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HomeCase StudiesStroke Association uses insights-driven campaign to reach audience

Stroke Association uses insights-driven campaign to reach audience

Make May Purple


The Stroke Association is the U.K.’s leading stroke charity. More than 100,000 strokes occur annually in the U.K., and over a million people live with the effects of a stroke. Although stroke is the U.K.’s fourth biggest killer and a leading cause of disability, far too many people still don’t understand it or ever think it’ll happen to them. The Stroke Association strives to build awareness of stroke prevention and warning signs, and campaigns for better care and support for the country’s 1.2 million survivors, while raising funds for cutting-edge treatments.

As many as 80% of all strokes are thought to be preventable, meaning the greatest hope for diminishing the condition lies with education and awareness. With this in mind, the organization needed a powerful way to inform mass audiences of the prevalence and risk with a campaign that would raise awareness and inspire healthy actions.

In addition, the national stroke strategy for England is set to come to an end in 2017, and the government said it had no plans to renew it. It became imperative for the association’s campaign to also generate enough momentum and support to spur the government to re-evaluate and re-invest in the national strategy.

With these two important goals in mind, the Stroke Association couldn’t afford to have its PR programs go unmeasured. The charity needed to build its campaign based on tangible data and put in place a measurement system to ensure its effectiveness for the campaign’s duration.

Build upon and measure against a research-based foundation

Four months before launching its campaign, the association turned to Cision Intelligence to create and implement a research-based foundation against which the PR team could measure the impact of its activity. The Cision analysis aided in optimizing the PR outreach in mid-flight and measured the general public’s awareness of strokes. Cision Intelligence provides human analysis and reporting backed by its proprietary tools and leading content sources. It helps brands identify influence, craft campaigns, and attribute value in a way that maps to a communications team’s workflow.

Key objectives for the research and measurement program included:

  • Mainstream and social weekly volumes mapped against website traffic, calls to the helpline, and petition signatures
  • Survey of key message awareness mapped against message tracking in the media
  • Click-through volumes to the petition site from social media activity
  • Identification and tracking of key influencers and outlets mapped to individual target audience groups. Social influencers included celebrities and health influencer representatives

Based on these objectives, the Cision team implemented a program that allows the Stroke Association to precision-target its messaging, monitor and analyze campaign progress, and adjust strategy in real-time to optimize results.

The program includes:

Audience identification survey

Cision used an omnibus survey developed with market research company Opinion Matters. About 10,000 U.K. residents were surveyed, with questions ranging from lifestyle preferences, attitudinal statements, charity support, and media consumption habits. The survey was used to build nine specific target audience profiles. By querying the data on respondents’ media consumption, it was possible to identify a list of priority target media outlets for each profile. The Cision team assessed the tracked coverage generated by these target media outlets as the campaign was launched, together with the resulting reach to the individual target audiences.

Survey insights were gathered twice: after the launch of the campaign, and six months later at the end of the campaign.

Online dashboards

Weekly analysis ensured the PR team could track progress against KPIs through live online dashboards. Key metrics included spokesperson penetration, message delivery, calls to action, and most prolific journalists. The PR team also tracked the most prominent publications, third-party advocates, and track sentiments.

Live social media tracking and analysis

Along with tracking the use of the campaign hashtags and general social reach, Cision worked closely with the Stroke Association’s social media and digital teams, who provided data on the click-throughs to the website generated by social media content. This provided direct evidence of the impact of the social component of the campaign.

Cision also tracked a variety of key influencers – from celebrities to official health influencers. The latter is particularly important: While the Stroke Association is good at gaining wide-reaching celebrity endorsements, in previous campaigns it had been less successful at identifying non-celebrity health influencers with strong social impact.

Awareness surveys

Additional awareness surveys based on a representative sample of 1,000 U.K. adults were executed with market research company Usurv before and after the campaign. Survey questions concentrated on the key messages and also the media platform from which they had heard the message.



 A tightly coordinated awareness campaign

With a measurement program in place, the Stroke Association launched its campaign, A New Era for Stroke, designed to engage the public and attract media attention with a goal of securing signatures for a government petition during its stroke month, Make May Purple for Stroke. Campaign elements consisted of multiple coordinated efforts to drive people to an online petition that called on audiences to support the charity’s call on the Department of Health and NHS England to develop a new national stroke strategy for England.

The petition carried two key messages: Almost half of stroke survivors in England feel abandoned when they leave the hospital, and too many stroke survivors are not given the right care after returning home.

“Our intent was to generate coverage in both national and regional press in order to maximize our reach,” says Anil Ranchod, deputy director of PR and communications at the Stroke Association. “As the petition was online, it was also important to generate online content, including direct links to the petition.”

The campaign began on May 17, coinciding with the Stroke Association’s biggest fundraising initiative of the year, Make May Purple for Stroke. The end date was October 28, World Stroke Day. The final month of the campaign represented a crucial push to get the volume of signatures required to trigger a debate in Parliament — the ultimate campaign goal.

“We wanted the government to address unacceptable variations in stroke care and treatment in different areas of England, drive progress, create advances in treatment, and improve overall support and standards of treatment for people affected by stroke,” adds Ranchod.


Having access to an in-depth analyses midway through the initiative allowed us to effectively pause, evaluate our work, and make adjustments to our strategy accordingly

Anil Ranchod, Stroke Association


Key insights that help modify strategy and reach initial goal

The first measurement survey, conducted shortly after campaign launch, indicated the petition had secured 5,000 signatures. Cision’s initial report highlighted that while the PR and social output correlated to a massive spike in signatures, these spikes would need to be higher in order to meet the Stroke Association’s goal of securing time with the Health Minister.

Cision was able to show that although 48% of U.K. adults were reached by the New Era content and messaging, only 14% had been exposed to coverage featuring a link to the website to sign the petition. Following this feedback, the association adjusted its activity and managed to increase the coverage featuring the website link, which doubled its original results.

Further insights showed that the Stroke Association’s crucial New Era petition stories were battling for attention with the less specific Make May Purple fundraising stories. This was especially a problem within regional newspapers read by the charity’s target audience.

The same pattern emerged on social platforms: #MakeMayPurple achieved four times as much traction as #NewEra. The initial insights report also highlighted the key fundraising influencers, so the Stroke Association could re-approach them with #NewEra-only content.

“Having access to an in-depth analyses midway through the initiative allowed us to effectively pause, evaluate our work, and make adjustments to our strategy accordingly,” says Ranchod.

Buoyed by the introduction of case studies on social media and the subsequent 7 million impressions made by #NewEra, the petition link was shared almost 4,000 times, potentially reaching 3.7 million people.

From the end of the campaign survey, Cision reported that respondent’s awareness of the Stroke Association’s key messages grew 35% compared to the initial report. Due to this strong growth, the charity’s PR team was able to demonstrate that the change in tactics had been key to achieving campaign goals. The Stroke Association gained more than 55,000 signatures and received a response: A government committee told the Health Ministers their response was not good enough and challenged them on the need for a new strategy – this led to two meetings with a Health Minister.

“I’m proud to say that we use measurement to guide our campaign activity for better audience engagement and to show the senior management team the real impact of our communications,” remarks Ranchod. “We’re now seeing traction in what used to be one of our hardest goals – persuading the government to understand that stroke treatment and care is a priority.”

The Stroke Association’s work with Cision won gold at the 2017 AMEC awards for “best use of integrated communication measurement/research.”

The efforts to change government policy are ongoing, with the Stroke Association equipped with the tools to generate change through its PR activities and localized activity.



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