Having worked with Living Well UK – the region’s largest consortium of mental health support charities – since the close of 2019, EAST VILLAGE. has seen first-hand the incredible work of the Third Sector in stepping up to the challenge to relieve the pressure on the NHS services. We have helped raise awareness of mental health support in Birmingham and promote the services available.
If Lockdown One, Two, and Three (here’s hoping we just have to stop there…) have taught us anything, it’s never been more important to look after our health – both physical and mental. Latest studies have predicted that more than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) reported feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect the pandemic is having on their life, and up to 10 million people in England will need either new or additional mental health support as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 crisis. With the strain being felt and A&E services as breaking point, the need for effective, timely, and accessible alternative mental health support has now become more than a nice-to-have: it’s critical.
Our success with Living Well UK, promoting mental health support in Birmingham, is what led to us being asked us to head-up a collaborative taskforce between NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, Birmingham Mind and Living Well UK, to publicise the launch of its one-stop 24/7 mental health helpline with a multi-channel communications campaign.
With the roll-out of a one-stop 24/7 mental health helpline, accompanied by a real-time LiveChat service and an email monitored by mental health professionals, this unilateral approach by the NHS and its Third Sector partners needed an equally joined-up communications approach to promote access to mental health support in Birmingham.
Aiming to drive awareness – and most importantly calls, emails, and messages – EAST VILLAGE. put together a concept for ‘It’s Okay’: a consumer-facing campaign about getting mental health support in Birmingham early and empowering people to talk about their feelings with a professional. This marketing campaign was designed to reach as many people as possible in Birmingham and Solihull as the region – and the wider UK – faced a third lockdown.
As the headlines plotted an ever-increasing COVID-19 peak, it was correctly anticipated that the general ‘January Blues’ would hit harder this year, and making sure that mental health support in Birmingham was accessible – and visible – at the start of the year would be vital during this time. This led to the agreement of an initial two-phase approach: a four-week, wide-reaching, high-impact campaign for phase one; and a longer campaign, specifically targeting those considered hard-to-reach for phase two.
Having mobilised a committee of comms professionals and leaders from each of the partner organisations, the ‘It’s Okay’ campaign was pitched by EAST VILLAGE. and signed off in December 2020, ready to go live for a multi-channel campaign in January 2021.
With a limited budget, EAST VILLAGE. was focused on delivering a cost-effective but wide-reaching campaign to promote mental health support in Birmingham for the first four-weeks. To do this, we looked at using as many diverse channels as possible, to ensure we were reaching those from different communities, backgrounds, and groups, with media they were already engaging with. This involved strategic direct marketing: such as designing and printing A5 flyers with the key campaign straplines and contact information, distributed by community partners, including supermarkets Tesco, Waitrose and Co-op, the Millennium Point mass-vaccination centre, and emergency first-responders; a media advertising campaign with Reach PLC in the form of an advertorial, social media campaign, and digital native ads; and digital screen advertising. Having anticipated that the UK would be in a national lockdown while we planned the campaign in December, we chose four key locations for the digital screens that were located on High Streets near supermarkets.
We also supported with the running of a social media campaign, using the central NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG channel to target the Birmingham and Solihull area and signposting the way that people could access help.
This paid-for activity was then supplemented with earned-media opportunities, including PR outreach announcing the new line, signposting the ways to access, and focusing on the importance of the line. This was targeting local outlets, including broadcast media, pitching the team for interviews.
We also organised organic social media ‘thunderclaps’, which saw us design specific messages relating to key national mental health awareness days; Blue Monday and Time To Talk Day, in addition to the suite of ready-made and editable assets for partners and affiliates to use. These were then posted at the same time from all channels on the day at agreed times, to ‘flood’ timelines and reach as many people as possible.
As the aim of Phase One was to broaden awareness of the provision of mental health support in Birmingham and Solihull, the key indicator of results was to be whether the volume of calls to the helpline, and also the number of emails sent and LiveChats started, increased. Throughout the course of the campaign, the statistics collated from the helpline clearly demonstrate this, with the number of calls growing each week, reaching a total of 2,074 in January.
In addition to the numbers of people taking action in calling the line, we also wanted to ensure that as many people as possible were seeing the campaign, so that if they – or someone they know – needed mental health support in Birmingham and Solihull in the future, they would be aware of the provision. This meant that measuring the reach of the campaign had significance too.
Through the flyer distribution approach, using supermarkets, vaccination centres, and Third Sector community action groups as partners, we disseminated 90,000 flyers throughout the region. Several callers to the line had noted that they had received one or seen one, including someone thanking Birmingham Mind over Instagram, after they had seen the flyer in their local Tesco, called the line, and received help. With the likes of Tesco, Waitrose, and Co-op supporting, we managed to cover the entire reach of the Birmingham and Solihull area too.
The Reach PLC campaign also yielded wide and far-reaching results: the article published on Birmingham Live had over 2.2k readers, with an average dwell time on the page of 4m57s. In addition to this, the digital native ads, which included banner ads in related mental health articles on Birmingham Live and Business Live and a headline banner on the Birmingham Live homepage, received over 100k impressions, and clocked a total of 184 hours’ viewing time. Complementing this, the digital screen adverts located on key High Street locations redeemed 78k plays, and the paid-for social media campaign garnered a huge reach across the region. Across the ad sets, 759k people were reached with over 1m impressions. This was then bolstered by organic social media pushes by each of the partners, which was amplified by retweets from the Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward, the West Midlands Police, and several other prominent accounts.
The PR campaign also achieved a great spread of regional coverage, which helped to signpost people to the helpline too. EAST VILLAGE. achieved 10 pieces of coverage in the month, including Business Mondays, Birmingham Press, What’s On Live, not to mention on-air interviews with both Free Radio and Global Radio’s Capital and Smooth channels. This saw a total media reach of 290k across titles with a combined monthly circulation of over 9 million.
Phase One of the ‘It’s Okay’ campaign received hugely positive feedback, raised awareness of mental health support in Birmingham and Solihull, and most importantly drove calls and action. The success of this ensured that EAST VILLAGE. was retained on the project to deliver Phase Two as 2021 continued.