BHF - How we ended up in the delivery room with a case study and a camera
How we ended up in the delivery room with a
case study and a camera
Charlotte Rastan and Emma Dowse, British Heart Foundation
Thursday 13 June 2019
Stats to stories
We founded the Heart Story Team six years ago, when stats were doing probably too
much of the ‘heavy lifting’ at the BHF. We set ourselves a remit to change that and to
tell the BHF story as a human story.
The whole process of discovering people’s stories
and just how emotive they are gave us the motivation
to do as much as we can with them.
Fresh thinking: telling stories in the moment
BHF traditionally told stories after the event.
Emma returned from a sabbatical with the
idea of changing that and showing what
people were actually going through.
It really leverages the emotional power of
the story. If you don’t know how a story is
going to end, it adds a whole new dimension
to how you receive it.
Sapa, Vietnam, which Emma visited as part of her sabbatical
We began with Calum’s story. Calum had just turned 11 and was about to have his fourth
major open heart surgery.
We’d worked very closely for years with the family, who had experienced the rollercoaster of
life with a child born with a severe heart condition.
He wanted people to know what it was like, and the whole family backed him. We discussed
documenting his upcoming operation.
Nine films: from pre-op to recovery
We took a new approach, putting the filming in the family’s hands, so they could film important moments
on their iPads.
We released the films ‘as it happened’, in instalments so people saw events as they were unfolding. This
is the film that documents the day of Calum’s operation. They went out to a warm audience on our
organic social channels to test this new approach. The community was really behind us, and the family,
and lived every moment.
While these films were raising awareness of the reality of heart disease they also aimed to land the
message that we are funding vital research like Prof Massimo Caputo’s that will one day change the
story for children like Calum and end the heartbreak of repeated surgeries.
Calum’s operation film – stats the day after it
was released on Facebook
• Average watch time of 13 seconds (and our
benchmark is about 4 secs)
• 93,926 video views (31,404 of those being 10
seconds or more)
• 18% of people turned the sound on (usually
this would be around 5%. We had subs within
FB on this, so the fact people still listened with
sounds was a great sign)
This project started a new storytelling
approach for us. Our next project followed
Holly and Mark, whose unborn baby had
been diagnosed with a life threatening
condition. She would need surgery within
days of being born.
We planned to follow their journey from
pregnancy through to Ivy’s life saving
When Ivy was born she was really poorly and at that point we expected the family to
pull out of the project.
But with great bravery, they continued to send us films of their baby on a ventilator
and their own, raw feelings as she was about to go into surgery to save her life.
We had an extra layer this time as we had successfully pitched to
the One Show. A show with a 5 million audience that the BHF had
not appeared on before. They would create a couple of films for
the ‘medical miracles’ segment.
Stats that made us react
We had a digital budget this time that enabled us to go out wider
and reach new, cold audiences (with no connection to the BHF) .
We segmented the audiences to dads, mums and grandparents.
The advantage of digital tools that you can see very quickly how
people are reacting. The storytelling approach was working for
warm audiences, but not for cold.
Our analysis was that cold audiences weren’t interested in Ivy, but
were interested in a baby in jeopardy and wanted to understand
how they could help. So for cold audiences we decided to create
two ad-style films.
•Our total reach was 2.2 million people (unique viewers),
and 8 million impressions
•A positive short film about how baby Ivy’s life was saved
was our best performer with cold audiences
•Compared to our BHF benchmarks for view rates and click
through rates, the film quadrupled those
Both projects had internal and external impact, and
demonstrated that ‘real time’ footage has huge value:
• Ivy’s story appeared on The One Show, and the family were
interviewed on the sofa
• The footage of Ivy was used in a fundraising advert for national
• Calum’s footage has been turned into three support films for
families with a child about to have an operation
Our take aways
• We took risks, but our organisation backed us
• The families let us in, rather than us barging in
• Strength of relationships is key
• We demonstrated that this type of storytelling does get cut through
• The films had internal and external impact