The Irish Heart Foundation approached us to devise a campaign to raise public awareness of the pending HSE plans to destroy over 1 million newborn screening cards (also known as heel-prick, bloodspot or Guthrie cards). These cards have the potential to save the lives of extended family members of over 1,000 young victims of Sudden Cardiac Death. The objective of the campaign was twofold – on a practical level we wanted to encourage people to request that their card be returned to them to meet a deadline of less than 3 weeks away, but the bigger goal was to halt the destruction of the cards altogether.
We developed a 3-part campaign which we launched on 12th March entitled ‘Stop The Destruction Now’ which comprised:
- A media relations outreach programme and campaign launch event drove significant media coverage on the issue and the campaign. We created a news hook by conducting research to identify the low level of awareness of the issue among the public. Despite efforts by the HSE to inform the public of its plans, our research identified that only 12% of the population were aware of the pending destruction of the cards which added to the urgency of our campaign and the need to properly inform the public of the issue. Speakers at the launch event were Barry Dempsey (CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation), consultant cardiologist Dr. Joe Galvin and Sally Hegarty (mother of a Sudden Cardiac Death victim)
- A full-page advertisement placed in The Irish Times which provided a platform to launch the campaign and to communicate the importance of the issue
- A Twitter page encouraged people to support the campaign and illustrate this support in a creative way. As well as providing practical information on the campaign and where people could get further information , the site created a mosaic depicting every tweet or re-tweet supporting the campaign in real-time. Many well-known personalities and influencers added their profile to the campaign, as well as media outlets and members of the public
Media relations played a critical role in raising awareness of the story and in bringing the issue to a head. Key pieces of coverage included radio interviews such as ‘Morning Ireland’, TV news, numerous news articles across print media and a strong piece of editorial in The Irish Times supporting the campaign. The Twitter page added a new and innovative element, targeted younger audiences and allowed us to generate momentum amongst some key influencers and in a relatively short time. On a bigger scale, the campaign achieved its ultimate objective: just days before the deadline of 31st March, Minister James Reilly announced that he had instructed the HSE not to destroy the cards and that he was appointing an expert group to consider the future of the cards.