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Publicity Supports Business Model Pivot: BerniePortal (HR Technology)

A change in Bernard Health’s business prompts a hard shift in PR strategy

Situation

Bernard Health, an individual healthcare advisory and brokerage firm, was founded by its CEO with the mission to be the world’s most trusted advisor when it comes to helping people plan for their healthcare. Working with individuals, brokers and employers, Bernard became the first healthcare advisory firm to open brick-and-mortar retail locations in the nation, providing face-to-face insurance advice in Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia and Texas.

The Bradford Group began working with Bernard Health to increase awareness about Bernard Health’s services and elevate the reputation of its CEO as a national expert and thought leader in the areas of healthcare policy and benefits administration. In addition, Bradford was charged with gaining national and trade media attention for Bernard’s online HR benefits portal, BerniePortal.

In less than a year of our initial engagement, Bradford secured regular bylined columns for Bernard’s CEO in the USAToday Network’s The Tennessean — touted by the business editor as one of the newspaper’s most popular contributed columns. Bradford also secured regular columns for the CEO in our local MedCityNews and nationally in The Huffington Post. In addition, Bradford garnered attention in local media for all of Bernard’s regional offices and secured other media placements in top-tier publications such as Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and FOX Business. Our ability to generate both local and national news coverage positioned Bernard Health as an industry leader and its CEO as the go-to expert in healthcare benefits and policy.

Then changes in national healthcare regulations restricted Bernard from collecting fees for brokering healthcare coverage for consumers, requiring Bernard Health to close its brick-and-mortar locations. As a result, the CEO shifted focus to a software product, BerniePortal, targeting brokers, HR directors and businesses looking for a solution to integrating payroll, health and other benefits.

Bradford supported this pivot by adjusting our overall approach. Outlined below are the messaging and tactics we employed with each target public:

 

  • HR directors/departments – Bradford raised awareness of BerniePortal by placing thought leadership columns by the CEO about online benefits technology trends and issues.
  • Financial advisors – Bradford promoted Bernard’s partnerships with financial advisors to offer healthcare advisory as an auxiliary service.
  • Small businesses – We placed commentary by Bernard’s CEO in the news media aimed at small businesses that explained to owners what they should do to effectively onboard new employees and simplify benefits administration.
  • Technology publications – Some of BerniePortal’s major competitors in the online benefits administration space were other technology products like Zenefits, BambooHR, Maxwell Health and others. Bradford generated news coverage in national tech media to well-position BerniePortal in the benefits tech industry.
Actions

To effect this pivot, Bradford devoted 80% of our time focusing on HR, tech and BerniePortal and 20% of the time on Bernard Health, general healthcare and financial advisor partnerships. Our goal was to gain exposure for BerniePortal and Bernard’s CEO  in health benefits trade magazines, widely read by the broker audience. We secured regular bylined columns for the CEO in BenefitsPro, America’s Benefit Specialist (the official publication of the National Association of Health Underwriters) and Employee Benefit News/Employee Benefit Adviser. The CEO also became a regular columnist for HR Technologist, Inc. and Recruiter.

To reinforce Bernard’s CEO  as an expert with the broker population, Bradford arranged interviews and pitched expert advice from him, which resulted in earned media coverage in target outlets, including PLANSPONSOR and SHRM. To tell the story of Bernard’s changing business strategy, we also arranged an in-person interview for the CEO with the Nashville Business Journal, which resulted in a high-profile cover story about Bernard’s new focus on BerniePortal and the future of the company.

At the same time, Bradford continued to leverage the CEO and other company representatives as experts on health benefits, in particular HSAs, garnering media placements in top-tier outlets including USA Today, CNBC.com and MarketWatch. We arranged an interview with a PC Mag editor in New York City, resulting in a review of BerniePortal on PCMag.com and, later, a comparison article in which BerniePortal was ranked higher than key competitorsWe also coordinated for the editor of America’s Benefit Specialist to attend Bernard’s Weekdays With Bernie conference, strengthening their relationship and paving the way for additional future coverage, including an in-depth Q&A with Bernard’s CEO highlighting his impact on the insurance industry. The Bradford Group also facilitated the CEO’s acceptance to the Forbes Tech Council, a position that gave him further national prominence through a separate series of bylined columns.

We also nominated Bernard for a series of awards, positioning the company and its various platforms as top-tier and award-winning business assets. The company was named to the Inc. 5000 for three consecutive years , earned the Innovation in Human Resources/HR Technology award for HRO Today and won a bronze American Business Award® (also known as a Stevie®) for Customer Service Department of the Year in the Computer Software division.

Results

As a result of the Bradford Group’s efforts on behalf of Bernard Health and BerniePortal, Bernard Health’s CEO has become a recognized expert and popular voice to his audience of healthcare brokers and human resources managers. He has received feedback from new customers both in the United States and internationally, who specifically mentioned that they had heard about BerniePortal via media placements and bylined columns in the benefits trades — the ultimate return on investment and demonstration of value for Bradford’s public relations services. What had been positioned as a year-long effort achieved results in just one quarter and media interest in the CEO’s expertise has only grown, giving increased exposure to BerniePortal as a leading all-in-one HR software solution.

 

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