Cigna Taps Weber for $1million-Plus Assignment
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Cigna Taps Weber for $1million-Plus Assignment

Cigna selected Weber Shandwick Worldwide, which had worked with PR chief Mike Fernandez at US West, ahead of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, Hill & Knowlton, Makovsky & Company, Manning Selvage & Lee, and Ruder Finn.

Paul Holmes

PHILADELPHIA, July 23—When Mike Fernandez arrived at Cigna 18 months ago, after three years heading corporate communications at US West, he found a company that had—like most of its competitors in the insurance industry—taken a very cautious approach to communicating with the news media.
               
“With my background in consumer products at Eastman Kodak and US West, I wanted to be a little more aggressive in engaging various publics,” says Fernandez. “We needed to do a better job of reaching out.”
 
The first thing Fernandez did was restructure the corporate communications department at Cigna, which is responsible for corporate branding, public affairs and investor relations, adopting a more regionalized approach that better reflected the company’s organizational structure. The second thing he did was start a search for a public relations agency of record.
 
After a request-for-proposals was sent to 18 agencies, Cigna narrowed its search to six finalists, and held in-depth conversations with each of them. Says Fernandez, “We wanted to be sure we selected an agency that matched up well with the individuals we have in-house, that complemented our internal resources.”
 
This week Cigna selected Weber Shandwick Worldwide, which had worked with Fernandez at US West, ahead of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, Hill & Knowlton, Makovsky & Company, Manning Selvage & Lee, and Ruder Finn. According to Fernandez, “We got strong presentations from all the firms, but Weber offered the best combination of creativity, chemistry, and the capabilities we were looking for.”
 
In particular, he says, Weber Shandwick had strength in four key areas: healthcare, the financial services industry, e-commerce, and public affairs. The assignment will include not only corporate branding but also issues management.
 
“One of the messages we want to communicate is that Cigna has a unique position in the marketplace,” he says. “Unlike most of our competitors, who are focused on the healthcare market, we provide group insurance and various retirement services. We want to make the point that there is an advantage to companies buying all their employee benefit services from a single provider.”
 
The account will be led by David Beigie in the Denver office of The Weber Group, and by Sara Gavin of Weber Shandwick in Minneapolis.
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