WASHINGTON: The National Eye Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has hired two firms to perform outreach.
ICF International will provide communications support for the Institute's eye-health education program. As part of its $2.8 million contract, the firm will develop public service campaigns that target traditional and social media outlets. It will also create a program that enables an interactive relationship between the NEI and other organizations.
The firm has had a contract with the Institute for 15 years. However, for this new contract, ICF will put greater emphasis on social media and public service announcements as a way to maximize outreach with less federal funding, said Adrienne Semidey, SVP at ICF. The contract runs for one year with an additional four-year option.
Even as the firm has shifted more focus to digital outreach in recent work with the NEI, it is mindful that much of the audience it wants to reach is still dependent on traditional media outlets, which has challenged it to think outside the box.
“We have to wow clients and introduce them to new things,” said Shelly Heath-Watson, a principal at the firm.
In a recent example, ICF helped NEI develop the “Eye-Q” category of vision-related questions that appeared on Jeopardy! in May.
The firm also gathers feedback from target audiences such as Latinos, African-Americans, and older Americans through mechanisms such as focus groups “so we can hear from them where they get their information from,” Watson said. “We've been moving with the community,” she added.
The NEI also hired Hager Sharp to support its public liaison and education activities, including Healthy Vision Month, the Healthy Vision Community Awards Program, its K–12 science education program, and public liaison activities.
This is a new contract for Hager Sharp, which has not worked with the NEI since the early 1990s.
“One of the challenges will be to get people to think about eye health long before you start to have trouble with your vision,” said CEO Garry Curtis.
Its contract is worth $546,814 for the first year, with the option for four additional years.
A third NEI PR contract, now held by Ogilvy Public Relations, has not been awarded. An ICF representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accounts.