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A good new name for a great old charity and a good example of OST in action

Posted on 17 June 2015 | 7:06am

If you have ever heard me speak, or read much of what I have written, you may know that I consider OST to be the three most important letters in the language. O for Objective. S for Strategy. T for Tactics. Get them muddled or wrongly ordered and you are setting yourself up for failure. But let’s move on from politics!

Instead let me tell you of a very good piece of OST work from one of my favourite charities, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

O – beat blood cancer.

S – investment in the best research in the world.

T – Read on.

I got involved with Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research for the same reason most people who haven’t been diagnosed themselves get involved: someone close to me – in my case two people close to me – died from leukaemia. My best friend John Merritt died of the disease in 1992 and in the most horrible of coincidences, so did his beautiful 9-year-old daughter Ellie, just six years later.

So when I first started realising that my profile could help raise money, and I entered the London Marathon in 2003, I did it for them, and raised almost £400,000. Then they roped me into the next new big thing, triathlons, and after a few years I was captain of the biggest triathlon team in the world. As chairman of fundraising, I then began to plunder my and my agent Ed Victor’s contacts books to deliver A list names for an annual ‘Audience with’ event in the West End.

We are not short of people who want to support us out of personal experience. Ed is a leukaemia survivor. And if you put together all the people in Britain who will be touched by blood cancer this year, you would just about fill Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium.

That is the thing with blood cancer: you might not hear about it in the way you do breast cancer but when you add up the hundreds of types of leukaemias, lymphomas and myelomas (all blood cancers, every single one of them) what we actually have on our hands is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK.

So I’m always happy to do whatever I can to help fill this particular charity’s coffers. But recently they’ve been asking me for a different kind of support, more in line with the day job that gave me the profile in the first place.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research have had that same O for Objective of beating blood cancer since they were founded back in 1960. But their S for Strategy does not come cheap, and needs continuing fundraising and innovation to do so.

One of their strategic goals is improving their reach, their reputation and their brand, organisation-speak for ‘if we’re going to succeed we need lots of people to know who we are and understand what we do’. A charity whose name, cause and work is not known by the public will not raise the money it needs, nor be able to fight for the goals it is trying to reach.

Now there is a lot in a name, and Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research does at least say a good deal about what the charity is about. But they have decided they need a change, a shift to generate fresh thinking, fresh energy, and fresh funds for the research.

So this is the T for Tactic.

They’re changing their name. A big, bold move and, provided it captures the imagination and as it fits with the O and the S, it is something which can help deliver both.

Thanks to the work these guys have been doing for the last 55 years, more and more blood cancer patients are surviving for longer and people are starting to talk seriously about living well with blood cancers. So things have changed since 1960 when people were just desperate for a cure, and childhood leukaemia was a death sentence. Now it’s about better treatments that don’t cause the bad side effects, better diagnostic tests and better support.

So realising how much things had changed, two years ago the charity decided it was time to take stock, to stand back and plan the next half century. They took time to understand exactly what it means to live with blood cancer today and their research took in the views of doctors, nurses, patients and carers, reams of data and also the views not just of me, but of a number of branding and communications experts.

Just like in politics, focus groups don’t always tell you what you expect to hear. What’s important though is that you’re open to listening, able to sift through what you hear and then act on the most important bits.

Among the main findings were, frankly, that the world simply doesn’t understand blood cancer as is does lung, liver or breast cancer, that blood cancer patients don’t feel part of a community or a cause and that people struggle to find information and support.  Also, it was clear that the name just wasn’t working hard enough for us, especially given it’s a name that means so much to so many people across the country, including me.

But under the leadership of chief executive Cathy Gilman, who started out as a volunteer after losing a loved one, they’re a charity always looking at problems with eyes wide open all the time. Once the evidence from patients, health professionals and hard data was there in front of them, they set to tackling these challenges head on and finding solutions (or tactics) that are rooted in this evidence and will help them achieve their objective of beating blood cancer.

The evidence says that awareness of blood cancer is low. So they’re launching an awareness campaign. The evidence says people with blood cancer don’t know where to go. So they’re launching a signposting service. And when your evidence says that actually myeloma is the blood cancer that kills most people 5 years after diagnosis and your name only mentions leukaemia and lymphoma, it’s time to do something bold and brave about it.

So they have. They’ve found a new name that can help create the blood cancer community patients are saying so loudly that they want, bring together all the work they do (not just research) and be so memorable that people know exactly where their first port of call should be if blood cancer comes anywhere near them.

