Interview - Christina McGill, head of communications and marketing, Breast Cancer Care

She talks about the charity's preparations for next month's Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Care
Breast Cancer Care

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which begins next week and runs throughout October, is one of the biggest and longest charity campaigns each year. The idea arrived in 1995 from the US and captured the public imagination and support with its pink ribbon and branding.

Breast Cancer Care was one of the original supporters of the event in Britain and its continued involvement has helped it to become one of the country's best-known charities - Third Sector's inaugural Charity Brand Index in 2009 ranked it 25th.

But for a relatively small charity, whose income totalled £12m last year, running a nationwide, month-long campaign that hopes to generate £3m this year is demanding.

"October is always hectic," says Christina McGill, head of communications and marketing. This is her seventh year promoting the event. "It has become busier and more of a year-round effort," she says.

The media push begins in May: coverage in women's magazines remains the Holy Grail. "Powerful case studies always resonate strongly with their readers," says McGill. "But finding new ones with a special hook is really important."

The month isn't the preserve of one charity: among others, its other two main backers - Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Breast Cancer Campaign - organise their own activities.

Breast Cancer Care's campaign this year begins with a fashion show in Scotland on 30 September. Its other key events include Pink Fridays, when people are encouraged to wear pink to work and organise fundraising events, and a fashion show at London's Grosvenor House hotel.

Asda, QVC and Dorothy Perkins are all long-standing supporters. The model Lisa Snowdon, the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell and Cherie Booth, a patron of the charity since 1997, will provide celebrity backing.

Although the month is the charity's main fundraising activity of the year, McGill says awareness and fundraising are of equal importance.

"The two things are complementary," she says. "The arc light of media coverage is important to galvanise enthusiasm, but equally, the fundraising activity can be an important route for the breast cancer message."

This year will focus on the worthiness of the cause and, for the first time, secondary breast cancers. The stories are harrowing but the tone of the month is hope and fun. For the staff, the next month is all about securing cash and coverage.

FACT FILE

A breast cancer drug maker began the event in the US in 1985 to encourage women to have mammograms.

Almost 46,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. The figure is increasing.

The £1.5m raised by Breast Cancer Care during last year's Breast Cancer Awareness Month enabled the charity to provide information and support to 850,000 people.

Products being sold this year include pink Flake chocolate bars.

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