SEATTLE: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has hired M Booth Health to help manage comms around its COVID-19 data forecasts.
Since March, the institute’s data forecasts and other pandemic-related information have tracked the course of the disease and its effects, and its statistics have been quoted by the White House and news organizations such as NPR and the Washington Post.
Specifically, M Booth Health will be providing strategy, messaging, media and issues management, and global communication support.
The work is being done under “a provisional six-month project with the opportunity to go further as work requires,” said Greg Amrofell, CMO for the institute.
Though M Booth Health’s work will mostly focus on the institute’s COVID-19 forecasts, it has also started supporting the organization’s Global Burden of Disease project, which aims to “quantify health loss from hundreds of diseases, injuries and risk factors” globally, according to the institute’s website.
Amrofell is largely looking for traditional media relations support from M Booth Health, along with some public affairs work and thought leadership efforts. The agency will not manage the institute’s social media work.
The institute had been working with a small Pacific Northwest PR shop that Amrofell would not name.
On March 26, the institute started forecasting COVID-19 in 50 U.S. states. The media attention the institute got in subsequent months was unprecedented, Amrofell said.
“And then we scaled beyond the U.S. to Latin America and Europe and the demands were far greater than they had been in the past,” he explained. “We realized we needed someone with real global health expertise and solid understanding of the bridge between public relations and public affairs to deal with attention and be sure the story of our forecast was getting out as best as it could.”
Amrofell said the search for a new firm began in early April and he ultimately looked at six firms via an informal process before signing the deal with M Booth last month. He would not disclose financial details of the contract.
“They are global health experts and have worked with a lot of organizations like the CDC and the WHO and other groups that are exemplars in the global health arena,” he said explaining the decision. “They were quite strategic and very thoughtful of the media relations side and also the public affairs side, which was important to us because this work on COVID-19 has catalyzed the thinking on our end and we are moving from simply producing trusted scientific metrics to having more direct impact on health policy and practices.”
The reach of M Booth’s global partners was also a selling point, Amrofell said.
“We’re a small marketing team and we will rely on their agency partners to help us,” he said.
The account is being led at M Booth by Andrew Shih, EVP of corporate and public affairs, and includes Karen O'Malley, MD and public affairs practice chair, VP Susannah Masur and associate Raina Sarmah.
Separately, M Booth Health was hired by Penn State University to handle an integrated comms campaign to promote public health guidelines and encourage students, faculty and staff to wear masks when the fall semester begins, according to an M Booth statement.
The agency’s remit for Penn State includes behavioral research and message testing, creative campaign development and production, social media and influencer outreach, along with community relations.
According to the PRWeek Agency Business Report, revenue at M Booth Health was $16.6 million in 2019. There was no 2018 comparison because the agency was created last year when Next 15 acquired the U.S. division of Health Unlimited and rebranded it as M Booth Health.