WORKSHOP: Case Study - Kidney donor fund looks to the skies

CLAIRE SAMES

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Background: The National Kidney Research Fund is the leading UK charity funding research that focuses on the prevention, treatment and management of kidney disease. The fund also focuses its attention on patient care and educational initiatives. The charity has been a key in raising awareness of the severe shortage of donated organs for several years.

In support of National Transplant Week 2002, the National Kidney Research Fund, in partnership with the health body UK Transplant, wanted to encourage more members of the public to become organ donors.

Aims: One of the fund's main aims is to raise awareness of kidney disease and the needs of those affected. It therefore decided to support this year's National Transplant Week by implementing, planning and co-ordinating a UK-wide billboard campaign.

At that time, there were 9.2 million people in the UK on the NHS Organ Donor Register, which is only 16 per cent of the population who have registered to be organ donors. At the same time there were 6,800 people in the UK waiting for a transplant and 6,100 of these needed a kidney. In contrast, around 2,500 transplants of which 1,700 are kidney operations, are carried out each year.

Public relations manager Louise Cox, who co-ordinated the billboard campaign, says: "The reality is that there are not enough organs donated to meet demand. We wanted to bring this into the public domain in a new, positive and attention grabbing way, while not losing sight of the more serious awareness message."

How it worked In early 2002, the fund came up with the concept of where the donor card would be located on an item of clothing of someone from an instantly recognisable career. The fund approached the Red Arrows which agreed to support the campaign. The posters featured a Red Arrows pilot displaying the organ donor card with the strapline, "Where do you keep yours?".

The fund selected 220 highly prominent billboards sites across the UK through Maiden Outdoor advertising. The posters were visible at prominent sites such as railway stations, where a high footfall - the number of people passing the site - would be guaranteed. To highlight that the shortage of organs is not just a yearly issue, the fund purchased the billboards for a fortnight with some posters staying up for three months.

The fund launched the billboard campaign regionally at RAF Scampton, the home of the Red Arrows. Patrick Mower from TV soap Emmerdale attended and joined Squadron Leader Chris Carder, the Red Arrows pilot featured on the billboards, in a press photo call.

The campaign was then rolled out nationally in London with Health Minister David Lammy unveiling a billboard. Radio and television interviews as well as press articles supported the outdoor campaign.

Results During National Transplant Week 2002 a total of 1,100 calls were made to the NHS Organ Donation Literature line - a 302 per cent increase on the week prior to National Transplant Week 2002 and a 236 per cent increase from National Transplant Week 2001, when the line took 327 calls.

In addition, the fund's helpline saw a significant increase in calls from people interested in knowing more about becoming organ donors.

Penny Hallett, director of communications at UK Transplant, says: "A further 160,833 names were added to the Organ Donation Register in July - all further proof of the power of working in partnership.

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