Wednesday, September 06, 2017

For Obamacare insurance plans, a get-the-word-out challenge begins

When the health insurance exchanges for Obamacare first emerged, I heard from many that were puzzling over how best and whether to use social media to inform potential enrollees--after all, insurance isn't all that Instagrammable at first glance.

But with the Trump administration slashing outreach funds to inform citizens about their options under Obamacare insurance plans by 90 percent, a get-the-word-out challenge has begun, and those exchanges that laid some groundwork stand in good stead to meet the challenge.

The cuts are steep: The ad budget goes from $100 million to $10 million, and in-person enrollment visits are cut 41 percent. I'm not a big believer in the nonprofit world taking up the slack when the government fails to meet its obligations, but I like people to know about their options more.

So what's an exchange to do? Here are a few thoughts to get you started on ramping up your outreach:
  • Assess what you are doing now: Make this a new baseline, even if your numbers are small. Eventually, the ability to document how many people you reached during this time will be not only newsworthy but useful in defending the program. Think ahead to what you will want to be able to demonstrate.
  • What needs to shift? Are you in the right social media channels for your audiences? Do you need to add or subtract anything? Where does it make the most sense to put your efforts right now? Are there new options since your last campaign to consider?
  • Use the cuts to spice up your approach: Call it the insurance option they don't want you to know about, and don't be afraid to note that the ad budget's been cut and you need everyone to get the word out. Pushing the rhetoric up a notch might help catch attention just now. Do continue to share benefits others have found under the program to encourage enrollees: short videos, photos with long captions, guest posts.
  • What new communication partners can you call on to help spread the word? Craft a simple public service announcement and send it to area businesses, media outlets, nonprofits, and other groups--all of them have an interest in having healthy employees and customers. Add a note that the marketing budget from the government has been cut severely and that you need the help. Make your simple announcement in several formats--video, audio, text, scripts to be read--and provide contact information. Make all that shareable, and let your potential partners know which formats they have at their fingertips. Ask for social media as well as traditional media shares.
  • Ask enrollees to share their experiences and your recruitment messages: They know best how well the program works, so ask them to post those experiences and share your social media messages with their circles.
  • Go to your donors: Having served in both sectors, I am not a fan of private philanthropy picking up the slack for the government, but now is a time to ask donors for small focused amounts for publicity and advertising. Facebook ads, billboards, sponsored posts all can be sponsored by your donors. Or ask for funds to improve your videos and get them placed more widely. A donor can maximize her funds by supporting a "clinic" on effective video or a tutorial on Facebook ads for several exchanges at once.
  • Consider limited-budget Facebook ads: You'd be surprised how well-targeted and inexpensive boosted posts and standard ads are on Facebook--try $25 or $50 or $100 to start. You can kill the ad or pause it at any time, and you can get very specific in terms of demographics and geographic reach so the effort is highly targeted. A worthy experiment at this particular time.
  • It's a great time to become a local news angle: The federal budget cut gives you the perfect hook to call local TV and radio stations and newspapers to plead your case. Have your numbers ready on what you were able to do with the funding, and what the cuts mean going forward. Use any interview to note not only how individuals can get info, but that you need those aforementioned partners to help get the word out. Get in touch with the same outlets midway through the enrollment cycle for an update, and a week or two before the end of the cycle for an "ending soon" call to action. Have some prepared enrollees willing to talk to the media, if possible
  • Call on board members and volunteers to recruit help: All hands on deck: Ask board members and volunteers for ideas, to call their contacts, and to work on media appearances or other tasks. Provide them with talking points and prep for interviews. Many board members have contacts who can let you take over their ads for a day or who can work you into their marketing for a short time, so ask.
If exchanges wish to share other ideas at the links below, please do and I'll round them up in another post. Share this one with an exchange near you!

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Carl Lender)

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