By Briggy Anderson

Delivering difficult messages sits at the core of healthcare public relations – and bad news or tough topics are best raised by a friendly face.

Add celebrity and the audience for your healthcare marketing strategy increases exponentially. That’s why Specsavers Audiology turned to journalist and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes to push home an important message during Dementia Action Week.

Getting across these delicate messages can be hindered by the vanity many people feel about ageing. They don’t want to admit it is happening or to think about the changes it is making to their body.

Hearing loss affects so many people as they get older, either caused by the ageing process or by years of cumulative damage. But getting people to acknowledge it and have it checked out is difficult – vanity can stop sufferers.

Eamonn’s hearing loss was diagnosed before he found out from Specsavers that research had found it could be an early detector of dementia.

There’s a need for further research to establish whether hearing loss is a marker for the early stages of dementia or whether it’s a modifiable risk factor.

But the This Morning host, whose father-in-law died after a battle with dementia, felt moved to speak out on what he had learned in Specsavers’ healthcare public relations campaign.

The news that former breakfast TV presenter Eamonn is using a discreet hearing aid allowed us to bring up the link with mental faculties during Dementia Action Week (May 21-27).

Early intervention

As Eamonn said himself: “I had absolutely no idea hearing loss could be connected to dementia, anything that flags up a health condition such as dementia has to be taken seriously. Early intervention in so many conditions can either prevent a decline or preserve better health for longer.”

His intervention is based on research that found higher rates of hearing loss among people with dementia. Specsavers advises that the over-55s should have a hearing test every two years. Shockingly, it takes an average of 10 years for someone to look for help for hearing loss.

While the experts await more research into the link with dementia, they say it is essential for people over the age of 55 to get tested regularly, as early detection of hearing loss can help preserve the sense.

A man of Eamonn’s profile can get a conversation going at a national level in a way that ordinary people – even experts – with the same concerns cannot. His contribution to the success of this healthcare marketing strategy cannot be underplayed.

When you need attention on a matter that affects a sizable chunk of the population – one in six people in the UK suffer some form of hearing loss, while more than 850,000 have dementia – your message has to be amplified and delivered by someone the public will take on their word.

And the act of sharing something personal, in this case Eamonn’s use of a hearing aid, drags the public into the story and cements their trust.

Taken together, this allowed Specsavers to reach people who may not have considered hearing loss relevant – or were perhaps too worried about growing old, rather than its effects on their lives, to actually admit to themselves they needed to seek advice.

If it takes some star quality to help people help themselves, so be it. The important thing is getting the right person with a genuine link and story to the campaign.

We know a lot about health. To speak to the health marketing experts, call us on 0800 612 9890.