Martha Robinson, Head of Communications and Engagement at NHS Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group, writes about the benefits of winning this year’s Public Sector Campaign of the Year CIPR Excellence Award

The campaign team
The campaign team raise awareness of the 111 helpline. Photos: Ciaran McCrickard

Winning the 2016 Public Sector Campaign of the Year CIPR Excellence Award was a first for both the NHS in Sussex and for Brighton & Hove’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). These local public services commissioned the winning entry, NHS 111 campaign ‘not QUITE an emergency’ featuring comedian Dom Joly.

As I had previously led consumer PR agency campaigns before joining the NHS, I was aware of the kudos that comes with winning a CIPR public pat on the back in front of industry peers and leaders. What I hadn’t foreseen as I stood on the award stage with CCG colleagues and campaign creators Spirit was the longer lasting benefit our win would generate in terms of securing local and national stakeholder buy-in for our next campaign.

A comedy approach to promote the 111 Helpline

Dom Joly

‘not QUITE an emergency’ had dared to be different. This didn’t make generating support before its launch outside of Sussex CCGs very easy. For the campaign, Dom Joly played ‘pranks’ on the public by pretending to be ill, accompanied by pretend paramedics and an ambulance. This was all filmed with hidden cameras commissioned by the NHS – I could understand why folk were nervous!

We were in safe hands, though. Dom’s comedy genius, combined with the skill and creativity of Matt Campion and the rest of the Spirit team, meant that the #notanemergency video content was pitched just right for our intended audience of the under-35s.


Together we proved that innovative content and a degree of risk can help you successfully stand out from the crowd without damaging a brand’s reputation. During the past year, more than 30 CCGs and hospitals and ambulance services across the country have used the #notanemergency film to promote the ‘call 111 not 999’ message.

“innovative content and a degree of risk can help you successfully stand out from the crowd without damaging a brand’s reputation”


Learning from this nationwide engagement, Brighton & Hove CCG teamed up with Spirit, our local City Council and the YMCA in October 2016 to launch a new anti-stigma mental health campaign – #IAMWHOLE – fronted by Jordan Stephens from UK hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks.

By creating the NHS’s first music video starring a chart-topping artist and securing campaign support from James Corden, Ed Sheeran and other big names, Spirit guaranteed widespread media coverage and social media reach for our Brighton-born campaign. But we knew that generating meaningful stakeholder engagement across the public sector was going to be much harder for the CCG to achieve, as a small organisation with a small campaign budget.


I am proud to say that the support shown for #IAMWHOLE within councils, police and fire services, schools and colleges and even Government departments surpassed all of our expectations on World Mental Health Day. Emergency services, teachers and students and politicians of all parties showed their support by posting ‘circle on hand’ selfies on social media, along with thousands of UK children and young people.

“the support we received surpassed all of our expectations”

Much of this support was secured before the campaign’s launch and I am in no doubt was easier to achieve because of our ‘not QUITE an emergency’ award win. Influential individuals and organisations agreed to post selfies and wear campaign t-shirts and sweatshirts early on in the campaign’s development. This was a real vote of confidence in the #IAMWHOLE team.

So when a prompt to enter next year’s CIPR awards arrives in our inboxes, I urge all local campaigners to see beyond the offer of a black-tie dinner and shiny award for your reception area. My experience is that a win can help you to access people and organisations in your own community and beyond whose support can make your next big idea even bigger.

Find out more about the Brighton & Hove campaigns

Winning CIPR Excellence Awards 2016 Public Sector Campaign award entry, NHS Sussex and Spirit (CIPR website)

Dom Joly helps raise awareness of NHS 111 (NHS Brighton and Hove Commissioning Group)

Video from the ‘not QUITE an emergency’ campaign (YouTube link)

#IAMWHOLE video (YouTube link)

Rizzle Kicks star launches #IAMWHOLE mental health campaign (PR Week)

Feature produced by Martha Robinson and Abha Thakor