In 2010, as the national health care debate was winding down and the economy was taking center stage, the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI) recognized a significant opportunity to link investment in medical innovation with economic recovery and U.S. competitiveness. Recent studies have shown that medical innovation will have a far-reaching impact in curing diseases, which will not only lower health care costs, but keep people in the workforce longer. In addition, medical research and innovation creates jobs that help stimulate local economies – as well as benefits other industries such as building and construction trades. On the heels of a successful launch of the coalition, CAMI turned to The Herald Group to capitalize on this opportunity to position CAMI as the medical innovation thought leader and impact the dialogue around medical innovation. This was accomplished through an integrated campaign including research initiatives, earned, paid and social media, grasstops and grassroots.
The Solution: We quickly became a strategic partner and coalition manager for CAMI, providing much more than purely communications counsel. At the outset, the team revamped the organization’s key messaging platform to center around the role medical innovation plays in both the health of Americans and the health of the nation overall. Throughout the course of this engagement, we built and implemented an overarching communications program for CAMI as well as specialized communications strategies for every CAMI event, speech or project to ensure the broadest possible coverage for the organization. Recognizing the need to make the issue of medical innovation more salient for the public and policy makers, we developed an online video testimonial and advertising campaign to put a human face on the topic, showing how investment in medical innovation is truly life saving. All communications efforts were designed to reach not only the media, but policymakers, regulators and credible third party organizations in order to further cement CAMI’s credibility and effectiveness as well as its ability to strategically recruit additional member organizations.
Results: Our team significantly increased earned media coverage of CAMI nationally and locally, including more than 50 op-ed placements in national and regional publications. The team managed the release of two CAMI-commissioned reports, one conducted by the Milken Institute and one by Battelle, as well as a national medical innovation symposium, all of which were widely attended by policymakers, the medical industry and media. Together, these activities positioned CAMI as the “go-to” resource for policymakers and the media. In fact, in mid-2011, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg turned to CAMI to develop recommendations and host listening forums for her and her staff on non-legislative reform options that could help alleviate some of the key regulatory obstacles facing medical innovation.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TICKET BROKERS (NATB)
Overview: In the Summer of 2009, The Herald Group was retained by the National Association of Ticketbrokers (NATB). As a small entity initially created for networking purposes, with an all volunteer staff and limited resources, NATB faced an uphill battle riddled with challenges as they sought to both mitigate negative legislation being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Bill Pascrell (NJ-8th) targeting ticket brokers and the secondary market as well as organize opposition to the pending merger of Ticketmaster/Live Nation being considered by the Department of Justice. At the time, apparent allies to the broker industry such as StubHub/Ebay stayed publicly neutral on these issues, leaving the NATB as a relatively inexperienced organization to fight these issues unilaterally without a base of champions. The Herald Group was tasked with developing a public affairs and strategic communications campaign that sought to build a base of support for NATB’s positions on these issues, while additionally helping transform the perceptions about the secondary market and more specifically distinguishing NATB members as good faith and honest participants in this process.
Strategies and Tactics: The campaign The Herald Group implemented rested on three main tenets. First, engage and mitigate the negative legislation introduced by Rep. Pascrell (The BOSS Act). Utilizing local NATB Members from both Rep. Pascrell’s district and replicating the same process with the legislation’s co-sponsors districts, The Herald Group implemented a strategic communications campaign that targeted the legislators’ local media markets to build actual constituent pressure and cede the narrative the legislation was actually harming small business in the legislators’ home districts during a downward economy. A blend of op-eds, letters to the editor, local blog placement and mainstream earned media stories were utilized in addition to several earned media events in the respective legislators’ districts. Finally, national and “inside the beltway” media were engaged on the legislation from a targeted perspective to provide “air cover” to the government affairs professionals interfacing with the legislators and their staff.
The second tenet of the campaign focused on opposition to the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger. At the time, there was opposition from different pockets of influencers at random intervals; however there was no coordinated coalition or organization dedicated to voicing the concerns of brokers and other members of the public. As a result, The Herald Group recruited and developed a bench of champions and supporters and organized a coalition on behalf of the NATB that brought together brokers, consumer groups, anti-trust academics and other interested parties to bring one clear voice to the debate. While formed late in the merger process and with a shoestring budget, The Herald Group brought the coalition together under the banner of Ticketdisaster.org (now inactive) and utilized earned media, online communications, limited paid media, and on-the-ground events.
The third and final tenet of our engagement was to help educate influencers, policymakers and the public at large on the secondary market/brokers and to distinguish NATB members as small business owners operating with a strict professional code of conduct and leaders in the secondary market to dispel negative perceptions. The Herald Group revamped the NATB’s code of ethics to include a policy change that made members pledge to disclose if inventory being sold to consumers was on speculation or actual inventory on hand, conducted background and on-the-record briefings with national media such as: Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and put a human face on the broker industry. These same tactics were replicated with local and state-based media positioning NATB as a thought leader surrounding news stories of sold out concert problems, ticket demand and small businesses generally. Additionally, a strategic communications campaign was created to highlight positive actions brokers were taking in their local communities via “NATB Gives Back”, whereby local broker businesses would donate a portion of tickets annually to their local Ronald McDonald House and other charities.
Results: With a limited budget and an overwhelmingly negative public perception, NATB was able to educate key policymakers, targeted media, and other thought leaders on the value of the secondary market and reputable brokers in general. Rep. Pascrell’s BOSS Act eventually subsided and gained no traction in Congress. In fact, through these public affairs efforts, Rep. Pascrell transitioned from attacking brokers and the secondary marketplace to appearing several months later at a press conference in Washington as well as an earned media event with a local NATB member in his District. The Congressman began publicly making the distinction between good faith secondary market business owners and non-NATB members who could engage in bad business practices. Added to this, the NATB has become a stronger voice and a thought leader in the mainstream media on stories involving the ticketing process.
Finally, while the Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger did indeed proceed with DOJ approval, the NATB’s organization of a coalition to oppose the merger provided a unified voice to the debate and was the first action of this kind that received widespread media attention directly resulting in the Department of Justice requesting three different meetings with the collation. Interestingly enough, now that StubHub/Ebay have become engaged on the issue of paperless tickets, they have replicated this playbook directly by creating the FanFreedomProject and have recruited (and provided funding/resources) the same consumer advocates utilized as a vehicle for NATB during the fight over the merger.