The Northern Alberta Clinical Trials + Research Centre (NACTRC) is a joint venture between Alberta Health Services and the University of Alberta. They help sponsors and researchers in the health care industry conduct their clinical studies, and they promote Edmonton as the ideal location for that research.
Through their partnerships with other health research groups, they’re working to improve medicine and help patients.
Albertans and Canadians as a whole believe in the power of health research. In fact, 70% of Canadians feel that health research is part of our country’s culture and want to get involved.
But many research studies still struggle to recruit enough patients. This isn’t because people don’t want to participate. It’s because they don’t know what research is happening or how to take part.
NACTRC wanted to show the public how important clinical research is and encourage them to participate. They also wanted to prove to the research industry that Alberta is an ideal place to run a study, which would attract more studies and investment.
Because we’d been working with NACTRC for quite some time on study recruitment campaigns, as well as their own brand and website, they asked us for help.
Research + Strategy
For this campaign to make the widespread change we were aiming for, we had to consider multiple audiences, including the public, investigators, pharmaceutical companies, and partner associations in the field. We spoke with groups from each of these audiences to understand their experiences in health research and what would convince them to get more involved.
This research gave us the guidance we needed to choose the right platforms and create a message that would resonate. It also showed us that, instead of doing everything all at once, it made the most sense to run two separate campaigns over two years.
First we would focus on Edmonton. Then we’d expand our reach to Calgary, another major city where research is happening, using our findings from the first campaign to guide our work.
We wanted to make sure that our messaging spoke to people on a personal level, telling them what they can do and empowering them to contribute to something beyond themselves.
We needed one message that everyone could rally behind: that research is vital to patients, to healthcare workers, to our province, to the economy, to better health outcomes for all. And that message needed a memorable call to action.
Many PSAs and awareness campaigns use too light or too heavy an approach. We wanted to strike the right balance, so we paired a bright, bold look with direct language that told people why we needed them and how they could get involved. Then we tested these ads with focus groups and made adjustments to ensure the message was just right.
We attended health researcher events, contributed articles to partner publications, and created a downloadable social post kit. This helped us team up with organizations like the ones below that shared our goals and were willing to spread the word about health research to their audiences.
- The University of Alberta
- Mommy Connections
- The SPOR Patient Engagement Platform
- Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation
- The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation
- Women and Children’s Health Research Institute
- Health Sciences Association of Alberta
- AHS Communications
- Innovative Medicines Canada
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta
- Health Products Stewardship Association
Video shares information in a way that captures viewers’ attention and creates an emotional connection, so we knew from the start that it would play a big role in this campaign.
Our contacts in the health research industry directed us to patients, investigators, and industry members who were willing to share their stories. They came from all backgrounds and walks of life, and they all had different research experiences.
We spoke to each of them and turned their stories into two-minute videos that explained the value of health research from the perspectives of people who lived it. These stories went on social media and on the website.
We also created shorter versions that ran as television ads and PSAs. Several videos generated an impressive number of organic views, and our most popular video saw over half a million impressions.
All of our efforts needed to direct interested people to a single place for more information. We built bethecure.ca to share the stories we’d collected, inform visitors about research, educate them about what it’s doing in healthcare, and encourage them to sign up for updates. This allowed us to build a subscriber group that we could contact by email during Stage 2.
Stage 2: Calgary
The first campaign successfully generated a high number of impressions and started turning the tide in terms of awareness. But we knew we could improve the website further for the next stage of the campaign.
Visitors could sign up for email alerts and check the blog for posted volunteer opportunities, but there was an opportunity to create an easier and more immediate way for the public to get involved in research.
Our next step was to build a patient-friendly clinical trials database. Partnering with the University of Calgary and using existing data from clinicaltrials.gov, we simplified the process and made it easy for the public to search for clinical trials. We then expanded our campaign to run in Calgary and started directing people, both there and in Edmonton, to the database for new research opportunities.
We emailed our subscribers, as well as all our partner organizations and contacts, to tell them about the database launch. It was also featured on news platforms across Alberta, including the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Sun, CBC, CBC Radio, Global News, and City TV Breakfast Television.
Right away we saw a huge upswing in people taking action on the website. This told us that people not only now knew about health research, but also were eager to take part.
We set out to create a two-part brand awareness campaign with a message that would resonate for a long time. On the whole, we saw incredible results from both campaigns.
We’ve worked on all sorts of campaigns, but none that have affected Albertans the way Be The Cure did. We’re still working with our partners to update the website, list more opportunities to get involved, and gather stories from people whose lives have been changed by research.
It’s amazing that we got to kick off our province’s first health research awareness campaign. And we’re excited to keep giving people the tools they need to get involved and make a difference.
We’d also like to give a shout-out to NACTRC’s partners who helped make this project a reality, including the University of Alberta, AHS Research Innovation and Analytics, Alberta Economic Development and Trade, TEC Edmonton, and more.
We couldn’t have done any of this without you.