Paul Holmes 26 Feb 2003 // 12:00AM GMT
Oxford Health Plans, Inc., the leading managed care organization in the New York metropolitan area, was the darling of Wall Street and health care consumers until the company reached a financial crisis in the late 90s. With a new leadership team in place, Oxford completed a turnaround in 1999 and told its comeback story to the financial media. Oxford then turned to Magnet to create a media relations program that would secure at least one national media placement, promote preventive medicine and enhance Oxford’s reputation as a healthcare leader, in part to boost enrollment.
Because of the vital role of work in American life, Magnet Communications created a media campaign centered on wellness in the workplace, and positioned Oxford as an expert on the subject. The campaign far exceeded its goals, gleaning multiple national hits among its 100 million media impressions, touting preventive medicine, spotlighting Oxford as a healthcare authority that cares about working Americans and contributing to the first enrollment growth Oxford has seen in years.
1. Garner at least one national media placement.
2. Position Oxford as a healthcare leader and authority.
3. Promote preventive medicine and wellness.
4. Bolster the insurer’s enrollment efforts.
General public, individual consumers and corporations that purchase insurance for their employees, medical community; national business, healthcare and lifestyle media, both print and broadcast, and their reader/viewer/listenership.
The Magnet team decided to bring Oxford, a regional health insurer, to the national level by creating a compelling issue that transcends geographic borders: Wellness in the workplace. Since Oxford’s target customers are white-collar workers, Magnet created a survey of office workers to examine workplace attitudes and practices regarding health. The survey results were released in stages to build momentum. The Phase I story was released in December 2000, Phase II in February 2001. The team also created audio news releases for both stories and a video news release for the final story.
The random telephone survey of 632 working men and women took place in late August 2000. Respondents were asked about such health-related topics as their ability to leave their desks for doctor’s visits or for lunch, to enjoy a healthy meal in the cafeteria, to take vacation and to meditate in the office. Respondents were also asked to permit news media contact, an essential question that subsequently helped Magnet gather spokespeople for the news releases.
Magnet targeted two stories with the greatest potential for media and for positioning Oxford as a healthcare leader. The Phase I story involved unusual workplace perks, such as meditation and massage, topics closely identified with Oxford, a pioneer in insurance coverage for complementary and alternative medicine.
The Phase II story focused on vacation time forfeited by many hard working Americans. Key to this story was putting perspective on the importance of vacation, to show its health benefits and why it is an issue Oxford cares about. Magnet conducted extensive research into existing medical literature and found two clinical studies, which show vacations reduce the risk of death by half for women and by 20 percent for men. We contacted the researchers to confirm the findings and to alert them of possible media contact following our news release.
Also important to making this a national story was putting a global perspective on the U.S. work ethic. Magnet researched vacation time around the world and found that U.S. workers have the least vacation time in the industrialized world.
Our first challenge was the fact that Oxford is a regional company (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) but sought national attention. To overcome this we created an issue that transcends geographic borders and affects the entire country.
Our second challenge was the fact that Oxford is an HMO, a group that often meets with mild hostility from news reporters. We overcame this negativity by teaming Oxford with a group that wears the white hats – hard working Americans.
Our third challenge involved the medical research. The study of men concluded with vacation’s affect on all men. The study of women, however, concluded with vacation’s affect only on women who work in the home (not those who work outside the home). To maximize the impact of our story (and to avoid getting tangled in the exceptions), we wanted to show apples to apples (all men compared to all women). We contacted the researcher and asked her to revisit her data and determine the finding for all women. She did and the conclusion was dramatic.
The media campaign met and went far beyond each objective.
*Objective: Garner at least one national media placement. In fact, the campaign was so successful that it was broadcast nationally on Good Morning America, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and AP Radio. In addition, it was published nationally in the Wall Street Journal (Front Page), Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Glamour Magazine, The New York Times Online, the Associated Press, Reuter’s, Gannett News Service and even internationally in the Asian Wall Street Journal, Wall Street Journal Europe, Canada’s National Post and South China Morning Post. Total media impressions were 100 million.
*Objective: Position Oxford as a healthcare leader and authority. More than 90 percent of the media clips identified Oxford as the source of important health information and most of them quoted Oxford’s medical director, Dr. Alan Muney. Many of the Phase I clips also described Oxford as a pioneer in alternative and complementary medicine.
*Objective: Promote preventive medicine and wellness. More than 90 percent of the clips noted that simple preventive steps such as taking regular vacations can maintain health.
*Objective: Bolster the insurer’s enrollment efforts. Magnet effectively laid the groundwork in the media to enable the sales and marketing teams to grow membership. In 2001, Oxford was able to grow enrollment for the first time since computer problems led to a financial disaster in 1997.