How to use research to hit a home run in the media

Posted on September 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm by Native Consultancy

This week’s campaign from Alzheimer’s Society about the unfair burden of costs faced by Alzheimer suffers made a big media impact. From the Radio 4 Today Programme to the front pages of the national media, it led the agenda from the morning news onwards.

So what made this campaign work so well?

  • Compelling evidence – if you want to frame a new way of thinking about an issue and start to building consensus for the status quo to change, then establishing a baseline through reputable research is vital. Alzheimer’s Society went in big, commissioning two pieces of research – one on the prevalence and one on the costs of Alzheimer’s disease – this created a platform with genuine news value and set the terms of the debate.
  • Reputable research partners – research is so common place as a vehicle for driving media relations that many journalists, producers and editors dismiss it out of hand as self-serving nonsense – even it does deliver new and useful insight. The Alzheimer’s Society Campaign shows that where research partners are reputable and aligned to your organisation’s interests, they play a vital role in giving the story traction and integrity.
  • A great headline – a great story should always boil down to a great headline. This one boiled down to the idea of a “Dementia tax” – an unfair levy paid by Alzheimer’s sufferers and carers compared to those afflicted with cancer or other illness. In making it easy for health correspondents to sell their story to their editors, the story effectively sold itself.
  • A clear message  – investment in a campaign like worth nothing unless it is clear what it is that needs to change coming through the media coverage. Alzheimer’s Society scored well on this count with its clear message that the disease needs to be taken as seriously as other major illnesses in the way it is funded and supported.

Getting all of these areas may seem simple but in practice it is rarely the case.

In fact most stories are doomed to failure before the sell-in to the media. This is when, in the planning and preparation stage, big ideas get watered down, pieces of budget get shaved off and the research loses its clarity. The waning interest from senior sponsors and resulting lack of a bold message put the final nail in the coffin.

Campaigns which hit a home run like the Alzheimer’ Society are important, not so much for the headlines they generate but for the opportunity they give us to help clients and internal partners understands the anatomy of a great campaign.