Follow the way

The journey of two chronic kidney disease patients on the Camino de Santiago highlighted the health benefits of a life-altering technology

Until last year, a patient with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Spain needed to visit the hospital almost daily to have arduous dialysis treatment which could take hours. That treatment, though lifesaving, prevented patients from leading normal lives, away from work, travel, even family.

Marco de Comunicación (MdC) created a challenge that emotionally linked CKD patients to society in order to place this news in all media nationwide and increase awareness.

How could MdC and Palex promote their hemodialysis machine to everyone, not just specialists? The “Follow Your Way” campaign put two patients on the Camino de Santiago for six days. The inspirational story of Lourdes and Adolfo was one of overcoming great challenges and was brought live to the world through media relations, social media and video channels. MdC created a challenge that emotionally linked CKD patients to society, to gain media coverage nationwide and increase awareness.

The strategy was to draw the attention of public authorities and medical professionals, ensuring they would start authorising the use of the NxStage treatment. To do this, MdC invited national and regional health authorities to attend two public events: the first one in Madrid prior to the pilgrimage to present the initiative nationwide and push for the improvement of CKD patients’ quality of life, and a second one after Lourdes and Adolfo’s arrival at the Cathedral of Santiago.

MdC maximised the impact of the campaign by creating channels on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and by strategically bringing ALCER, the CKD patient’s organisation, into the campaign.

The journey

The campaign began by announcing the arrival of a groundbreaking new medical device in Spain from the US that had allowed CKD patients across the Atlantic to almost completely recover the lives they had before diagnosis. The news was covered by many medical media outlets and started attracting the interest of general media.

At the same time, a social and emotional campaign was being created, with the focus on the real protagonists of the story, two of the first Spanish patients testing this new model of hemodialysis. The objective was to show everyone in the country that a new active and positive life was possible thanks to the nature and benefits of the first portable hemodialysis device available in Spain. No more limitations due to the hours that every patient was forced to spend at hospital, no more travel issues for patients and families and a better physical form to face challenges that seemed impossible for this community before the device’s arrival.

The implementation of the campaign highlighted to national media in Madrid the challenge faced by Lourdes and Adolfo, through a press conference attended by all general and healthcare media based in Madrid, as well as television and radio broadcasters. A video advertisement about the initiative was launched alongside Lourdes and Adolfo’s videos and were shared through social media to support the initiative and create a viral story. Even before the start of the six-day challenge, vast coverage was generated alongside buzz in social networks amongst other patients and citizens supporting the initiative.

Once the last stage of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage had started, different media followed the day-by-day progress made by the two CDK pilgrims, with Televisión de Galicia following the pair with mobile units throughout the journey. The pilgrimage was also followed by 15 radio stations, documenting the protagonists’ journey day by day. In addition, their experiences, opinions and staging points were uploaded daily in their video blog and the mini site of the campaign and made available on the official YouTube channel.

Lourdes and Adolfo walking the Camino de Santiago

The destination

When they finally arrived in Santiago’s Cathedral, the end of the journey, an act of tribute was organised in the city with the support of the regional health authorities and the regional patient’s association, also covered by the media. Several television outlets covered the arrival of the pilgrims to their destination, with many media outlets continuing to follow the challenge for months afterwards. This was the case with La Mañana, a hugely popular magazine show on the most watched national television channel, TVE, which dedicated a 40-minute live show to NxStage, telling the story of patients with CKD and supported by a nephrologist who recommended the Palex hemodialysis machine to viewers.

The results of the campaign were outstanding. More than 100 minutes on national and local TV, 65 minutes on radio programs, and more importantly, 100% brand awareness among CKD patients in Spain with quadrupling sales.

A total of 200 stories made it into national and regional media, with an overall audience of over 200 million. 10 TV channels and 15 radio stations covered the news and a community of 1,400 patients grew on our social channels, generating 80,000 impressions.

European Excellence AwardsThis campaign won the 2016 European Excellence Award in the category "Spain and Portugal". To find out more about the awards, head to the Excellence Awards website.

Images: Marco de Comunicación