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CURA Strategies: Transforming Healthcare via Strategic Communication

CURA Strategies | Anne Woodbury
CURA Strategies | Anne Woodbury

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the healthcare industry, policies, innovation, research, and system transformations are happening constantly. To stay on top of it all and execute the strategy-making and communication work, ‘PR Agencies’ come into the picture.

Since technology has opened new doors of communication, PR agencies have been able to do more work with lesser hassle. Gathering information, analyzing the policies, connecting organizations, researching to approach the target audience, and making strategies for clients is what these agencies do.

PR doesn’t just exist to promote their clients but to also help them further in the industry. CURA Strategies, founded in 2016, is a Virginia-based PR agency that is helping its clients by strategic communication and public affairs in the health care industry. Since the agency was founded, Anne Woodbury, the CEO and Co-Founder has focused on transforming healthcare and wellness. Over 25 years of experience helped Anne to make an agency that is known for issue-based communication and great team culture.

In the following interview, Anne talks about the key aspects of her organization and shares some interesting insights from the industry.

Please brief our audience about CURA Strategies, its values, and the aspects that make it a leading player in the healthcare PR space.

CURA Strategies is an award-winning bipartisan integrated strategic communications and public affairs agency that is focused on transforming health care. At CURA, we understand that many innovative healthcare organizations struggle to disrupt the status quo and break through the noise to reach the right audiences. Our team’s depth of knowledge in health and health policy enables us to mobilize our clients’ missions by executing communications and advocacy campaigns that motivate the right people to take transformative action. 

Our name, CURA— Latin for “care, concern, attention to others”—exemplifies who we are to our clients, to our team, and to the health care system. Our mission is to take exceptional care of our clients so they can transform the health care system and improve lives. At CURA, we operate with CURAge—bold leadership to improve society and help others. Whereas courage is self-focused and individualized, CURAge is others-focused and team-centered.

 Brief us about how you have set yourself apart from the competition through your expertise in healthcare PR and communication?

Our expertise in health care policy, government relations, and coalition development are what sets CURA apart from other health care public relations agencies. While we offer the full suite of standard integrated communications services (e.g., campaign/media strategy development, creative brand services, stakeholder engagement, etc.), it is our steeped experience operating at the intersection of health care and public affairs that makes us unique.

Government legislation and regulation can narrow or expand access to health care innovations with a stroke of a pen. Organizations can thrive or wither based on their ability to anticipate and influence policy decisions.

In the six years since our company was founded, we have created, launched, and managed nine national issue-based coalitions to influence policymaking and/or raise awareness of an important health issue. We believe we can help our clients navigate the policy landscape better than any other PR agency—and it is this unique capability that helped us secure the distinction of Global and North American New Agency of the Year by PRovoke in 2018 and landed us over 20 other industry awards wins and nominations.

 What other services does CURA Strategies offer, and how are you making an impact in the global healthcare industry?

Another service offering unique to CURA is that we serve as staff for many of the coalitions we have built, including Honor the Gift, Mental Health for the US, and Advocates for Opioid Recovery. We empower our clients by handling high-level planning and leadership responsibilities as well as managing day-to-day operations throughout the lifespan of our client’s campaigns, often acting as the turn-key staff.

We are able to seamlessly execute all aspects of the organization, from ideation and initial branding to strategy development and daily operations. Through these coalitions, we are shaping health policies to improve lives.

For example, through our work with Honor the Gift, a national patient-centered campaign created and managed by CURA Strategies and supported by a national coalition of kidney and transplant organizations, we successfully helped pass legislation to extend Medicare’s immunosuppressive medication coverage that others have attempted but failed to pass for 20 years. This new law will ensure that kidney transplant patients will never have to worry about coverage for their immunosuppressive medications.

 Anne, tell us about your journey in the PR space and how you have made an impact on the CURA Strategies through your role.

My career in healthcare reform and transformation started in Washington, DC, over 27 years ago when I started working for my local Congressmember, Newt Gingrich, just six months before he became Speaker of the House. When he went on to the American Enterprise Institute, I worked for him as a project assistant on a health care transformation project where we would spend days speaking with CEOs in almost every industry.

This provided us with information that would serve as the foundation of the book we wrote together—Saving Lives and Saving Money. Our book, which outlined commonsense strategies to improving health care, received bipartisan endorsements and served as a source for various state and federal health policies.

Twelve years later, craving a new adventure, I joined FleishmanHillard, a global public relations and marketing agency. I had plenty of experience in communications, but my knowledge of traditional public relations was slim. Paul Johnson, FleishmanHillard’s regional President at the time, took a chance on the PR rookie that I was, and I will forever be grateful.

