how london ambulance service ‘newsjacked’ zayn malik

Sometimes comms is about thinking on your feet and being creative. Even when a boyband member quits.

by Dan Sutherland 

When you think of One Direction, the flashing blue lights of a London ambulance cruising through the night taking a seriously ill patient to hospital doesn’t spring to mind. Unless the patient they’re taking is one of the boyband’s billion fans worldwide.

But when handsome 22-year-old Zayn Malik dramatically announced he would leave the fivesome to pursue the normal life (despite being one of the top earners under 30 in the country) we saw this as the perfect opportunity to promote our recruitment campaign, ‘No Ordinary Challenge’.

Uncannily, when the news broke, and Britain’s workforce collectively applied for compassionate leave to mourn the loss of Zayn, we were having a CIPR social media training session with SoMe guru Andrew Bruce Smith. And the topic we were covering was how to decide what hashtags are right for you, to reach your audience.

Using, we learned we could instantly see the top trending hashtags in London at any given moment, helpfully colour co-ordinated into green hashtags, at their peak, and red hashtags, unhelpfully overused.

Joking about how we could exploit the outpouring of grief for Zayn, #byezayn, I suggested we could offer him a job.

Zayn’s about the same age as the graduate paramedics from English and Australian universities our campaign has been targeting. His fans might be considering studying for a paramedic science degree at one of our four partner universities in London. Their parents might be considering leaving one of the UK’s 12 NHS ambulance trusts outside London for a more challenging career in the city. 

 We debated the pros and cons and decided we should give it go. I was doing the unthinkable as a 24-year-old bearded Irishman living in south London. I was drafting a tweet about One Direction.

We kept the tone understated in keeping with our corporate identity and piggy-backed off the trending #byzayn hashtag while starting our own #newjobforzayn.

You can read the tweet here.

It wasn’t our most retweeted tweet or our most favourite ever, but we had 5,906 unique impressions, one of our highest.

The tweet led to a Daily Star online article, an increase in the traffic to our NHS Jobs page and our follower count. Not bad for a brief brainstorm in a social media training session.

It is a hashtag heist that will go down in history, or so we like to think, but it’s not something we could try every day. It was a case of picking the right moment, having a team you trust to pick your idea apart and the courage to take an idea and run with it.

Daniel Sutherland is communications assistant with London Ambulance Service.

Picture credit.


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