Campaign title: Mental Health First Aid Training for Schools

Client/Entering Company: Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)


The UK Government has pledged to improve mental health services and protect and support those living with mental health problems. A key part of this agenda is the early identification of symptoms in young people.
To support this, DHSC announced initial funding to provide mental health first aid training to 1,000 secondary school teachers. No spend communications aimed to ensure training places were filled, while demonstrating value for money invested in internal resource through a novel approach to ROI.


From June 2017, teachers in secondary schools around the country took part in a new training programme to help them identify and respond to early signs of mental health issues in children. In the first year of this programme, DHSC announced initial funding of £200,000 to fund the mental health first aid (MHFA) training of 1,000 secondary school teachers. Teachers will receive practical advice on how to deal with mental health issues including depression, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders. The training programme is delivered by partner charity MHFA England and
sign up to the training was serviced through their website.

Our primary aim was to support the business objective to deliver on the commitment for a MHFA- trained teacher in every secondary school in England. This was to be achieved by promoting and raising awareness of the programme and encouraging teachers to sign up.

This project was identified as an important but small scale piece of communications on which to experiment and test an innovative approach to no spend return on investment (ROI) and demonstrate the value communications provides.

This led us to the following objectives:

OBJECTIVE 1: generate interest in MHFA training among secondary school teachers measured by the average number of visitors per day to the MHFA schools programme webpage, with a target of increasing visitors to the page five-fold in the three days after the announcement (inclusive).

OBJECTIVE 2: increase sign ups to MHFA training by school teachers by 5.5 times in the three days after the announcement (inclusive) – equating to filling 10 percent of training places.

OBJECTIVE 3: achieve a comms to service spend ratio of 0.25 for all training places filled within the three days following the announcement (inclusive) leading to a return (of training budget realised) on investment (in comms) of 300 percent.


Our key audience for these comms was clearly defined as secondary school teachers, so the strategy was focused on raising awareness of the MHFA training offer among this audience and driving them to the MHFA website to sign up to training. The multichannel approach covers three core areas:

  • Media
  • Trade
  • Working with partners at Department for Education (DfE), we identified and targeted key education trade media for secondary school teachers, including the Times Educational Supplement (TES) and School Week

We worked with No. 10 to arrange a Prime Minister’s (PM) visit to a school and placed an exclusive op ed from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on his personal experience of MHFA training. This was to build broad awareness of the initiative, but also to position the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health as leaders in supporting young people’s mental health.

Targeted regional press work around visits and in areas of early adoption of the MHFA training programme. All media was tracked through in-house media analysis, based on data sourced through DHSC’s media cuts service and manual analysis. Links to the MHFA England website were included in all briefings for online news to track traffic to the website.

Based on previous comms experience in mental health, we knew offline media activity was going to drive online searches and the MHFA England website appeared top of organic search results for both “mental health first aid” and “Mental health first aid course”. This provided a key link between offline activity and the online sign up.

To measure this link, Google search traffic was tracked through Google Trends as a proxy measure of conversion.

A social media tool kit was distributed to key teaching and education stakeholders to encourage more organic voices to raise awareness of the MHFA programme to teachers. Schools were also encouraged to spread awareness of the MHFA programme through the social media toolkit and regional press releases.

In house measurement was used to track the use of the social media toolkit on social media using manual analysis and Brandwatch.

Owned digital channels were used to promote the programme to DHSC, DfE, Number 10 and UK Government’s core audiences using engaging videos and gifs, with measurement tracked through native social media analytics. All content included a link to the MHFA England Schools Programme page of their website to ensure traffic was directed to this page. We worked with MHFA England to ensure data collection on web traffic was set up well in advance of the announcement, so data could be effectively collected on both web traffic and sign ups to the training.

In order to demonstrate ROI we needed to understand the internal resource invested in communications work, so all those working on the project tracked their time spent supporting this work.


The overarching evaluation approached focused on measuring the effectiveness of our comms in taking secondary school teachers from the point of viewing content on MHFA, to taking action on it and finally signing up for training. This was done using the GCS evaluation framework of outputs, outtakes and a focus on outcomes – sign-ups to MHFA training.

To calculate ROI of this no spend work we took a novel approach, calculating the ratio of comms spend to realised training budget and ROI directly. The approach to this was:

  • Calculate the cost of comms resource = person hours spent on project x cost to the department per person hour. This assumes that the value of each person hour was purely attributed to this project e.g. some media handling work would have supported both MHFA and other projects.
  • Calculate realised cost of training = cost of a training place to DHSC x number of training places filled
  • Comms to service spend ratio was calculated as: Comms to service ratio = (Cost of comms resource)/(Cost of realised training)
  • ROI is calculated as: ROI = ((Cost of realised training – cost of comms resource)/(Cost of comms resource)) x 100

N.B. a key assumption made in this calculation was that the training places would not have been filled without our communications. Due to the spike seen in sign ups around the communications work and previous low-levels of sign ups, we believe this to be a reasonable assumption.