Four years went by, and I decided to open and manage the Washington, D.C., office of small health care public relations firm called TogoRun, which was a sister agency to FleishmanHillard. After seven years of managing, I found that one of the most career-building assignments was spending three years serving as the global communications leader for Philips Healthcare.

During this time, we were doing mostly corporate communications and marketing, but very little public affairs. It quickly became clear to me that my communications clients, as well as most of the health care C-suite, had limited knowledge of the government’s influence over their business. TogoRun is thus where I developed my passion for building a bridge between government affairs and strategic communications.

While I will forever be grateful for my experience and for my team at TogoRun, in 2016, I decided to take the leap to launch CURA Strategies, a health care communications and advocacy agency that works with transformational clients and is known for issue-based communications—as well as great team culture. I am overjoyed with how far we have come in the past six years.

 Being an experienced leader, share with us your opinion on how the adoption of modern technologies and platforms within PR and communications has transformed the industry and what more could be expected in the near future?

Technology has enabled so many welcomed changes in communications. The internet, social media platforms, the emergence of podcasts, and subscription TV platforms has expanded our ability to satisfy every niche interest and find communities of people with shared values, priorities, and interests. It has also created micro-influencers, which means identifying the ‘who’ and the ‘how’ to make an impact is a key skill. This trend makes me even more confident in CURA’s focus on wellbeing and health care and skills in delivering the best outcomes for our clients.

Traditional media relations remain important, but there are so many other tools we have at our disposal now. Digital marketing—from paid digital advertising to email nurture campaigns—are tools we are using every day that was not as prevalent for PR firms to use even five years ago. In general, the line between public relations and marketing continues to blur, which I think is a very good thing. To make the biggest impact, we must take an integrated approach to communications, marketing, and advocacy. Long gone are the days of siloed tactics.

 What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the healthcare PR sector?

Health care is a big part of the economy. Keep your mind open to opportunities, but also consider subspecializing in a particular area of health care. And in the process so finding your subspeciality, soak in as much information and experience as you can—to the extent you can, try to have a diverse client portfolio of different sized clients, so your business is not totally reliant on one big client.

Even if you do everything right, you could quickly lose the business because of things that are out of your control, e.g., the CEO changes and deprioritizes your project, your client contact quits, and the new person wants to bring in the firm she worked with before or take the business totally in-house, or the product does not get approved. Having a mix of clients helps you spread out the risk. Additionally, be very deliberate to hire the best people you can and take as much care of your employees as you do your clients.

 Where do you envision CURA Strategies to be in the long run, and what are your goals for 2022 and beyond?

We just celebrated our six-year anniversary, so this is a great time for this question. We do the same type of communications that other health care organizations do, but we found our unique sweet spot in issue-based communications. That certainly includes advocacy, but it is also about stakeholder engagement, corporate thought leadership—or as we call it, thought partnership—and asking big questions and catalyzing and convening other mission-minded entities to help find the answers. This is where CURA really shines.

We love working with change-makers, building coalitions, engaging diverse stakeholders, and leveraging the right communications tools at the right time to lean in on issues while also building our clients’ reputations.

This is a key reason we have a team of bipartisan government relations professionals in-house. Beyond making new laws, the government also serves as a regulator and a payer and is one of the biggest influences in health care. If change is what the client seeks, there is likely a government lever that needs to be pulled.

We try not to put ourselves in a box. Some may see it as patient advocacy, market access, market-shaping, thought leadership, government affairs, public affairs, cause marketing, or social marketing. It does not really matter to us. If a client is seeking to make systemic transformational change in health care and is looking for a trusted partner, we want CURA to be their first call. That is our goal.

 Client Endorsements

  • “In CURA, we found not only a top-notch creative, organized, and results-driven PR firm, but also a true extension of our team. It’s invaluable to work with people who anticipate the needs of your organization and are quick and willing to meet changing goals.”
    – Nicole Napoli, American College of Cardiology
  • “With CURA Strategies, we’ve found a truly excellent partner in our government affairs and advocacy efforts. They provide us a comprehensive one-stop-shop for strategic advice, grassroots organizing, communications, and legislative activities in the service of our community and have truly integrated as part of our team. Their command of the healthcare landscape, particularly around kidney health issues, is helping us achieve important outcomes in support of our patient and research communities.”
    – Chris Rusconi, Chief Research Officer, PKD Foundation
  • “Transforming healthcare takes more than stories placed in top-tier media. CURA delivers on that for AOR, but they also know how to shape opinions and make change happen. They are a great strategic and operational partner. The success of AOR is a testament to their hard work, intelligence, and dedication.”
    – Newt Gingrich, Advocates for Opioid Recovery (AOR) Advisor




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