Navigating healthcare is complex, and perhaps never more intimidating or burdensome than the past couple of years. The COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world with tragedy and immense pressure on our healthcare systems; mental health challenges and illnesses are on the rise; and the cost and complexity of navigating the many options individuals and families face is unprecedented.
Bellmont Partners client Gravie is a health benefits company on a mission to lighten the load — improving the way people purchase and access healthcare, with a consumer-centric approach that’s breaking the mold. Comfort, launched in 2020, is the first-of-its-kind employer-sponsored health plan that provides 100% coverage on most common healthcare services, at a cost comparable to most traditional health plans. There are no hidden costs or surprise bills, and they are cutting out the confusing jargon and barriers to care and instead giving members coverage they can actually use. The plan offers an impressive list of no-cost services including preventive care, primary care, urgent care, specialist visits, labs and imaging, generic prescriptions, online care and more. (You can learn more about it here.)
We sat down with Libby Johnson, Gravie’s director of marketing, to talk about what it’s been like for her, leading marketing and communications during such a critical time for the company as well as such a dynamic period in the healthcare industry’s history.
What has it been like sitting in your seat in last 18+ months? What have been some of the communications challenges or shifts you’ve had to make in the past 18 months and what has your team learned?
We had our moments of panic in the beginning of the pandemic, as many did. Not being in the office together was something to adjust to at first, especially as we were launching a new product. From a marketing perspective, we had to re-evaluate our plans and make some shifts. In-person events, which had been an effective marketing tactic for us in the past, were no longer happening, and it seemed that all people wanted to talk about was COVID-19. We had to be mindful and tactful of how to join the conversation in a relevant way.
For starters, we had to take another look at our messaging – everything from customer communication to media pitches – to make sure that what we were presenting was tied to current events. We doubled down on digital communication, virtual meetings and hosted more webinars than ever before. We ended up seeing great success with these. In contrast to in-person events, there are fewer barriers to attend a virtual webinar – there’s no commute, no parking hassle, and some simply prefer attending from the comfort of their home. We were able to test some new incentives to participate in digital events that we expect to carry forward, even long after the pandemic directly affects in-person gatherings.
We’ve also grown to be more communicative in general – both internally and externally, with brokers, employer customers and members. A lot of people are working from home and in more isolated environments, and we’ve been in a position to help keep people informed – staying in front of brokers with news and updates as well as making sure members know what’s covered in their health plan, especially services that are more relevant than ever like online care and more.
One bright spot amid all the tragedy of the pandemic is that people are recognizing how important access to healthcare is and what needs to be prioritized, and I think this will continue to be true and something we can lead in.
Health insurance traditionally isn’t a very sexy industry; it’s not something consumers think about every day or feel particularly over the moon about. But it’s important. How is Gravie trying to change this and what role does communications and PR have in that?
The health benefits industry is really complicated and it’s gotten a bad rap with customer satisfaction. We’re setting out to change this, building innovative health benefit solutions that improve the way people purchase and access healthcare. Unlike traditional healthcare companies, we’re consumer-focused in all we do. It starts with core questions like, “why are health benefits so complicated?” and “why are they so expensive?” that lead us to building products and services that people actually need and want. Our brand experience plays a role in this as well — introducing bright colors and friendly faces, an easy-to-navigate member portal, and using more conversational language, eliminating the overly complicated jargon that people are used to.
We want it to be worth our members’ while – providing an experience more on par with a boutique gym membership with clear pricing and unlimited access to a set of no-cost services that can really make a difference in people’s health.
We’re also looking at industry trends that need to be brought into the healthcare industry, like the buy now, pay later (BNPL) model that’s seeing widespread adoption in retail. Gravie Pay is one of the first BNPL solutions in healthcare that allows members to pay for medical expenses subject to their out-of-pocket responsibility over time with zero interest.
While we’re pursuing these on-trend, consumer-centric experiences for our members, we’ve taken a similar approach with our communication and PR. Partnering with Bellmont is helpful in that when we need to be head-down focused on our business, Bellmont Partners helps us keep a pulse on what’s being talked about in the market. They help us think about what might be of interest to people, what voice we can have in the conversation and how to position our story and message in a way that makes audiences want to read it.
Gravie is a relatively young company – what are some of the challenges that come with leading a fast-growing company and how do you manage those?
We’ve been in business for over eight years, but still consider ourselves a start-up. We can be nimble and quick — we can see a need and respond to it, which makes for a very fast-paced environment. One of the things that can be challenging about working for an innovative company is that as you are constantly testing things, and you may get proven wrong or learn something new that changes the direction. While it can be frustrating to invest a lot of time on a campaign or project that ends up needing to be taken back to the drawing board, we recognize the importance of being flexible and its impact on the end product.
Internal communication is critical. At any given time, we might have five really “hot” priorities and when things move so quickly, it’s easy to miss bringing someone up to speed or relaying the right information. I probably overcommunicate with my team in an effort to prevent things from falling through the cracks.
What do you love most about your job? What excites you about marketing and communications?
I love the people I work with – they are smart, creative, friendly, and we share a mutual goal – to fix the broken healthcare system. I may hate them at times (joking), but these are people I spend time with outside of work, too.
It’s really rewarding to see Gravie succeeding. We’re improving peoples’ lives through our products and services, and it’s a great feeling. Marketing and communications plays and integral role in this. Fine-tuning and getting the right messages out to the right people is really exciting.
And, our favorite question, What’s Brewing for you? (morning and/or evening drinks!) What keeps you fueled or relaxed these days?
I keep it simple. I stick with coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. Since we’re still in the last few days of summer, white wine like sauvignon blanc is my go-to!