Vitality CEO Neville Koopowitz is in no doubt about the challenges of getting a health and life insurance company, or health and life insurance generally, near the front of people’s minds. "Insurance is often perceived as boring and a grudge purchase; it’s something most people hope they never have to use," he says. "We want to be seen as exciting and innovative."
Basking in the glow of high-profile sports events and sports stars is a relatively easy (if not cheap) way to do just that, and Vitality counts Jessica Ennis-Hill, Jonny Wilkinson and Joe Root among its brand ambassadors.
The sporting link is not merely an add-on for Vitality; it is a key part of the firm’s positioning as an insurer that helps people understand how they can improve their health. To this end, PR is an essential part of its marketing strategy, Koopowitz says: "PR helps establish trust and enables us to position our messages in the best possible way.
"Our campaigns seek to make people healthier and encourage lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact. To do this, we use an integrated comms model, including advertising, content marketing, PR and sponsorship. It’s vital that all projects link to our core purpose. When we are satisfied that this criterion is met, we look at how best to support each campaign. We invest heavily in our brand, and PR helps reinforce awareness and adds to the overall effectiveness of our messaging."
Countering false perceptions is also crucial. Koopowitz says the firm’s biggest PR challenge is being seen as a profitable business in competition with the NHS. "The reality is that we are complementary," he stresses.
As well as sponsorship activity with its sporting ambassadors, Vitality’s customer data (anonymised, of course) is used to provide newsworthy insights for journalists. In addition, the company compiles the annual Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey with the University of Cambridge and research firm RAND Europe, which gains significant media pick-up – the last one generated more than 100 pieces of coverage in a year.
"We also offer commentary on key issues within both the health and protection insurance sectors. Given the size of our member base [the combined VitalityHealth and VitalityLife business has more than 900,000 members], we also try to provide case studies for journalists to use to bring articles to life."
For Koopowitz (pictured below), it is important that Vitality uses a variety of media outlets, with "equal weighting" for broadcast, national, consumer and trade titles. The nature of the business means it does not target only one demographic. "Printed and online newspapers, trade publications and consumer magazines continue to be crucial," he says. "We want to ensure people are aware of Vitality and what we do, so it is essential to reach them via their chosen media channels.
"However, we never forget about the trade titles. We work closely with independent financial advisers, so we provide trade publications with the latest insights and news."
Vitality’s PR operation consists of an in-house team, which co-ordinates press releases and responds to journalists’ requests, and two agencies. The first, Teamspirit, focuses on Vitality’s health insurance arm, plus consumer and corporate news, while Carr Consulting & Communications supports the life insurance division. "Both agencies advise on content, campaigns and journalist relationships and ensure the in-house PR team is focused on promoting our core messages to the right audiences."
On a personal note, Koopowitz says he likes talking to journalists, seeing it as "part of my role as representing the views and interests of our members, and the insurance sector more broadly". He concludes: "At the end of the day, I want to grow the market and positive coverage helps do this."