Bupa reviews comms operation in bid to raise public profile

Private healthcare giant prepares to dish out £250,000 consumer and corporate brief.

Upping its game: Bupa to bring consumer under one roof
Upping its game: Bupa to bring consumer under one roof

Private healthcare firm Bupa has kicked off a trawl for fresh PR support as it looks to sharpen its media operation under new comms supremo Steve John.

Corporate affairs director John joined from Pepsico last year, charged with raising the firm's profile and demonstrating leadership in the healthcare space.

One senior agency source close to the process said: 'Bupa has not traditionally placed a huge focus on PR and wants to up its game now.'

The healthcare provider has sent an RFI to a number of agencies, thought to include both consumer shops and multi-disciplinary consultancies. It is understood that the firm plans to bring PR for its products, services and brand under one roof in a consumer and corporate issues brief worth an estimated £250,000 a year.

John confirmed that Bupa was in the early stages of a review. He said: 'As part of our planning for 2011, we are reviewing our consumer PR agency arrangements for all of Bupa's UK businesses.'

Insiders suggested that the brand was keen to change the perception of private healthcare 'from being a luxury to a necessity' and cited the evolution of the Sky TV brand as a model to follow. But the brief extends beyond healthcare, as the successful agency will work across Bupa's UK business, covering insurance, aged care, healthcare and care management, working on product and service PR and brand building.

Since arriving at Bupa, John has looked to instigate a radical overhaul of the company's comms strategy.

Last year he brought in Penn Schoen & Berland (PSB) to research stakeholder attitudes and has handed new consumer project briefs to both Brando and Frank PR.

Bupa retains Brunswick for financial comms, but this is not thought to form part of the review.

TIME LINE

January 2010: Bupa brings in Brando to roll out a consumer PR programme for its wellness and healthcare divisions

November 2009: Bupa asks PSB to research stakeholder attitudes around healthcare, and enlists Frank PR to build awareness for a report on health in UK workplaces

April 2009: Steve John joins Bupa to replace corp comms director Peter Jones

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