Client: Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation

Fires, floods, and (finally) funding

The Project

The Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation had been trying for more than 20 years to get a funding commitment from the provincial government. This wasn’t about angling for a newer, shinier hospital – the RAH’s aging infrastructure had already led to flooding, an electrical fire and other serious issues.

Despite assurances over many budget cycles that the RAH was a top infrastructure priority, funding for the upgrades had never actually made it into the budget. Traditional negotiation and government relations hadn’t worked. The Foundation needed to try something different, and they came to us for help.

Goal

Secure a commitment from the Government of Alberta to fund necessary upgrades to the aging Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Results

The government committed $520 million toward redevelopments and upgrades.

Key Insights

The RAH is the biggest and busiest hospital in Alberta, particularly for surgical procedures. It is responsible for serving a region equal to 1/3 of Canada’s total land mass, and its facilities were no longer up to the job – this funding was a need, not a want, and the stakes were high.

To drive home the urgency of the need, the campaign needed a spokesperson who could speak candidly about the problem and ask hard questions of the government. Because of their complex working relationship with the government, neither doctors nor nurses nor hospital administrators could speak so unequivocally.

We also heard from our client that doing things the usual way – meeting with government officials directly to explain the need – had failed year after year. They were ready to take their case to the public, but to get the level of support they needed, they’d have to get a lot of people’s attention.

Based on those insights, we came up with a highly unusual and attention-grabbing solution that also gave us the spokesperson we needed: Alex.

Rather than softening the message, we created a proxy who could say exactly what needed to be said: Alex, a personification of the hospital itself.

Results

9,900,000 total digital Impressions

30,000 unique visitors to website

$520m announced for Redevelopment

  • Public engagement with this campaign was high – there were 165,868 likes, comments, shares and retweets, and 1239 people sent letters to their MLAs.
  • The ultimate measure of success for this campaign was seeing “Royal Alexandra Hospital Redevelopment” included as a line item in the provincial budget. We succeeded in achieving that outcome and generated significant awareness and engagement for the hospital and its Foundation in the process.

Our toolkit

Alex

We commissioned a custom-built puppet in the shape of the RAH Active Treatment Centre, and gave her a voice and a personality.

Website, Vlogs and Social Media Profiles

Once we’d created Alex, she needed a platform to speak. We launched a website that included Alex’s vlog, where she told the story of waiting 20 years for necessary funding, along with a function that let users email their MLA about supporting upgrades to the RAH. Alex also had her own Twitter and Instagram accounts and did a takeover of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation’s Facebook page.

Advertising

To drive people to the website, we ran a series of traditional and digital ads. We targeted our ad buy to reach demographics we knew would be inclined to help: civic-minded, well educated, politically engaged people living in or near Edmonton’s core, along with people who we found through geotargeting had frequently been in and around the RAH.

Media Relations

“Alex” held a media conference to launch the campaign, and her story dominated the week’s news cycle as she was interviewed on various programs. The Minister of Health & Infrastructure had to engage publicly with the issues the campaign raised because reporters began asking questions about it, and Alex was also in the Legislature rotunda on budget day to comment on the outcome of the campaign.

Awards

  • 2018 IABC Award  Communication Skills, Audio Visual
  • 2018 IABC Award  Communication Management

Project Credits

  • Justin Archer Senior Counsel
  • Michael Brechtel Senior Counsel
  • Elizabeth Schowalter Art Director
  • Erin Nagy Designer
  • Amy McBain Account Manager
  • Christel Kjenner Strategic Consultant
  • Skye Olson-Cormack Designer
  • Hans Dys Video Producer

Services Provided

  • Advocacy Campaigns
  • Design & Production Services
  • Public & Media Relations