After two years of thought and consultation they’ve decided on the name – Bloodwise. I like it. Yes, there’ll be a few people who say it doesn’t explain exactly what it does on the tin. And I do understand how attached people can become to a name when it’s linked to someone you’ve lost.

But from a strategy and campaign standpoint, I am sure it works, and I think it can be a strong foundation of the future success I know this great charity will have. The thing that unites all these diseases is what the cancer is living in: blood. We all have it and we don’t tend to think of it as being healthy or unhealthy, it just is. But unhealthy and indeed deadly it can most certainly be. So that is where the ‘wise’ part comes in. We all need to be wise about our blood: how it works, what can go wrong with it, what the symptoms look like when it does.

So here’s to the new name, Bloodwise. Help us meet the objective of universal UK recognition for what it is and what it does. Help us with the Strategy of shouting out about it. Do both of those and this new Tactic can help us meet the bigger O that brought the charity into being, and is now so much closer to being met.

PS: Find out more about the charity here





  • Brian Gregory


    Absolutely agree about your comments on Cathy.

    But the problem is the new name doesn’t say what the charity is about – the Ronseal test if you like.

    This is the detail of my response:

    Some basics:
    The name change does not in anyway change our families dedication to supporting the charity as we have since 1999
    I appreciate ultimately it Cathy, her management team and of course the Trustees that are charged with the continuing success of the Charity.
    I have huge respect for Cathy – she has done an outstanding job in changing the charity from what honestly felt very amateur when we 1st engaged in 1999 to the focused, goal driven entity it is today.

    But I think is a poor decision.

    Although I am a Chartered Accountant I have spent most of the last 30 years in marketing and marketing related roles. One of my key learnings is the need for a name (company, product, service etc) to be able to pass both the Ronseal and elevator test. That is name makes instantly clear to your audience what it is all about. Otherwise you spend too much time explaining what the company, product, service etc does rather why they should be interested.

    Frankly Bloodwise fails the test. LRF and LLR pass. A charity funding research for Leukaemia and Lymphoma.

    Bloodwise? I need to take time explaining. Need to say no it’s not about:
    Sycle-cell disease
    The charity is about Cancer – but the word is not used.

    Approach a person in the street to support Cancer Research or Breast Cancer does the name give you a clue as to what they are about.
    I hope I am wrong but can’t help remembering Royal Mail and Consignia – see Top 10 Worst Corporate Name Changes,28804,1914815_1914808_1914773,00.html
    The post office’s charity’s chief executive, John Roberts Cathy Gilman , called the new moniker “modern, meaningful and entirely appropriate,” explaining that “the new name describes the full scope of what the post office charity does in a way that the words post Leukaemia and Lymphoma and office Research cannot.” A bewildered public, quite comfortable with the definitions of the words post and office Leukaemia, Lymphoma and Research, disagreed. A year later the company changed back – maybe

    What was wrong with Beat Blood Cancers?

    Sorry the strike thorough don’t work on paste

  • Ehtch

    Don’t take this in the wrong way, but it is a concern how charities are run. With the amount their directors get paid, it becomes a sort of industry in itself. It is like Romany selling you heather at your door in past times plus The City type wages, almost.

    In the old days, it seemed to be run by volunteers, most usually by wives of wealthy husbands, or the other way around, inherited wealth usually. Now the main motivation to set up a charity is to be the director of such a one, with more than comfortable remuneration in return for those pennies in the bucket. Sorry to be an Alf Garnett about all this.

    And remember all, our blood we give free is now a run by a conglomerate company, USA, so how do you feel about that pint of charity being taken out of your arm?

  • Ehtch

    DARN! Another David Cameron on the loose in Europe! jeez.

  • Michele

    I wonder whether we hear more about other cancers because we use their English name? ‘Lung cancer’ etc.

    Re breast cancer we are constantly reminded not to miss a mammogram. In passing: I wonder why we rely on them and are constantly reminded not to miss an appt. when, and I know from recent experience, they are not as reliable as regular feeling (which must go right round the sides).
    Had I accepted my OK mammo result who knows ……. 🙁
    Stop talking about leukaemia and lymphoma etc, let’s talk instead about their English names and their signs and symptoms.
    Perhaps as this lousy govt has made so many detrimental changes to OUR NHS they could make others that are about removing ‘mystique’ and exclusivity.

  • Michele

    d’uh, I think my last might show I’d missed some of the article …..