Workshop: Case Study - Prostate Cancer week goes military

Francois Le Goff

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Background: This year is a major phase in the development of the Prostate Cancer Charity.

In February, the charity launched its five-year strategy, 'A Cause for Action', which prioritises investment in research. This strategic rethink came in response to a recent increase in public interest in prostate cancer, which opened up new campaigning prospects. People had, up until this point, been quite ignorant of a disease that is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with some 25,000 new diagnoses each year and around 10,000 deaths.

By providing more evidence-based information, the Prostate Cancer Charity hopes to become an authoritative organisation in the prostate cancer field.

The findings it came up with for last year's Prostate Cancer Awareness Week - the fact that one in 13 men risk developing the disease - greatly helped the charity to seize the public's attention on this long-neglected issue.

Although it did not provide fresh research, this year's awareness week highlighted an increase on last year's statistics, with one in 11 men now being reported at risk of developing the disease.

Aims Prostate Cancer Awareness Week 2004, which took part from 22-28 March, aimed to teach people basic and vital facts about prostate cancer.

Its message focused on information as being men's best chance of survival.

Using the slogan 'It's time to know more', the campaign urged them to 'look out for danger' and discuss any symptoms with their GP.

The charity used a creative campaign using military imagery and terminology in order to engage men's attention.

How it worked: The charity occupied a stand at the annual Classic Car Show in London to promote the campaign a few days before its official launch. It attracted car enthusiasts by producing spoof automotive titles such as The Works, The Owners Gland Manual and Toolkit to present information about prostate cancer.

The campaign was launched in Covent Garden by Capital Radio DJ Neil Fox and Aston Villa Football Club chairman Doug Ellis, who released 5,000 balloons.

The Prostate Cancer Charity produced an army-style survival guide comparing the early detection of prostate cancer to a commando mission. Printed on both sides of a leaflet, the guide was sent to 27,000 supporters as well as being distributed in pubs and clubs. Awareness packs containing leaflets, helpline cards and flyers that could be passed on to friends and family were also mailed to health professionals and the public.

In addition to the community activities that took place throughout the UK, ranging from cycle rides to marathons, companies such as British Telecom organised health-awareness days and sent daily emails to their staff, each communicating a different fact about prostate cancer.

Results: Although in total it generated the same amount of media coverage as last year, the campaign was more widely represented in national newspapers.

Members of the charity also appeared on ITV news, Granada TV and the Sky Digital Community Action Channel.

"What we have learned from previous campaigns is that the media wants news about prostate cancer," said Shaun O'Leary, director of operations at the Prostate Cancer Charity. "The media asked us if there was a breakthrough in new treatments to report on, but the awareness week is not just about new discoveries in labs."

O'Leary added that getting the charity's message across remains the main focus.

Fewer people phoned the charity's confidential helpline this year, but it had a greater proportion of calls from men who had very little knowledge of the disease and had been prompted to find out more, while last year's callers tended to be men who had already been diagnosed with cancer.

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