AstraZeneca helps the uninsured

AstraZeneca takes great interest in its home state's health-related issues. Part of that includes providing information to the more than 100,000 Delaware residents that are without medical insurance.

AstraZeneca takes great interest in its home state's health-related issues. Part of that includes providing information to the more than 100,000 Delaware residents that are without medical insurance.

This year, the company decided to create a PR campaign aimed at educating the uninsured about their healthcare options.

"We also felt we had to target people where they live and work, so we... launched grassroots education programs in churches, at health fairs, and with community groups," says Tony Jewell, AstraZeneca's senior director of issue and policy communication.

Strategy
The PR team knew it needed a solid news hook to get local media to take another look at healthcare. It decided to make April "Cover the Uninsured Month" in Delaware and set up several media events during the month.

One of the challenges of the campaign was the fact that most of Delaware is in the Philadelphia TV and radio market, which meant broadcast coverage was going to be difficult. "Because of that we had to rely very heavily on local print, especially the influential Wilmington News Journal," Jewell says. "We also put more focus on targeting non-traditional outlets, like local cable access."

Tactics
AstraZeneca's internal PR team created a press kit and then kicked off the push with a press conference April 2 that featured Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner and AstraZeneca CEO Tony Zook. That was followed up with a debate - co-hosted with Christiana Care Health System, the Wilmington News Journal, and the Delaware Public Policy Institute - on healthcare for Delaware's gubernatorial candidates.

"We didn't want to make covering the uninsured a political issue," Jewell explains. "So we invited health reporters [and] made sure the focus was on letting state residents know they have options [in healthcare]."

Results
By leveraging several different angles, the campaign was able to put people without health insurance in a statewide spotlight. Multiple outlets throughout Delaware did in-depth stories resulting in hundreds of thousands of media impressions, including a letter to the editor by AstraZeneca CEO Zook that appeared in the Wilmington News Journal.

More importantly, the campaign - combined with previous efforts to drive public awareness - resulted in more than 4,000 uninsured state residents calling into a toll-free number and being connected to existing healthcare services.

Future
AstraZeneca and its employees will continue to participate in education programs to make sure that state residents are aware of their healthcare options.

"AstraZeneca is committed to working with our partners on this long term," Jewell says, adding that the company is considering turning "Cover the Uninsured Month" into an annual campaign.

PRWeek View
This effort shows the importance of leveraging all types of media to maximize coverage of an issue.

The PR team was able to highlight the benefits of healthcare without diving into the political aspects.

This campaign also shows how earned media can be combined with targeted advertising and grassroots outreach to effectively reach an audience in as many different ways as possible

PR team: AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals (Wilmington, DE)

Campaign: Cover the Uninsured Month

Duration: January-May 2008

Budget: $60,000

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