Other than skin cancer, prostate is the most common form of cancer affecting men today, and the risk of prostate cancer is elevated in men over 40, African Americans and men with a family history of the disease. Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) saw an opportunity to lead a national call for men to overcome any stigma associated with discussing prostate health and “get screened.”
Partnering with the National Football League Alumni Association (NFLA) and LabCorp, CTCA® launched “Prostate Pep Talk,” a national multimedia initiative designed to educate and inform action, with the added incentive of free Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screenings at LabCorp facilities nationwide. The campaign included media buys, a PSA, spokespersons, website, events and more.
“’Prostate Pep Talk” was a multi-dimensional public awareness campaign fueled by a collaboration among public relations, advertising, creative, video, social media and community relations teams, complemented by outside agency support on a local and national level,” says Michael Myers, Senior Vice President of External Affairs & Communications. “This campaign was about creating a platform to save lives, and we believe we did just that!”
Read on to see how this campaign effort succeeded on all fronts, bringing a new level of visibility and awareness to prostate cancer, with millions of Americans receiving the message about the importance of screenings—and earning CTCA a Gold Winner in the “Best Healthcare Campaign” category of Bulldog Reporter’s 2018 PR Awards.
The Strategy: Despite the prevalence of prostate cancer, a culture of silence and lack of awareness remain. Therefore, the campaign had to use compelling spokespersons, present relevant information and be authoritative and trustworthy, which meant uniting trusted national voices from CTCA, the NFLA and LabCorp.
“Prostate Pep Talk” sought to change the conversation’s dynamic, giving men and women, a reason to talk about prostate cancer while encouraging men to get tested. By using NFL personalities the target audience knew and trusted, a multiplatform approach insured millions of men received the message in a way that would resonate.
The campaign team chose the “manliest” men as its messengers—elite-level former football players and coaches who brought credibility to this audience with their toughness and intelligence. Since the campaign was presenting health information, the campaign needed icons who are “tough” but also trusted to sensitively convey a sense of purpose.
The Prostate Pep Talk campaign’s roster included NFL Hall of Famer and former Congressman Steve Largent, former all-pro defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones and renowned coaches including Herm Edwards, Dick Vermeil and Bill Cowher.
The Execution: Despite a reduced budget, CTCA was able to leverage that challenge in two ways. First, revered football personalities were recruited as spokespeople to attract key national sports media as well as mainstream media coverage of the campaign. Plus, each hospital partnered with local retired NFL players, community leaders and major employers to hold educational events with CTCA physicians. Those events attracted additional local media coverage and enabled participants to sign up for screenings onsite.
“Prostate Pep Talk” employed various tactics with one goal: to convince men to get prostate cancer screenings. The campaign was executed over four strategic phases:
- Phase 1: “Kickoff events” in CTCA locations, including metropolitan Philadelphia, Atlanta, Tulsa, Chicago and Phoenix: Partnering with the NFLA in each region, several speakers shared personal experiences with prostate cancer and urged men to get screened. The speakers included former players as well as top oncologists from CTCA. Local leaders also took part in these local events, underscoring the importance of this public health issue. Men in attendance had the opportunity to sign up at the events for screenings.
- Phase 2: An extensive social media campaign, creating and distributing a series of Prostate Pep Talk short digital videos, Instagram posts, Facebook ads, tweets, gifs and other “quick hit” content. Distribution included owned channels and strategic online placements. Men interested in learning more and signing up were encouraged to visit ProstatePepTalk.com (still live), a robust site that includes videos, educational materials and links to get screened.
- Phase 3: Paid media across pro and college football broadcasts and other primetime sports channels, ensuring precision marketing that would maximize for CTCA the effectiveness of the NFLA partnership and reach target audiences. Advertising buys also included banner and video impressions in digital media as well as aggressive campaigns through football-related podcasts.
- Phase 4: Traditional media relations supported the initiatives throughout the campaign. Press releases, media advisories, interviews at the community events, Q&As with doctors, fact sheets were among the tools used. The campaign allowed media to learn about “Prostate Pep Talk” and serve as a conduit for educating men on the benefits of screening. The campaign was launched via a national news conference.
“The overall ‘Prostate Pep Talk’ name and use of NFL coaches to hammer home the ‘get screened’ message were among the most creative aspects of the campaign,” Myers adds. “The tie to the NFLA and the name of the campaign will continue to carry forward to future campaigns with critical credibility and awareness.”
The Results: “Prostate Pep Talk” was an overwhelming success, with millions of people across America receiving the message about the importance of prostate cancer screening, and, as a result, thousands answered the call-to-action to learn more about PSA screenings.
- The media campaign generated a number of high-visibility top-tier hits, including an Associated Press article that appeared in national outlets like The Washington Post, USA Today and FoxSports.com. The coverage reached nearly 250 million possible impressions, including 90 million from the AP profile.
- The social media campaign generated more than 15 million impressions over Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The content proved compelling on Facebook, where 83 percent of people watched the videos through to completion. Digital ads generated more than 54,000 clicks – engagements by people looking for more information courtesy of “Prostate Pep Talk.” Traffic to the website, ProstatePepTalk.com, doubled during the campaign.
- Research showed that 17 million impressions were generated through the targeting of programs like Monday Night Football and ESPN News, the digital media program delivered 7 million banner and video impressions and the digital audio program delivered 3 million impressions through football-related podcasts.
- Most importantly, more than 700 men signed up for screenings as a direct result of the 2017 campaign. Of those who completed the test, 35 came back with abnormal results, indicating the markers for prostate cancer. These are the first examples of men who can now seek proper care and treatment thanks to having received the important free screening and the “Prostate Pep Talk.”
The Campaign’s Innovation and Creativity: “Prostate Pep Talk” featured the first partnership of its kind, bringing together trusted NFL voices, a top national cancer care and treatment network and a leading medical testing resource.
The concept of getting health information and a health-related call to action from the sports sector was novel and it worked because of its strong overlap with the target markets most at risk for the disease. The campaign juxtaposed such imagery such as locker rooms and uniformed players with a health call-to-action – versus a typical football message — to capture the intended audience’s attention.
Success hinged on the former players and coaches being frank and emotional about their personal battles with prostate cancer—either in their own lives or among family members.
Fortunately, both in the digital/social components and at the events, the spokespersons shared personal, touching stories of how this issue hit close to home, and what drove them to join this critical campaign.
Coordinated grassroots efforts, supported by media relations, played a significant role in driving men to take advantage of the free LabCorp screenings. Each CTCA regional hospital used the opportunity to build on relationships with local employers, cancer support organizations and community leaders who helped spread the message. It was also a challenge to coordinate three large, independent organizations towards the common goal of saving lives through encouraging PSA screenings.
“The true success of ‘Prostate Pep Talk’ rests with the collaborative partnership between the NFLA, LabCorp and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Our collective passion was our commitment to fostering open, honest conversation about prostate cancer and the need for men to get screened,” says Myers. “Screenings that may potentially save lives in the process –that is our greatest triumph.”
Secrets of Success: Myers provides the following insights to help your agency achieve similar success in its next healthcare campaign—demonstrating why CTCA was a GOLD winner in this year’s Bulldog PR Awards:
- Create partnerships: “Pulling together several different organizations, all with the same mission, makes a campaign stronger.”
- Use all cylinders: “A multi-faceted approach to a campaign produces better results. Develop a strategic plan with measurable objectives and tactics that include all facets of the communications continuum, from paid media to old-fashioned grassroots events.”
- Engage the right spokespeople: Use people “who are credible to your target audience, engaging and passionate about the cause.”