In early February, London-based hospital doctor Dr Dominic Pimenta encountered his first suspected case of coronavirus. Within a week he was wearing a mask on the tube and within six weeks he was working in a COVID Intensive Care Unit.
Published in September, Duty of Care was the first book to tell the full, uncompromising story of the Covid-19 pandemic from a doctor on the frontline. From whispers coming out of China to collective uncertainty and then full lockdown, the book reveals how the healthcare system shifted to a new paradigm. It reveals the harsh reality of ICU units with frontline workers saving lives and details enduring stories of human kindness and generosity. A profoundly personal, powerful account of the worst global health crisis we have ever seen, Duty of Care gives an insight into the heart of the medical response in one of the world’s worst-affected countries.
Prior to publication, Dr Pimenta had publicly condemned Dominic Cummings’ violation of lockdown, vowing to resign unless Cummings either apologised or resigned. He used his considerable social media presence to make his feelings clear. As a result of Cummings neither apologising, nor losing his post, Dr Pimenta resigned as consultant cardiologist in the middle of planning the PR campaign.
Work on the campaign was underway when we were notified by Dr Pimenta and his agent of his plans to resign. We knew the news would quickly leak to the media so we acted swiftly to minimise the risk of misinformation and put damage limitation tactics in place.
We contacted a trusted journalist at the Guardian and arranged an exclusive interview. This ran the following day in print and online, and we used it as further leverage for media coverage, safe in the knowledge the author’s side of the story was in the public arena before any other related news pieces could run. Our crisis management skills came into play and the subsequent positive news story increased coverage for the book and the author’s charity. We worked collaboratively with the charity’s PR team to ensure the timing and messaging were aligned for even greater impact.
Further interviews were secured across key national media, kicking off with a lead interview in the Observer Magazine which propelled the book into the Top 200 in all books on Amazon two weeks ahead of publication. This was followed by broadcast and online media including Good Morning Britain (which pushed it straight into the Amazon Top 50 and made it a #1 Mover and Shaker and #1 in two health categories on Amazon), Sky News, ITV News, BBC News, Times Radio, Tortoise Media, TALKradio, BBC News online and Huffington Post UK.
Despite the personal and political challenges for Dr Pimenta, alongside the difficulties of conducting interviews during lockdown, Duty of Care became a national talking point. It continues to be selected in Books of the Year round-ups and gave readers first insight into the brutal reality of the NHS covid-frontline.
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