Lancashire County Council – Thinking about Adoption campaign

Lancashire County Council wanted to look for a creative and effective ways to help them convert adoption interest into action, winning a bronze public service communications excellence award in the process. Anne Woods, Account Executive, Communications Service tells us how she achieved the award.

Communications support

The challenge

Every year we run a campaign aimed at recruiting adoptive parents who are able to give a child a safe, permanent and loving family for life. We always get good levels of interest in people wanting to adopt, but we sometimes struggle to actually convert that interest into action and turn those people into adoptive parents. We wanted to develop a campaign that targeted people who were likely to be approved to help them address our need to place children in permanent loving homes.

The solution

We started by looking at our previous campaigns. This involved two aspects - reviewing the previous creative work and our target audience. We looked at the feedback from our previous strapline, which was ‘could you love me?’ The feedback from that showed that people didn’t always understand whether it was a campaign for fostering or adoption, so we knew that we needed to make it clearer.

The previous campaign also didn’t highlight strongly enough that potential adopters would be supported by the council throughout the process – something we were very keen to get across. After some further research, we came up with a new strapline: ‘Thinking about adoption? Get in touch and we’ll support you all the way’.

We also decided to move away from the views of a ‘typical family’ who adopt and make our campaign more diverse in terms of relationship status, gender identity, race, sexual orientation and ethnicity.

The second aspect involved looking at our data. The communications team and adoption service teams reviewed the adoption queries and the profiles of people who had successfully adopted children in Lancashire to date. We used this information to then update our mosaic profiles. This helped us build a better picture of our target audience. Because we were focused on converting interest into action it was important that we used the data of what had actually worked before. This enabled our research to target potential adoptive parents and to target effective communication with solid evaluation. We knew that over 70 per cent of our adoption enquiries were made online, therefore we had to change our strategy and make it more digitally focused.

We mainly used social media marketing, online advertising and outdoor advertising (in areas where people had already adopted successfully) to target our intended audiences. We also used some of the campaign budget to actually make sure the technical process for applying to be adoptive parents was easy and straightforward to use (no point having a great campaign if the technology to act on it doesn’t work effectively.

The impact

With a campaign of this type, the audience is so targeted that moderate increases represent big impacts. In 2016/17 (before we ran this version of our campaign) we had 470 enquiries and 61 approvals which is a 13 per cent conversion rate. In 2017/18, when we ran this campaign, we set a target of 480 enquiries and 60 approvals but actually achieved 508 enquiries and 71 approvals - which saw our conversion rate rise to 14.5 percent. We also had lots of successful feedback from the approved adopters. One family even said that it was the ‘quality of marketing’ that bought them to choose to adopt with Lancashire County Council.

Why it worked / how we’re sustaining it

Our campaign was successful because we understood our audience and had done thorough research. We were also realistic and knew that the campaign wouldn’t bring immediate action. We weren’t looking for dramatic, quick results; it’s a slow burner.  We were also able to promote our campaign during several national activities such as LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week which takes place in March and National Adoption Week which takes place in October. This helped to keep momentum going.  

Lessons learned

The main lesson that we learnt was to be prepared for slow increases and do not expect results over night. It is important to remember that adoption isn’t a spur of the moment decision and approved families often wait several years before making that commitment. If we had the chance to do it again and do things differently we would like to have more time and people to work on the campaign and do even more in-depth research through things such as focus groups.

Want to know more

For more information about this campaign please contact Anne Woods, Account Executive, Communications Service, Lancashire County Council