agency bandstand, we produced a powerful 30-second film which shared the shocking statistics surrounding brain tumours and called on people to donate to support research to find a cure for the disease.

The film showcased six supporters: Sam who is living with an inoperable form of the disease; Niki who lost her 13-year-old son Shay to a brain tumour; Eddie who feels he is “living on borrowed time” after his diagnosis; Amani who has had to crowdfund to access drug treatment from abroad and is angry at the lack of investment; Shaz and her children, Layla and Daniel, who are heartbroken after losing their husband and father, David; and Fi who lost a close friend to the disease.

It was hugely important the charity that we cast real supporters in the campaign. This helped to not only to highlight that anyone can be affected by brain tumours, but also to bring a real emotional drive to the film as every member of the cast had a real motivation to support our cause. The authenticity of their raw and emotional stories was vitally important to the Stop the Devastation campaign, helping to gain cut through into media coverage and move people to get involved. The impact of which was clear, as when working closely with supporters, we were able to extend the reach of the campaign further by highlighting their stories in their local area.

The importance of integrating the campaign across all channels

For us it was all about getting the campaign out there as much as possible.

The outdoor awareness campaign launched in June at the Wimbledon Championships. Videos, posters and flyers were showcased throughout summer at many major music festivals and at prominent sites in London. With support from headline acts and affiliated organisations, and impressive UK-wide press coverage, we reached millions of people across the UK.

We also created an integrated webpage to bring all aspects of the campaign together, including the statistics, thumbnail portraits of the cast which linked to their full case studies on our website, and how people could support the campaign. With supporting images, quotes and case studies, we had a vast amount of content to engage people and inspire them to support the cause.

At the same time a PR campaign shared the stories of the cast involved in the film with national media and we worked to secure media coverage in their local areas to help raise awareness. We coordinated surrounding comms around the campaign to help further drive engagement, including email bulletins to our database and news posts on our website.

Alongside the advertising campaign, we then launched a social media movement calling on people to help us say #NoMore to brain tumours. The call to action was simple. We asked supporters to take a selfie holding their hand out in front of their face, to post this selfie on all their social media platforms using the hashtag #NoMore, donate £5 and tag five friends to do the same. We created draft posts for supporters to copy to use across all social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. This helped us to ensure the message of the campaign – to stop the devastation of brain tumours – was carried through by all supporters who got involved.

Tweet from Sheila Hancock News @SheilaHancock. 'I'm saying #NoMore to brain tumours X. Please join me by sharing a selfie just like this and donate @braintumourrsch. Tag your friends here - let's keep it going!

The results

The effects of our cross-team working to embed this campaign across all our work really paid off. Not only did we reach more than six million people and gain high-profile media coverage, but we achieved high impressions and good engagement from Stop the Devastation posts across all our social channels too. Our social media movement gained traction after celebrities, including Stephen Fry, Dame Sheila Hancock DBE and TV personality Danny Clarke, joined in to help raise awareness.

Stop the Devastation is a campaign of which Brain Tumour Research is extremely proud. We remain indebted to the patients and families who bravely shared their stories to help raise awareness of this devastating disease, and grateful to the supporters who got involved with our movement.

Susan Castle-Smith

Head of PR and Communications, Brain Tumour Research

Sue Castle-Smith is Head of PR and Communications at Brain Tumour Research, the only national charity in the UK singularly focused on finding a cure for brain tumours through campaigning for an increase in the national investment into research to £35 million a year, while fundraising to create a sustainable network of brain tumour research centres in the UK.