Planned Parenthood retools image in California

SACRAMENTO: Planned Parenthood California is working to shift perceptions about the organization in a statewide effort that could ultimately impact its nationwide messaging.

SACRAMENTO: Planned Parenthood California is working to shift perceptions about the organization in a statewide effort that could ultimately impact its nationwide messaging.

The organization, working with Ogilvy PR, is dispelling myths about Planned Parenthood's services and users to reporters and legislators in California, but plans to expand this outreach to other regions, said Ana Sandoval, communications director for Planned Parenthood California. The organization started doing research on its brand in 2007, but is now launching the communications outreach to promote the findings.

Its surveys found that most people in California identify Planned Parenthood with abortion and teenagers, yet abortion makes up only about 4% of its services, and teens are less than 20% of its users, Sandoval said.

“This is about focusing on the other 96% of what we do,” she said.

The organization's current outreach also highlights its preventative and health-screening services, as well as the increase of women using the services because of lost health benefits during this recession.

"Planned Parenthood California has the resources to put into an effort like this," she said. "Then we can take these learnings and apply them to other offices."

The organization is targeting healthcare reporters, political reporters,and feminist and liberal bloggers to broaden the types of stories Planned Parenthood is included in. For example, efforts include incorporating Planned Parenthood spokespeople on topics other than abortion and teen pregnancy. The organization also plans to increase the number of Op-Eds its executives do that highlight its service offerings.

“We're trying to talk about Planned Parenthood in a very different way,” Sandoval added.

Maggie Linden, SVP at Ogilvy, said the organization was prompted to retool its branding because much of its identity was shaped by groups that oppose it.

“We have excellent brand awareness but we wanted to move that so that people will have an even more positive perception of Planned Parenthood,” Linden noted.

Even so,the organization found itself again associated with teenage pregnany this week when a college student, Lila Rose, secretly videotaped an exchange at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Southern California. The video shows Rose pretending to be a 14-year-old impregnated by her 31-year-old boyfriend, then being asked to lie about the boyfriend's age by a Planned Parenthood worker. The video, part of a series of stings that Rose has conducted at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, hasn't impact the organization's new branding, Sandoval says.

"Reports like this obviously concern us deeply, but we're like any other large healthcare organization and when you have this many employees there are always going to be some lapses," Sandoval said. She added, when confronting media surrounding the video, the organization is emphasizing that action has been taken and its mission remains.

The state's budget crisis has also accelerated the need to clarify misconceptions about the brand so that legislators don't cut its funding. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC), the state public policy office representing California's nine Planned Parenthood affiliates, sponsors several bills to support reproductive healthcare and to advocate for the state's budget dollars to go toward reproductive services. But California's staggering budget shortfall has put the organization in a tight spot as the state plans massive cutbacks this summer.

"Yet we often find that conservatives are willing to support Planned Parenthood once they understand the breadth of our services," Sandoval noted. "So we are askng people to contact their legislators on the importance of family planning, and we're trying to emphasize the millions of women that depend on our health services."

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