The execution of the communications built on DHSC’s extensive experience in handling mental health announcements. The following learnings, in particular, were key:

  • Accentuate the local dimension to drive interest locally
  • Ensure cohesion and alignment across partners, including using stakeholder and other Government department channels
  • Complement national news push with targeted specialist media work to raise awareness and encourage a specific target audience to follow our call to action

Communications were focused around the announcement of the funding, briefing key national and trade outlets in advance of the announcement and following up with regional media:

  • Provided briefing to Number 10 for a PM visit to a secondary school. This was promoted via BBC News clip and a national press notice
  • Placed an exclusive op ed by the Secretary of State for Health in the Huffington Post – targeted due to the outlet’s interest in mental health – discussing his personal experience of MHFA in order to communicate the value of the training and build advocacy
  • Issued a press notice to key education and health trade media to increase awareness among teachers and drive them towards the MHFA England website
  • Invited the Times Educational Supplement to attend a MHFA training course and produce a feature piece highlighting the funding available for secondary school teachers and again directing them to sign up.
  • Created social media content, including a video of Secretary of State for Health discussing MHFA and a gif highlighting the prevalence of poor mental health among children, setting out the pledge to have a trained teacher in every state secondary by 2020, and signposting to the MHFA website. This was distributed through the Department’s social media channels.
  • Produced and distributed a social media toolkit for schools which was sent to those taking up the training during the first week. This included background information, suggested Facebook and Twitter posts, and a reminder to link to the MHFA England schools page
  • Sent lines to DfE for them to circulate through education stakeholder channels to make schools aware of the opportunity and encourage them to visit the MHFA England schools page and sign up for their place
  • Regionalised press notices highlighted schools in first wave of training.

Effectiveness of Assignment

The campaign was effective against the key communications objectives set out:

RESULT OBJECTIVE 1: an average of a 5.7 fold increase in visitors to the webpage over the three days with a peak of a 8.5 fold increase (1010 visitors over three days vs baseline of 50 per day)

RESULT OBJECTIVE 2: a 6.3 fold increase in teachers signing up to the MHFA England training programme over the three days following the announcement, equating to 11 percent of training places filled

RESULT OBJECTIVE 3: achieved a comms to service spend ratio of 0.205 for the 110 training places filled within the first three days of the announcement, resulting in a return of realised training budget on the communications resource committed to this work of 387 percent

Calculating ROI of no spend communications work in this way is a novel approach in government communications and scarce across the private sector. ROI was calculated as follows:

  • Cost of comms resource = 9 Higher Executive person days at a cost of £501.71 per person day = £4,515.38 (N.B.based on the cost of these employees to the department- not salary)
  • Cost of training places filled = 110 training places at a cost of £200 per place = £22,000
  • Comms to service spend ratio was calculated as: Comms to service ratio = (Cost of comms resource)/ (Cost of realised training) = 4,515.38 / 22,000 = 0.205
  • Return on investment is then calculated as ROI = ((Cost of realised training- Cost of comms resource)/ (Cost of comms resource)) x 100 = ((22,000 – 4,515.38) / 4,515.38) x 100 = 387 percent

This ROI work will support planning for further announcements in this space by ensuring resource is effectively allocated and that we have clear baselines from which to measure future work.

The broader evaluation followed the GCS framework:


  • 5 pieces achieved in target trade media
  • 4 pieces achieved in target regional media
  • 3 pieces achieved in key national online news outlets
  • 1 item of national broadcast coverage achieved on BBC News lunchtime bulletin


  • 165,000 total Twitter impressions from @DHgovUK tweets
  • 1,983 views of Gov.UK news page about the MHFA announcement in the three days following the announcement


  • National online coverage gained 20k+ Facebook engagements, 510 retweets and 379 shares on LinkedIn
  • Online trade coverage gained 280+ social media shares


  • 30 organic tweets from teachers and stakeholders sharing the announcement using the SM toolkit
  • Positive support from six key stakeholders


  • Google search traffic for ‘mental health first aid course’ peaked at the highest point for the year on the week of the announcement (27 June 2017)
  • 95 click-throughs from @DHgovUK to the MHFA website, representing a click-through rate of 0.07 percent
  • 35 retweets, 28 likes and 6,449 views of Secretary of State video
  • 245 retweets and 279 likes of DHSC Gif about MHFA in schools
  • 3mins 40sec average dwell time on page in the three days following the announcement
  • Average 5.7 fold increase in visitors to the webpage over the three days with a peak of a 8.5 fold increase (1010 visitors over three days vs baseline of 50 per day)


  • 6.3 fold increase in teachers signing up to MHFA England training over the three days following the announcement, equating to 11 percent of training places filled.


This trial of no cost communications ROI was effective in demonstrating the value of the communications effort and tax payers’ money spent on internal resource. This has also allowed us to set benchmarks for future communications in this space and to develop this as an area of evaluation in government. The results show:

  • a comms to service spend ratio of 0.205
  • a return of realised training budget on the communications resource committed to this work of 387 percent

Overall, the communications were effective in supporting the Department’s business objective of providing MHFA training to secondary school teachers. Critical to this success was targeted media and stakeholder work centred on driving teachers to the MHFA England webpage to sign up, resulting in a 6.3 fold increase in teachers signing up to MHFA training and 11 percent of training places filled within three days.