While most reviews of 2016 have understandably been dominated by negativity, I thought I’d look back ón some of my professional highlights from the year.
– 100 things I wish I’d known about living with diabetes
After about nine months’ work, including one pilot run in November 2015, we launched our campaign, ‘100 things I wish I’d know about living with diabetes’, on 15 February 2016.
It centred around a free book of 100 tips about diabetes that we crowdsourced from people living with the condition. We asked people from our networks and at our events, but the highest proportion of tips came from supporters online. There’s a well-established diabetes online community, which Diabetes UK is an active part of, and we knew they could be relied upon to share some great tips.
But the majority of people in the online community have Type 1 diabetes or are parents of people with Type 1 and we wanted to make sure that all types of diabetes were represented in the tips – or at least the two main types. So I made sure we asked all our email subscribers for their tips too, as I knew we would be able to draw on a wider range of experiences – and again, they didn’t let us down, providing the majority of the tips that made it into the book.
Choosing 100 tips for the book
We were lucky enough to receive more than the 100 we wanted for the book – well over 1,000 in fact. Some were variations on the same tip from several different people. To try to make sure the tips would be useful and suitable to the widest range of people affected by diabetes, the final 100 were selected by our Clinical team and a panel of people living with the condition, with our Brand team facilitating and curating the selections to ensure balance.
We finally managed to whittle down to 100 for the book but selected extra tips that would be used on social media, in follow-up email journeys, in our membership magazine and in other channels. We also enlisted some of the contributors to take part the TV ads we were filming at the turn of the year, to be broadcast from 15 February.
Emails for ongoing engagement
As well as being a key source of tips, we used email to keep in touch with everyone who submitted tips, including extra comms for the selected contributors to keep them posted throughout the months-long process before the book and the campaign launched.
We also planned and created tailored email journeys for five different audience groups, for people who ordered the book and opted in to further email comms.
Testing through a pilot
Our agency, Arthur, suggested a pilot campaign, more limited in content and geographical scope but a way of testing that all of the ad formats, tracking, forms and processes were working.
Initially, I wasn’t entirely convinced this would be worthwhile because it wasn’t a completely representative pilot, and because of the limited time between pilot and full roll-out (made even shorter by the Christmas break) we wouldn’t have much time to evaluate and make improvements. We didn’t run any of the social media marketing – paid or organic – at this stage, and nor did we have the TV ad campaign to promote the book. We did have a plan B ready for social media in case people ordering the book started to share images, share the link to the order form, etc, but we didn’t need to activate it.
In the end, the pilot did prove to be really useful because it helped us iron out any final issues with the mechanics and processes for ordering the books (including SMS for callback orders, straightforward phone orders, and orders through an online form).
It also helped us to check that the triggered email journeys were working and to tweak some of the content in the emails to improve them for the full UK-wide campaign in February.
And it told us that print ads in consumer magazines were way more effective than digital display ads, so we could adjust the media placement for the main roll-out.
But one thing the pilot didn’t prepare us for was quite how much a TV ad campaign, launching in primetime, would increase responses.
An overwhelming response
It was planned to be a four-week TV ad campaign, and with even the most optimistic estimates from our agency, based on outperforming top campaigns with other similar clients, we did a single print-run of the books we felt would comfortably cover the demand and leave a buffer of extra copies.
The pilot, with its more limited reach, followed the expected pattern.
When the TV ad launched during a primetime ITV soap on Monday 15 February, we saw unprecedented demand and took enough orders in the first week to use up all remaining stock.
This meant another print run, a curtailing of the TV ad campaign by about half, and acceleration of redeveloping the order form to include a PDF ebook option (which was orginally planned for the very end of the campaign).
Meeting a genuine need with authentic content
As well as the TV ads, the success of the campaign was also thanks to the authenticity of the crowdsourced content – real, often surprising, tips about living with a lifelong condition, all by people living with that condition themselves – and the genuine usefulness of the tips.
It got a great reaction on social media and elsewhere, with countless positive comments (some of which are captured in this Storify), higher-than-average engagement rates with our follow-up emails (helped by being very tailored to the different audience groups), and very few complaints, even when there were delays because of needing such a rapid reprint. We even spotted a copy on sale on eBay at one point!
It’s a campaign that I was proud to lead the digital comms for, one that I worked on in some form during pretty much every day in the nine months or so leading up to the full launch and which in recent months I’ve also spent time evaluating and planning next steps for.
I was also proud when the campaign won a Gold award and two Bronze awards at the DMA Awards in the autumn.