Engagement marketing: my new BFF

Last year I developed a campaign that ultimately won the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s campaign of the year for professional services. And I’m finding a lot of people want to know more about the campaign and how we achieved what we did. So I thought I’d share with you how an engagement marketing approach worked for me, making a bigger impact and providing benefits long after the campaign finished.

We started with a Big Idea. As we all know, anniversaries are terrific hooks for marketing. In the run-up to the 65th birthday of the foundation of the NHS on 5 July 2013 –in the midst of unprecedented budgetary constraints and institutional reform – we wanted to explore what the NHS could and should like in 10 years’ time, on its 75th birthday.

This was a pretty big ambition, so we decided to develop the campaign and take it to market in a different way; from its inception, we envisioned NHS@75 as a multi-channel engagement campaign, led by social media. What this meant during our planning process was that we had to really understand who we wanted to engage with, where they were having the relevant conversations, and what would inspire them to get involved in the story we wanted to create.

From the outset we wanted to engage on a very personal and emotional level, reminding people about what we cherish in the NHS and celebrating the eight decades of its achievements before getting into the debate about what now needs to be done differently. So we launched the campaign with a creative emotionally-driven film that articulated the experiences of ordinary people over the decades since the NHS was formed. The primary aim of this film was to drive people to our website where they could contribute to the content we were developing by sharing their thoughts, ideas and experiences. In fact, this film was the only piece of traditionally created content during the first months of the campaign. We essentially developed the campaign in real-time, as we built upon and serialised the input we were receiving from the website, from social media and from our other engagement efforts.

Alongside our digital and social media activity, we integrated traditional elements of the marketing mix, but with a twist; instead of going out to market with a ‘thought leadership’ publication to stimulate debate, we held roundtables and workshops across the country with senior stakeholders in the market in order to co-create the story we wanted to tell. We didn’t even publish the traditional ‘thought leadership’ until eight months into the campaign.

We also had a very small budget with which to execute this campaign. This meant we had to completely develop and implement the campaign in-house, by gaining wide commitment from the business and harnessing the time, talent and energy of our people outside the marketing function to deliver elements of the campaign. Critically, the project team included people of all levels within the business and this team became the campaign ‘champions’ throughout the business, gaining high levels of internal engagement, excitement and involvement in the marketing activity.

The campaign achieved results beyond all expectations; highlights include a 300% increase in our website traffic, a doubling our Twitter followers, and revenue generated where the campaign was actually cited as a major differentiator in winning the work.

But, more importantly, we learned that by engaging upfront with a broad range of stakeholders on the issues that really matter to them, and together co-creating content, the campaign enabled a different kind of conversation to develop that would not have been possible with a more traditional approach.

At a time when professional service organisations are struggling to get to grips with social media, the NHS@75 campaign embraced social media as the primary channel for communication and engagement, and by doing so demonstrated that social media can increase the impact of marketing campaigns within a professional services environment.

Join me in London at the B2B Summit on 18 June where I will be speaking about engagement marketing and looking at the 5 key lessons I learned from the NHS@75 that are making me a better marketer. Read my blog taylormadeinkew or follow me on twitter @TaylorMadeInKew