NEW YORK: After years of avoiding the topic, Planned Parenthood adjusted its strategy in the past two years to better reach audiences and promote its abortion services, said Adrienne Verrilli, VP of communications and culture at the organization, at PRWeek’s Healthcare Conference in New York.
Verrilli said that 20 years ago, the nonprofit focused on its other services and almost “belittled” its abortion-care access, partly contributing to widespread stigmatization of the issue.
Yet due to recent events, particularly the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood has re-evaluated its tactics, leaning further into data and analytics to communicate more effectively with its constituents.
“We as an organization have looked inside and said, ‘how are we talking to our patients? What is it that they need, hear and want from us?’” Verrilli said.
A leaked draft of the SCOTUS ruling gave the organization an opportunity to prepare for the High Court to overturn Roe. It studied where people were reaching out to its call centers and the questions they asked about. When the law was overturned just more than a month later, Planned Parenthood was well-equipped to support those in need.
However, the organization still had to respond to media coverage, some of which painted the end of Roe as a full-fledged national abortion ban.
“It was really incumbent on us to ensure that [blue] states were able to quickly tell their patients: our doors are still open; you can access care,” Verrilli explained.
She also detailed how Planned Parenthood manages its communications across the nation. Larger divisions, such as in New York, have their own methods and comms teams, but the organization has a consistent brand voice and image across all operations, using shared stylebooks and color guides.
While Verrilli applauded OkCupid, Match Group and Salesforce for their support for abortion care and access, she stressed that more action is needed from businesses.
“[These bans] affect more than half of your workspace, you need to stand up for them,” she said.
Verrilli pointed to South Carolina’s six-week abortion ban bill, which on Wednesday was sent to Governor Henry McMaster’s desk to be signed into law. Addressing companies in the region, Verrilli said, “Be able to look at your employees and say, “I have done everything I can.”
Social media platforms are imperative to Planned Parenthood’s comms strategy, Verrilli said. While Instagram is a solid foundation, the organization also has found “tremendous success” on TikTok.
The short-form video app provides a golden opportunity for Planned Parenthood’s staff to connect with people on an emotional level, detailing their own experiences and challenges.
“When folks see a person that looks like them, it makes a difference,” Verrilli added. “Seeing yourself in the story is so powerful.”