Our successful national adoption PR campaign

I’ve enjoyed a media frenzy these last few days in my role as press consultant with the Adoption with Humanity campaign, and want to share some thoughts about its amazing success.

This is a relatively new group formed a year or so ago which only announced its aims in the last few weeks in the run up to National Adoption Week, which started today.

Yet suddenly it became such a major force, challenging the government over its present failing system and calling for a National Adoption Authority to be set up. Their campaign was featured in the Sunday Times and on prime time Sky News, as well as ITV, Channel 4 and Radio 4. As I write this, I have just been sent a link to our story in the Evening Standard story.

The reason for our success soon became clear:

1. It would appear that there were no high profile pressure groups to challenge the government on desperately needed adoption reforms, so the existence of Adoption with Humanity really plugged a very big gap. David Cameron sounds sincere in his plans to change the present “scandalous” system, but our campaign doesn’t feel it goes far enough.

2. We had high profile national media support. The Times led an excellent campaign urging the government to review its adoption processes, it really got the message across about how inhumane it is for modern society to turn its back on children who are languishing in care homes. It became a political hot potato which the government said it was acting on.

The Times and other national media highlighted the personal stories of Francesca Polini, who adopted two babies in Mexico, and fellow founder Alex Bemrose, who travelled to Guatemala to adopt their beautiful son Jose. Their third founder Stevan Whitehead adopted two teenagers from Guatemala. They are all wonderful parents, yet had been rejected by our local authorities. It is senseless. These children are so loved and so happy, don’t all children deserve this too?

3. We had instant case studies which were emotive and newsworthy. The media constantly asked for case studies, and I had to explain that we did not work with adoptive families. They wanted to speak to families who were in the adoptive pipeline, had adopted siblings, and coloured families who had adopted babies.

4. We had pitch perfect timing. Francesca had launched an e-petition on the government’s website petition and we wanted to use this for publicity during National Adoption Week. Around 1,400 people supported it, and many people told me personally how they had signed it. The media and politicians wanted to give adoption its attention with all agreeing it is time for change with a process that causes delays and heartache for young children and would-be adoptive families.

To maximise on publicity, I suggested we deliver the petition and Adoption with Humanity’s proposals to the heart of government, to David Cameron’s front door at 10 Downing Street. An ITV camera crew was waiting for us there today, along with a freelance photographer. The media were still ringing as we met up, and Francesca made it just in time with her three-year-old daughter Gaia, having just finished her Channel 4 interview, and jumped out of a taxi to meet up with her fellow founders.

Posing outside 10 Downing Street was a great picture for the media, and having both Gaia and Jose with their mothers showed everyone just how positive the outcome of the adoption process can be.

5. Lobbying. We were fortunate that Children’s Minister Tim Loughton was keen to meet Francesca and other adoptive parents to hear their views. Francesca has also met Martin Narey, the adoption “czar”,and will continue campaigning for a National Adoption Authority as the best solution to our crisis. We like to think that Adoption with Humanity is now a recognised  name among government officials and will be involved in future discussions too.

6. Celebrity endorsement. Right from the beginning we had the support of courtier dress designer Bruce Oldfield , a former Barnardo’s boy, who wrote the foreword in Francesca’s book, Mexican Takeaway. We cannot thank him enough for early this endorsement. Baroness Oona King, who has two young adopted children, became patron of Adoption for Humanity, and this gave our campaign much kudos and creditability when pitching to the media.

7. Social media. Francesca has a great SEO website with the highest Google ranking for her campaign’s name, and I regularly posted stories about the campaign on my high-ranking website too, and always Google bookmarked them. It was no surprise the media found us so easily when Googling for adoption stories. I give a lot of link-love too and repeatedly tagged key words and used Facebook and Twitter to highlight posts. I am also a blogger for the UK Huffington Post which has a strong political and media following and I published two posts about our adoption campaign on their website.

8. Media pitch. I issued our press release about delivering the petition to 10 Downing Street via PR Web and then used my media distribution list  and contacts (I subscribe to Marketwire) to make personal calls and attract their interest. We guessed that the government was going to announce its adoption reform plans today, I told the media that we would have a statement ready  and could provide spokesmen for interviews if they wanted a reaction – which they did. Francesca used her media contacts too, and, as a result, our phones were red hot!

9. Working with a great client. It helps that Francesca is photogenic and a dream to interview due to her background in communications for Greenpeace. Alex and Stevan also pitched in with media interviews today as they were too many for one person to handle. It is a pleasure to work with a client who appreciates the work which is done on her behalf. They were able to speak from the heart and with strong conviction to reinforce their message.

10. My beliefs. I felt a strong alignment to the cause and shared their passion for urgently needed adoption reforms. I want to see all our children in loving and supportive homes.

As an independent public relations consultant, I believe this campaign demonstrates that clients don’t need an expensive PR agency to deliver high profile national campaigns, and neither is a big budget necessary either. Just big ideas.

After all, a client’s success is my success too, and that’s what drives me on to achieve great results like this.

*This is only the first day of National Adoption Week, our stories will run and run throughout the week, I hope.

*Thank you to Francesca for this testimonial, I blush!

“Ellee is quite simply phenomenal. For someone who works independently, she achieves what you would expect from a team of experts. She is bright, knowledgeable, full of energy, commitment and passion. And she simply doe not give up until she has achieved what she feels is right. She uses every possible available channel to get the message across to the right audiences, she is also personable, a great learner, manages expectations well and is an absolute joy to work with.”


  1. Hello, I’ve just come across this post as I was looking at your nomination for the CIPR award. I think the campaign was fantastic (and it’s one that’s very close to my heart too) but I was pretty shocked to see you use the phrase “coloured families who had adopted babies”. I assume you mean ethnic minority families or mixed race families or BME families. I apologise if I’ve got this wrong and misunderstood your meaning or use of the word but “coloured” is simply not an acceptable phrase to use.

    • Hi Sally, I am sorry you have taken offence at the word “coloured” when no disrespect was intended. This is the word that has been used to describe the experiences of Francesca from the very beginning by Francesca and the media. But yes, you are correct in saying it means ethnic minority families or mixed race families or BME families.

  2. Kevin, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, and delighted to hear of your positive experience of adoption. You are so right about the need to adopt from an early age too, the earlier the better.

  3. Electro-Kevin

    By the way. Your account of the strategies employed during your campaign is fascinating. As tight as a drum by the sounds of things.

    • Thanks Kevin, yes, it was very focused and strategic.
      I’ve just seen Francesca and her family on ITV Daybreak, what a bonus. Thank you all at ITV for great coverage.

  4. Electro-Kevin

    You’re doing a great job. Seen it on TV.

    The wait for adoptive parents must be agony.

    My cousins were adopted. They were brought up like son and daughter and were considered blood relatives to all of us. Sadly the ‘daughter’ died recently aged 50 to cancer. She pre-deceased her ‘father’ but not her ‘mother’ who passed last year. At my aunt’s funeral the grief was as for a real mother.

    The earlier the age that adoption is completed the more close the bonding if this experience is anything to go by.

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