|At the 2010 Transitions Academy conference, an audience of HR executives and health plan brokers learned about the importance of vision care—and Transitions lenses—through respected thought leaders. Photo courtesy of Euro RSCG|
Company: Transitions Optical, Inc.
Agency: Euro RSCG
Timeframe: June 2009- Feb. 2010
For a B2B company to gain awareness of a targeted product or service by a specific professional audience, flashy broadcast or print ads a la B2C just won’t do it—particularly if its offering has little to do with the space it’s targeting. Instead, thought leadership is often deployed to earn the hearts and minds of the audience.
In the case of Transitions Optical, its product—Transitions lenses that change from clear to dark in ultraviolet light—was being overlooked by HR executives in vision plans for their organizations.
“Transitions is not an insurance company—we’re not connected at all to that industry,” says Pat Huot, director of managed vision care at Transitions. The question then is: How can Transitions make itself a quasi-leader in both the health insurance and HR categories?
Research findings intensified this challenge. Research via Synovate and HR.com showed that HR executives placed a low priority on vision benefits, due to the deep focus on higher-priced medical benefits. Further research by Transitions—a national employee omnibus survey through Harris Interactive — showed that nearly half of employees don’t take advantage of their vision plan, either by not enrolling or not using it to get an eye exam.
These findings served as the catalyst for Transition Optical and Euro RSCG (Euro) to embark on a 2010 campaign to make HR executives more aware of vision care in general and, in particular, the benefits of having Transitions lenses as part of vision care plans. After all, 70% of eyeglasses are purchased from managed vision care plans—so HR execs were the top targets.
Transitions Optical and Euro have worked together since 2008 on the Transitions Healthy Sight Working for You (HSWFY) program. Its goal is to educate benefits professionals on the importance of healthy sight, vision care benefits and vision wear (like Transitions lenses) for employee health.
How would Euro go about furthering enhancing the HSWFY program, to change the behavior of HR pros and the benefits brokers who often advise them on their benefits selections? Through Transitions Optical’s existing industry event, Transitions Academy. In 2010 the Academy would be held January 31-February 2 at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort in Orlando. The yearly event features industry education and updates on Transitions Optical’s programs and lens options.
For this Academy, a special track called “See Well to Work Well: The Total Impact of Vision Benefits” would drive home the importance of vision care. Specific event objectives included:
• Raise awareness of the potential for vision coverage (eye exams and eyewear like Transitions lenses) to increase employee productivity and enhance overall health.
• Motivate use of HSWFY education tools by vision plans and their brokers.
• Provide opportunity to build and strengthen valuable relationships with vision plan reps and brokers.
• Generate credible content to be leveraged with HR media to further spread the program’s message.
BRING IN THE THOUGHT LEADERS
According to Angela Mineo, senior account executive at Euro, planning began for Transitions Academy in June 2009, picking up speed into the fall and holiday period leading up to the event at the beginning of 2010. A team of eight Euro employees work on the Transitions Optical account, and three of them specifically focused on the new managed care vision track, says Mineo.
The challenge in creating the new track, says Susan English, senior VP at Euro, is to come up with fresh topics and sessions that pique attendees interests. “We spent a lot of time reviewing attendee survey feedback from 2009, brainstorming internally and with Transitions, and consulting with our eye care and benefits experts to come up with new, innovative and timely topics,” says English. Planning for the track yielded the following tactics and execution:
â–¶ Identifying, recruiting and developing the presentations of key thought leaders. Highlighted speakers included ophthalmologist Vincent Young presenting “Eye Health in the Workplace: Spotlight on Women”; international researcher Dr. Kovin Naidoo of the International Center for Eye Care Education sharing U.S. findings from a global study on the impact of uncorrected vision on productivity; and Huot delivering the employee research results and a live demo of the HSC and the HSWFY Web site (www.healthysightworkingforyou.org).
The presentations on average took a month to create, says English. “While some are developed well in advance, we pay close attention to relevant trends, research and current events in the weeks leading up to the Academy,” she says.
â–¶ Developed a moderator’s guide. For an employer panel discussion addressing the role vision benefits can play in improving the bottom line, Euro produced a discussion starter guide with key points to cover. “While we certainly didn’t want the discussion to feel scripted, we found that having a guide ensured that some of the HR panelists’ best stories came out during the event,” says English.
â–¶ Launched a vision plan tool. The Healthy Sight Calculator (HSC) is a tool on the HSWFY Web site that allows employers to calculate potential healthcare cost and productivity savings through a vision plan, for their unique workforce. “This was an expensive leap of faith,” says Huot. But the move paid off (see the sidebar for more on developing these tools).
â–¶ Leveraged proactive, ongoing media relations strategies with HR and benefits brokers trade publications. “Over time, we have earned the media’s trust and persuaded them to run more stories related to vision benefits and eye health,” says English. Their attendance at the conference, continues English, allowed them to network with editors from optical publications through an exclusive media dinner. For those editors who couldn’t attend the event, Euro provided highlights via live tweets on the Transitions Twitter page.
The 2010 Transitions Academy drew more than 1,400 people to Orlando. More than 175 of them attended the targeted MVC track. For English, it was clear that while some attendees would change their behavior based on what they learned, others would fall back into old habits of treating the vision benefit as an afterthought.
“We learned this by making follow-up calls to several attendees to track results,” says English. Euro has since integrated a series of touch points with attendees throughout the year to help keep the message more top-of-mind over the long term.
A post-event participant survey found ratings to be high (see the chart for details). Other results include:
• Increased Use of Online Tools: Traffic to the HSWFY Web site tripled in 2010 over 2009; the HSC tool became the second-most visited page. Brokers ended up linking to the HSC tool, providing a valuable resource for customers. VSP, the largest vision plan provider (VPP), integrated the HSWFY Web site into its portal for benefits brokers.
• Partnerships with Vision Plan Providers (VPPs): The event was a valuable relationship-builder with VPPs, such as VSP and WellPoint. These VPPs created their Transitions-related PR and marketing initiatives across several media.
• Strong Media Coverage: HR media attention stemming from the event (17 non-paid placements) totaled 1.7 million trade impressions in 2010, including placements in five of Euro’s six most targeted HR/broker industry publications. Huot gives full credit to agency Euro for this media relations success: “They have been instrumental in setting the trade media strategy,” he says.
So what’s next for Euro RSCG and Transitions Optical? Based on the success of the Healthy Sight Calculator for employers, Transitions has launched a consumer version, which shows an individual’s risk for a wide range of vision-related issues. This kind of farsightedness should further Transitions Optical’s visibility in the eye care market. PRN