By Victoria Holden

Today is World Health Day. The World Health Organisation is marking its 70th anniversary with a call for universal healthcare, something we are fortunate to have in the UK.

The UN body will kick-off a year-long health promotion campaign that will run alongside their existing work.

On April 7 next year, they’ll launch another campaign on another World Health Day. They’ll do the same for a different aspect of health awareness on the same date the year after that, and the year after that …

The press will tell you that they don’t follow those days, that they’re not marked in the diary – but there’s inevitably coverage and that’s down to PR teams using their marketing calendar to plan ahead and find a news angle that reporters just don’t want to miss out on.

Precisely because they are a yearly occurrence, awareness days such as World Heath Day are relevant in health marketing and public relations. You can build momentum with them year on year.

Health promotion

Think how November became Movember and how October’s all about Breast Cancer Awareness. World AIDS Day helped change the healthcare agenda worldwide and its red ribbon provided a visual symbol that was picked up by other health promotion crusades.

Health awareness days are a fixture on marketing calendars at healthcare PR agencies. They help drive the message through and give the press a reason to write about a cause, and through that, the brand supporting it.

But it’s not as simple as lazily hitching your company or message to a date at the last instant. For the best results, you need to carefully plan your approach and foster a close association between brand and cause.

It’s a health marketing strategy we’ve used successfully with major clients including the opticians chain Specsavers.

Just last month, we orchestrated a campaign linked to the World Glaucoma Week health promotion. We linked up with the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) as we knew the value of Specsavers having some sort of arrangement with them would strengthen our case.

A glaucoma check is a standard but important part of the eye test at Specsavers and something the company as an eye healthcare provider want to make their customers aware of. Karen Osborn, the CEO of the IGA, agreed to participate in a radio day we organised during World Glaucoma Week, reinforcing our message.

Early detection

 She and Specsavers clinical spokesperson and optician Dr Josie Forte did back-to-back interviews with more than 15 regional radio stations across the country to highlight the need for early detection of glaucoma and the damage it can do if neglected.

We also worked up an article with Dr Forte about the five most common myths about glaucoma to tie in with the health awareness campaign. We pitched this to the Press Association, who distributed it to the regional press and it got good coverage in print and online.

Having the IGA on board meant our message was strengthened. We always find that the press are more willing to use something if it comes with an independent body’s standpoint on an issue, rather than a commercial standpoint, regardless of the concerns raised.

Whether it’s a charity, an awareness group, or an educational institution, that link-up gives the brand’s mission more authority because it is seen as being more than a business case.

But the most important thing to bear in mind about awareness days is that it’s the cause a brand is supporting that takes priority.

So pick a cause you believe in, put your weight behind it and make it a focus of your marketing calendar.

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