CMS awards five agencies with multi-year contracts

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, Porter Novelli, and Weber Shandwick open-ended PR contracts for up to seven years.

WASHINGTON: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded Fleishman-Hillard, Ketchum, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, Porter Novelli, and Weber Shandwick open-ended PR contracts for up to seven years.

Four of those agencies, excluding Fleishman-Hillard, were defending their contracts initially inked with CMS in 2006. CMS awarded the five PR firms with the Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts after an eight month RFP process. Nine agencies submitted proposals. A CMS public affairs official did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

The lucrative award means that the agencies can compete against one another for communications tasks for the CMS. The combined contracts have a budget cap of $400 million, which is an increase from the $300 million cap in 2006. 

Projects are expected to include national, local, and regional educational campaigns for a range of audiences, including social media, print media, outdoor advertising, direct mail, and PSAs. The agencies will also plan, coordinate, and schedule CMS events and conferences in addition to working with the agency to publish journal articles.

Weber Shandwick has specifically won an $8.2 million marketing campaign for the 2011 Medicare open enrollment period, communicating with qualified recipients about their benefits in addition to anti-fraud and abuse practices. “We are moving at light speed to get a campaign up,” said Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate, Weber Shandwick's public affairs division.

Prior to this contract, Weber Shandwick had worked with the federal agency on a variety of projects including organizing summits with attorney general Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius around the country and developing tools for patients to compare doctors and medical facilities.

Ogilvy PR is currently working on a multimillion-dollar awareness campaign to support the Ask Medicare initiative, which includes an informational website for caregivers. It is “designed for caregivers of beneficiaries to understand the benefits available to their loved ones and help them navigate the system,” said Jennifer Wayman, EVP and director of social media for Ogilvy PR's Washington, DC, office.

Since 2006, Ogilvy has “fully integrated” social media into its various campaigns with CMS, which includes a program designed for reaching out directly to beneficiaries to help them understand their enrollment.

In the past, Porter Novelli worked on CMS campaigns focused on low-income subsidy beneficiaries of Medicare programs. Catherine McLean, global head of public affairs for Porter's Washington, DC, office says “integrated educational campaigns” have been the trademarks of the agency's CMS work.

Ketchum and Fleishman-Hillard representatives declined to comment.

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