Join the PubAffairs Network

Established in January 2002, PubAffairs is the premier network and leading resource for the public affairs, government relations, policy and communications industry.

The PubAffairs network numbers over 4,000 members and is free to join. PubAffairs operates a general e-Newsletter, as well as a number of other specific group e-Newsletters which are also available to join by completing our registration form.

The PubAffairs e-Newsletters are used to keep members informed about upcoming PubAffairs events and networking opportunities, job vacancies, public affairs news, training courses, stakeholder events, publications, discount offers and other pieces of useful information related to the public affairs and communications industry.

Join the Network

Award Winner 2019: Social Media Campaign of the Year

APCO - #SortYourselfOut

The 2019 PRCA Public Affairs Awards celebrated the best work of the year and below is the category's winning entry.


Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in England and is particularly prevalent in young people. In 2017 alone some 126,000 15-24-year-olds were diagnosed with the bacterial infection. Yet, despite these figures, only 20% of local authorities in England met the annual detection targets of the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) set by Public Health England (PHE), and testing rates are particularly bad for people between the 16-24 age range.

A global medical technology company who produces chlamydia tests, came to APCO and challenged us to find out what was behind this trend; to develop a strategy to reverse it; and to test the strategy with a pilot project in an area of England which the NCSP identified as having particularly low testing rates.
The specific communications objectives for the pilot project were to:

  • Increase awareness of chlamydia testing on social media among our target age group (16 to 24 year olds)
  • Increase the number of tests ordered in our pilot area


Like all good strategies, we started with research. APCO sent out a Freedom of Information request to all local authorities in England to ask them what they would need to improve the chlamydia screening program in their area. Our hypothesis was that budget cuts would be the perceived main barrier here. Interestingly, however, our research found that the number one issue local authorities said they faced in this area was a lack of awareness.

With this and other key insights from our research, APCO organised a roundtable meeting in Parliament hosted by Baroness Walmsley and co-chaired by Baroness Barker, Chair of the APPG on Sexual Health. The meeting brought together representatives from Public Health England, local government and clinical services and providers to discuss ways of increasing chlamydia testing with efficiency and imagination. The result of this meeting was a key recommendation: run a pilot chlamydia screening awareness campaign on social media, aimed at 16-24 year olds.

APCO then partnered with the East Riding of Yorkshire (an area identified by NCSP as having particularly low testing rates) and its sexual and reproductive healthcare service Conifer to create this pilot campaign. We backed this up with a comprehensive research approach which included:

  • On the ground research interviews in East Riding
  • An audit of Conifer’s previous campaigns and research into best practice learned from chlamydia campaigns undertaken by other local authorities, and
  • A deep look into the profiles, interests and online behaviours of 16-24 years old in East Riding

The insights from this campaign informed our digital strategy, which was to launch: a chlamydia awareness campaign which uses humour and popular youth culture to connect with our target audience and raise awareness of chlamydia screening, activated around both events in East Riding and on social media.


To meet our objectives, we divided our budget between social media advertising and an influencer partnership. After analysing our target audience’s interests, we decided to look at Love Island contestants and reached out to Dr Alex George, an NHS doctor who frequently covers health and wellbeing topics on his social media profiles and has over 1.3m followers on Instagram.

The team created a social media content calendar for Instagram and Twitter, as our research showed these were the platforms our target audience used the most. The content was developed to coincide with both the end of Love Island in August and Sexual Health Awareness Month in September – taking common Love Island phrases and adapting them to the topic of sexual health to maximise engagement. We made sure our content also provided information and facts about chlamydia to demystify common myths and position Conifer’s social platforms as an accessible tool for young people to approach with questions about their sexual health.

We worked with Dr George to develop a series of Instagram clips talking about the importance of getting tested, the services Conifer provides and a link to the testing site in each of his stories.

APCO also contacted Hull University’s student union, which agreed to support and share our campaign content from their own social media platforms.


This campaign significantly exceeded our client’s expectations and our KPIs. The social media campaign resulted in over 775k impressions and 25k video views. On Instagram, our posts were shared a total of 125 times and we increased the account’s following by 140%.

In August (usually a quiet month), 583 tests were requested – a significant increase from the 244 tests ordered in June and a 60% increase compared to the number in August 2018. The number increased to 605 tests in September, coinciding with Dr Alex’s posts on Instagram which directed people to the site.

Last but not least, we’ve seen a significant increase in people requesting advice on Instagram via private messages, and through these conversations we have been able to direct each person to the right experts, learn more from our target audience, and position Conifer as a trustworthy platform they can continue to approach for support. Based on the success of this pilot, we are now gathering all the analytics and learnings to create a toolkit for Public Health England and our client hopes to replicate this success in other areas of England.