2012 PR People Awards: Crisis Manager of the Year

Winner: Tony Felts

Public Relations Director, WellPoint

In 2011 Tony Felts and WellPoint faced several high-profile media issues, such as litigation, provider negotiations/terminations, the Supreme Court's consideration of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the Medical Loss Ratio Rebates (MLR) required under the newly enacted law. Due to the uncertainty and unpredictability of these media events, Felts tirelessly worked to prepare for all potential outcomes for each issue.

In advance of the Supreme Court's expected consideration of the Affordable Care Act in 2012, Felts initiated a comprehensive communications effort to develop messages and strategic outreach planning around this hotly anticipated decision, with a particular focus on how various outcomes might impact the company's bottom line and corporate reputation. Throughout this process, Felts secured national and local media coverage, much of which referenced WellPoint's statement to continue working with other stakeholders to provide secure and affordable health coverage. His media relations advice: “Never answer a reporter’s question or respond to an e-mail in the heat of the moment,” says Felts. “Better to wait. Take a deep breath. Think. And only then may you speak.”

Felts took many deep breaths as WellPoint grappled with several high-profile legal battles, including a class-action lawsuit against the company based on its conversion from a mutual insurer to a publicly traded company more than a decade ago. As part of the ongoing communications support around this litigation, Felts developed a comprehensive strategy to accommodate a variety of scenarios, as well as media materials. —Scott Van Camp

Honorable Mentions:

Will Dempster, Director, Qorvis

Richard Tauberman, Executive Vice President, MWW

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