Paul Holmes 07 Jun 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
Ernst & Young, one of the nation’s pre-eminent professional services firms, wanted to reposition its health sciences practice vis-à-vis the biotechnology industry, capturing a leadership share of this emerging health care market. Driving the change was the sale of its consulting practice to Cap-Gemini and the altering dynamics of health care financing that has shifted emphasis to well-care (biotechnology and pharmaceuticals) from ill-care (hospitals and physicians). Other professional service firms had also begun to enter this market as well, creating a crowded space of advisors promoting their services to relatively new reporters.
Each year, Ernst & Young produces an annual book providing in-depth analysis of the biotechnology industry in the United States, which had been disseminated in an ad-hoc manner to the biotechnology community and the media. Capitalizing on the opportunity to use the book as a platform for repositioning Ernst & Young in the marketplace and internally, the team created a strategic media relations campaign to launch the 2000 biotechnology book “Convergence: The Biotechnology Industry Report” in the United States and nine countries mostly in and around Europe where the interest in biotechnology is high. This would be the first effort for Ernst & Young to directly introduce a United States study to other countries.
The team’s challenge was to leverage the biotechnology book during the pre-election media frenzy, positioning Ernst & Young as the leading professional services firm to the marketplace. In less than 30 days, the team created and began to execute a media relations campaign to announce findings from the biotechnology book. The agency fee budget for the launch was $15,000 per month. The Fischer & Partners team consisted of a senior vice president, vice president, account supervisor, account executive and an administrative assistant.
As an agency specializing in healthcare communications, Fischer & Partners had a strong base of knowledge from which to partner with Ernst & Young and develop a highly targeted media relations campaign. Top-line research to identify professional service firm competitors was conducted and also helped shape the creation of the strategic program. Working together, Ernst & Young’s public relations leadership and Fischer & Partners, identified audiences as industry leaders, potential clients and business media (national and in regions with large/growing biotechnology segments). Program goals were:
- Reinforce Ernst & Young’s leadership position within the health care industry
- Provide a platform for introducing the “new” Ernst & Young Health Science Industry Practice Group (wing-tips to running shoes) both internally and externally
- Capitalize on the high visibility and interest of biotechnology
- Establish United States industry leaders as biotechnology experts in other countries with a strong biotech presence
With the 2000 Presidential election around the corner, the team designed a tiered media strategy that leveraged a leading biotechnology industry conference (Cal Bio Summit) and targeted efforts to major biotechnology sectors. This three phase media strategy included:
- Pre-Launch—Introducing the Biotechnology Report
- Launch—Expanding the Reach
- Post-Launch—Maintaining Awareness
While the campaign’s efforts were focused national in scope, additional emphasis was placed on the key biotechnology regions: San Francisco Bay area, Boston area, Research Triangle (NC), San Diego and Seattle.
EXECUTION OF THE CAMPAIGN:
Pre-Launch---Introducing the Biotechnology Book
One of the challenges facing the launch of any thought leadership is timing media outreach to secure stories in major business outlets (such as the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times), without waiting too long to expand pitch efforts to regional and/or trade media. Recognizing the importance of regional media, particularly in areas with high biotech concentrations, the team pre-pitched key publications in advance of an October 30, 2000 wire release of findings from the book.
Media materials, including a national press release and area releases focusing on noteworthy regional findings from the book were developed. Biographies of national thought leaders were refined to support media relations efforts. Pre-pitch efforts to major business and key regional media were initiated the week of October 25, 2000.
Launch---Expanding the Reach
On October 30, 2000 a wire release was distributed, coinciding with the opening of the Cal Bio Summit. Simultaneous to the release, expanded regional and trade outreach was initiated. During the Summit and immediately following, more extensive pitch efforts were conducted. In order to increase traffic to Ernst & Young’s Web site, a brief about the study and a media request form were available on their web site. As a result, the team received multiple phone calls and e-mails from media, health care executives and professors throughout the world.
Following the launch, the team used breaking biotechnology industry events and financial market news to continue to position Ernst & Young thought leaders. One pitch capitalized on the stability of the biotech index by offering business writers an early holiday gift to spur interviews with authors of “Convergence: The Biotechnology Industry Report.”
Based on the launch and post-launch strategy, we anticipated media coverage in targeted national business and trade outlets and in the key biotechnology regions, positioning Ernst & Young as a leader in the biotechnology segment and helping them “move” toward the new money opportunities in health care.
While the program was extremely successful, several challenges existed:
- Time constraint: A three-month window of opportunity existed for the launch and post-launch media efforts. In addition, with the holidays approaching, the window for securing media interviews was limited.
- Complex subject: The in-depth analyses offered in the book challenged many reporters. Fischer & Partners was often given short time frames (sometimes less than a few hours) to identify spokespersons for the reporter as the media spent time reviewing the book in detail. Additionally, almost all reporters had significant follow-up questions after interviewing a book author, creating logistical challenges in scheduling interviews (reporters would often speak to an Ernst & Young representative one day only to call back wanting additional clarification the next day).
- New biotech reporters: In emerging biotech regions, many reporters were new to the biotechnology beat, making them unfamiliar with the subject manner and the importance of the findings from the book.
Program measurements are based on media coverage, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Overall, the team secured media impressions (readers) in excess of 100 million in two months. In addition to press coverage, Ernst & Young thought leaders gained a stronger position with the media and several new clients were introduced to the firm via the efforts.
Media placements were spread across national outlets (such as The New York Times, Business Week, CNNfn, Washington Post, The Scientist, and Red Herring) and regional press (for instance, The Boston Globe, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Charlotte (NC) Observer, The Birmingham (AL) News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Seattle Times).