Fred Rogers, the iconic host of the children’s TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” once said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say: ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”
During the past year, with COVID-19 changing the healthcare landscape like never before, full-service marketing and PR agency Amendola Communications worked closely with its healthcare, health IT, and life sciences clients who have led the way as “helpers.”
Through new, innovative media relations, content marketing, lead gen/sales enablement, branding/messaging, and digital marketing strategies, Amendola ensured its clients’ messages rose above the noise to highlight their solutions and services that have expanded the arsenal in the worldwide fight against the pandemic.
“We are so proud that our clients fit the ‘helper’ description to at, whether they are transferring patients quickly to much-needed specialty care, offering technologies to monitor patients with COVID-19 for earlier interventions, improving clinician communication, or providing new and better ways to conduct clinical trials,” agency CEO Jodi Amendola said.
Many of the agency’s clients quickly adapted their existing products and services to bring value during the pandemic, and others created completely new solutions, she explained.
“This has been a year like no other,” Amendola said. “Yet in many ways, we’ve been training for it for the entire 18 years, we have been in business, which is why we were able to successfully navigate uncharted waters. When the pandemic hit, we were able to guide our clients strategically and began working with them to pivot their marketing, media relations, and social media strategies to take advantage of new opportunities and rise above the noise.”
She added: “The result was a successful year, despite the pandemic. I am so proud of what we achieved, both internally and for our clients, and the ‘whatever it takes’ mindset our staff demonstrated throughout such difficult, unprecedented times.”
Among the year’s highlights were signing on more than a dozen new ongoing retainer clients, a significant expansion to the agency’s “A-Team,” recognition with several industry awards, and pro bono work to support a charitable healthcare organization.
Reinventing the approach to media relations
While the past year has been filled with contributions and sacrifices by many, some of the unsung heroes are the journalists that Amendola works with every day.
“When things began changing in the U.S. last March, reporters, and editors were quickly inundated with COVID-19 news, many journalists were furloughed, and like Americans everywhere, not only were they busier than ever with their work, but many had to juggle other responsibilities such as a virtual school for children,” Amendola said. “Some reporters were no longer available via office numbers since they were working virtually, and some even had ‘away’ messages on their email stating they probably could not return messages because they were so overwhelmed. In addition, the healthcare providers who often serve as champions in telling our clients’ stories were understandably busy on the front lines and often were not available for media interviews.”
With all of that in mind, Amendola Communications’ team quickly and nimbly pivoted its media relations strategy so clients’ stories would continue to stand out, including:
- Finding novel approaches to guiding client thought leaders in explaining why their technology, services or other offerings were more relevant than ever in the midst of COVID-19.
- Introducing new client products focused on COVID-specific use cases by telling meaningful stories about their value on the front lines and including metrics that made the information interesting to journalists—and their readers.
- Significantly increasing podcast and video interview media opportunities (and marketing initiatives), to personalize clients’ visibility with key stakeholders during pandemic isolation.
“Despite the challenging circumstances, we had more—and higher-value—media placements in the past year than ever before,” Amendola said. “Often it took 5x the effort it would have in a typical pitching environment, but we did not use the typical strategies, and that paid off. Not only did we get our clients key placements in top trade media outlets, but we also increased national media coverage during the most challenging year we can remember—including major hits in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNBC, Cheddar, Forbes, Boston Globe, Reuters, STAT, USA Today, Politico, The Hill, and many others.”
In addition, with in-person conferences postponed and canceled, the A-Team provided strategic counsel and execution for new marketing programs around virtual conferences and webinars—and found new ways to garner media interest in activities related to these events.
The agency also grew its digital marketing program and achieved exceptional results for clients, while also integrating digitally-driven strategies throughout the agency—including in-depth media monitoring and reporting to demonstrate ROI.
Bucking economic trends
While many organizations, including agencies, saw a decrease in business during the past year due to the slowing economy, Amendola was successful in expanding its business through a combination of outstanding client retention, program expansion with current clients, and the addition of new clients—most of whom came to Amendola based on personal recommendations or due to their successful work with the agency when they were at other companies.
“Repeat business and referrals are the highest compliments anyone can pay to us,” Amendola said.
All told, Amendola Communications brought on more than a dozen new annual retainer clients during the past year, while also expanding the breadth and depth of the agency portfolio with new types of clients.
Of note, Amendola Communications:
- Added a number of new life sciences clients to its already robust healthcare and health IT roster, including those involved in COVID-19 clinical trials (as well as non-COVID trials), medical device companies such as needleless injection technology to increase vaccination adherence, and digital therapeutics, which FDA categorizes as “software as a medical device.”
- Expanded its healthcare provider client base, including a large regional healthcare provider in New York State, and a third successful year with the largest air medical provider in the country.
- Began doing more work with clients who have an international presence, including work in Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the agency expanded its internal expertise by hiring additional team members focused on writing, digital marketing, media relations, social media and account management and strategy. Amendola also promoted a number of team members, including a senior account director promoted to general manager, and hired a human resources manager.
At home with giving
During a time when giving back is more important than ever, Amendola also continued its ongoing relationship with Phoenix-based Help In Healing Home Foundation, which offers low-cost lodging and care to patients (and their caregivers) recovering from major surgeries and transplants as well as those undergoing long-term cancer treatment.
Amendola manages public relations and social media services for the charitable organization on a pro bono basis, and CEO Amendola serves on the organization’s board.
Another measure of Amendola’s success has been the record number of accolades received during the past year. The agency’s recent winning streak has included:
- Being named a finalist in PR News’ 2020 Platinum PR Awards for its strategic integrated PR, social media and digital campaign with Air Methods, a leading national air medical services company.
- Ragan Communications recognizing Jodi Amendola in the “Leaders” category in its inaugural “Top Women in Communications” Awards.
- The Bulldog PR Awards honoring Amendola with a Gold award for a crisis communication campaign for Air Methods and a Silver award for a product launch campaign for long-time client Vocera Communications.
- Amendola earning top honors in Ragan’s 2020 PR Daily Awards in multiple industry and award categories, including a win in the Thought Leadership Campaign category for Kaufman Hall; and Honorable Mentions for Healthcare Media Relations Campaign of the Year and Grand Prize PR Campaign of the Year for Biofourmis, and Healthcare Thought Leadership Campaign for Air Methods.
Amendola said: “We are extremely proud of our industry awards, but the biggest reward we could ever ask for are all of the clients who have let us know that our work with them during this year of uncertainty has made a difference—for the better.”