What’s Brewing with Libby Johnson, Director of Marketing, Gravie

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!

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