Paul Holmes 12 Jun 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
In November of 1999, GCI Healthcare was hired as the agency of record for the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the federal agency that administers Medicare to the nation’s seniors (over age 65) and disabled population.
We were awarded the “Publicity and Promotion” contract for the Medicare program to deliver hands-on support to 10 regional HCFA offices across the country -- New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle. Specifically, throughout the year 2000, GCI was asked to provide strategic counsel and tactical implementation to raise awareness of the four Medicare information channels – a web site, toll-free number, handbook and a grassroots, educational initiative – with the goal of helping to increase understanding among Medicare beneficiaries about their health plan options.
Our overall philosophy as an Agency Without Walls is to provide high-level, client service across geographic regions, tapping the expertise of our network of GCI colleagues in a targeted, efficient and strategic manner.
For the HCFA regional contract, we implemented a comprehensive operational staffing matrix that placed 10 seasoned communications professionals in each of the 10 HCFA regional offices cities, who were in turn supported by five key GCI “hub” offices: GCI New York; GCI Atlanta; GCI San Francisco; GCI Chicago and APCO Seattle.
Through this collaborative, nationwide network of team members, GCI delivered strategic counsel and overall communications support to our HCFA team members for a variety of integrated marketing activities, from the development of collateral materials (ads, PSAs, banners, flyers, brochures, giveaway items) to the implementation of grassroots media campaigns and special events coordination and publicity.
In general, the 10 Regional Communications Managers provide ongoing high-level support, including the following activities:
Development of year-long Publicity and Promotional Plan to help guide and prioritize RCM involvement and tactical support
On-site presence at HCFA offices 1 - 3 days a week; participation in internal team meetings and brainstorm sessions to offer strategic counsel and influence activities
Creating publicity and promotional materials, from press releases and calendar advisories to radio PSAs and by-lined articles
The 5 GCI support offices provide ongoing assistance on tactical implementation, including the following activities:
- Media monitoring for coverage on key client topics using internal GCI search engine resources
- Media list development using internal company software programs
- Media relations activities -- pitching reporters, conducting follow-up, drafting summary reports
- Designing promotional materials, such as posters, flyers, print PSAs and advertisements, with the help of internal creative departments
GCI also implemented a streamlined approval system to enhance the overall quality of publicity and promotional materials that were created and distributed by its regional offices and to help achieve a consistency of “look and feel” of materials across all HCFA regions. Materials were routed through GCI NY headquarters for review by headquarters team, including our in-house editorial expert, for comparison against HCFA’s “Standards & Guidelines”, then to client headquarters for review. Following approval and distribution, materials were housed on an intranet web site for easy review, sharing and use by all regional offices.
To date, the regional HCFA Publicity and Promotion contract has exceeded all client expectations.
The quarterly performance reviews, which are conducted by each regional office to assess GCI Regional Communication Manager performance, have yielded consistent average score of “4” out of a total of 5 points for excellent performance.
The Publicity and Promotion Academy -- a full-day educational “road show” workshop -- has been lauded as one of the most effective communications training initiatives ever received by regional office staff members. The average result from Academy evaluation forms ranked the Academy at 4.4 out of 5 for overall effectiveness.
Together, we have helped HCFA create a wide array of consistent, effective publicity and promotional materials for all regions to use moving forward. In addition, by becoming integrated members of each HCFA regional office team, we have transferred our industry knowledge to staff members, who in turn have become more strategic in deciding which activities will represent the “biggest bang for the buck.”
As of January of 2001, the HCFA regional offices have requested a continuation of our contract.