By Arun Sudhaman

British healthcare organisation Bupa is seeking to consolidate its consumer and corporate PR with one agency, in a major rethink of the company’s communications strategy in the UK.

The six-figure brief is currently at the RFI stage, said Bupa global corporate affairs director Steve John, with an  agency expected to be in place from 2011 onwards.

The brief covers consumer and corporate PR for all of Bupa’s UK business units: health insurance, aged care, home healthcare and care management. Public affairs and financial comms, handled by Lexington and Brunswick, respectively, are not under review.

“The objectives behind the review are to ensure we have the right support as we seek to establish our brand as a health partner,” said John.

John, who departed his role as Pepsico’s UK comms chief last year to join Bupa,said that three tiers will form the core of the healthcare giant’s comms strategy. The first is brand communications, followed by communicating ‘reasons to believe’, and product and service communication.

John further explained that ‘reasons to believe’ covers Bupa’s general expertise and benefits. “For example, our expertise in dementia care, our specialism in cancer or

A number of agencies are understood to have received the RFI, which will be followed by an RFP stage and then a face to face pitch. It marks the first time that Bupa is seeking to consolidate its UK PR activity, after historically favouring project arrangements.

Since joining Bupa, John has overhauled the 63-year-old company’s communications approach. Last year, he tasked Penn Schoen & Berland with a project to research stakeholder attitudes towards Bupa, before tasking Frank PR and Brando with specific project work.

John is hoping to utilise Bupa’s 60-year heritage and its relatively unique corporate status as points of differentiation, while building brand leadership across healthcare areas such as ageing, wellbeing and chronic disease management.