LOS ANGELES, January 21—Blue Shield of California has selected west coast healthcare public relations specialist FischerHealth as public relations agency of record. The announcement followed a lengthy, high profile search that included more than 10 national firms. According to L.A. industry sources, the review was ultimately narrowed to include FischerHealth, incumbent Hill & Knowlton, and the west coast offices of Fleishman-Hillard and Ruder Finn.
Blue Shield put the account up for grabs after a restructuring that eliminated an eight-person public relations department. FischerHealth will be handling a wide range of activities, including corporate communications, media relations, crisis and issues management, corporate philanthropy activities, and internal communications, many of which were formerly handled in-house. The firm will report to vice president of public affairs Tom Epstein.
“Throughout the search process, FischerHealth clearly demonstrated its knowledge and expertise of the health plan industry,” says Epstein. “This experience, along with the firm’s reputation for effective healthcare consumer marketing and corporate philanthropy campaigns, made it the most qualified firm to help us meet our communications objectives.”
Agency president Roger Fischer declined to comment on the size of the account, although he acknowledged Blue Shield would be one of his firm’s three largest clients, and said the firm would devote a team of four-to-six people to the business, led by Bob Berra and Betsy O’Brien Merriman.
“This was a major win for us,” Said Fischer. “One of the advantages we had was our experience working in the HMO arena. Every member of the pitch team had represented HMO clients or working in-house for managed care companies.”
The primary goal of the program will be to firmly position BSC as one of the nation’s most innovative, consumer-focused health plans, but the internal communications component will be just as important. Says Fischer, “Even though Blue Shield of California is a non-profit company, it still has to make a profit and it still has to be managed like a business, and one of the most important communications challenged will be to ensure that employees understand that running a profitable business is consistent with the company’s mission.”