The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-powered charity dedicated to raising money for lifesaving childhood cancer research. Since the Foundation’s first grants as an independent charity in 2005, St. Baldrick’s has funded more than $178 million to support the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world. As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, they aim to support innovative explorers who are working to find cures and better treatments for all childhood cancers.
Even with their tremendous success over the past decade, St. Baldrick’s has to work continually to stand out from the crowded nonprofit sector and attract donors and volunteers. Their communication strategy focuses on three primary goals:
Be a voice of authority within the childhood cancer community,
Raise awareness about childhood cancers and the need to fund lifesaving research, and
Empower volunteers to organize head-shaving events or another project of their own design in order to raise the funds that ultimately save lives.
St. Baldrick’s worked to craft content that tells a new and compelling narrative around childhood cancers to help drive awareness and action in their key donor and volunteer base. A key part of their strategy was to leverage best practices in content distribution via Cision Distribution by PR Newswire's network to reach outside their existing audiences.
“St. Baldrick’s loyal volunteer base – through its referrals and word-of-mouth efforts – has been instrumental in helping the Foundation grow,” said St. Baldrick’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Paolina Milana. “An individual who already knows about us almost instantly becomes a brand ambassador. Our challenge has been in amplifying our brand to reach audiences who may not even realize that kids get cancer, let alone that our charity exists. Increasing our brand awareness and acquiring a whole new fan base to get involved with our mission became our focus, and Cision and PR Newswire’s offerings became key to helping us get to where we wanted to go.
“We realized that St. Baldrick’s brand identity differed from other childhood cancer charities. We emphasize life and living, putting the child first, rather than labeling a kid as ‘cancer.’ While others own ‘fighting cancer,’ we set out to own ‘happy childhoods,’ delivering the message that every child deserves a happy childhood free from cancer and that with St. Baldrick’s, everyone can become a hero for kids with cancer.”
St. Baldrick’s communication strategy was built around one core tenet: developing and sharing a new narrative around childhood cancers.
“Our new brand awareness campaign, ‘Kids Are Special,’ was designed to attract an audience who had little or no knowledge of St. Baldrick’s or childhood cancers in general. We really wanted to change the conversation around kids diagnosed with cancer, educate people on the special treatment protocols for kids, and let them know that – through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – we do have the power to give children long, healthy lives,” said Traci Shirk, Media & PR Manager at the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Creating engaging informational content that aligned with the new narrative gave birth to chapters of a story that highlighted all the funny, goofy, endearing things kids do that make them special. Real kids just being kids – playing in puddles, getting messy with paint, performing with armpit farts – all celebrating what childhood should be without cancer.
St. Baldrick’s developed two major campaigns – “Invest in a Child’s Future” and “Kids Are Special, Let’s Treat Them That Way” – supported by multiple smaller initiatives to maintain consistency of their message across all communication platforms and reach the broadest possible audience. They worked with Cision and PR Newswire to utilize a Multimedia News Release, a branded landing page and content distribution solution, to serve as the hub of the multichannel promotion program for each of the two campaigns.
By utilizing Multimedia News Releases, St. Baldrick’s was able to showcase all the great visual assets created for the campaign to maximize the impact of the “Kids Are Special” narrative. They were also able to include clear call to action features along with social sharing options to encourage engagement and increase involvement.
“People don’t want to think of kids having cancer, so by leveraging the Multimedia News Release platform with this unique approach, we created campaigns where people would be encouraged to engage, learn more and ultimately get involved or contribute to the cause,” said Shirk. “We’re not the everyday type of charity—we approach things in a different way, so with these campaigns, we want to showcase our brand personality.”
“By implementing the multi-channel communication strategy along with the interactive Multimedia News Releases, we were able to not only tap into an audience that was already engaged with us, but also reach an audience that wasn’t aware of us before – which increased web traffic and increased visibility of the St. Baldrick’s brand,” said Shirk.
Over 240 websites posting the campaign content
Potential audience of more than 169 million
Nearly 13,000 image views and downloads
In the 99th percentile for engagement, outperforming releases on similar topics within the industry
Web traffic increased in select target markets
“With Cision by PR Newswire’s solid distribution network, our releases perform much better than our past communications efforts outside of Cision, and we have received attention from top tier publications as these outlets look to [PR Newswire] for source information. They also have exceptional customer service and extremely fast turnaround time,” concluded Shirk.
With the success of the campaigns, St. Baldrick’s wants to further nurture their audiences, specifically their volunteers, while keeping the same central message. They will utilize similar multichannel integrated strategies to further drive their message.
“Our focus for the remainder of the year is really going to be on our volunteers—encouraging, inspiring and empowering them—while also providing tips on how to fundraise and increase involvement in various events,” said Shirk.
Shirk shared this final piece of advice: “As a nonprofit, ask yourself, ‘What makes your organization unique?’ It’s easy to get lost by casting a wide net because there are so many organizations out there all sharing the same mission. Figuring out what makes you different and what establishes you as a source authority is key. Create a content plan around that, and you will develop your audience.”
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