More than 200,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year, and millions more suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other conditions affecting the nervous system. The effects of these conditions on the nervous system are profound, and often leave individuals struggling with physical disability and deficits of the hand, arm and/or leg. These limitations are particularly frustrating because they take away a person’s independence. Not only are patients unable to do the things they love—such as sports and travel—but in some cases they are unable to simply complete the daily tasks of life, such as getting dressed in the morning, brushing their teeth, and cooking for themselves.
Enter Bioness, Inc., a company that has developed an advance in the field of neurostimulation that offers hope for those suffering from mobility issues following a neurological condition or event. Bioness’ devices are externally-worn neurostimulation systems designed to restore function and provide recovery to individuals who suffer from neurological conditions and disorders. The Foot Drop System L300™ is designed to target the roughly 2.5 million individuals in the U.S. who suffer from foot drop. The H200® Hand Rehab System is designed for the roughly 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. who suffer from upper extremity hemiparalysis often caused by stroke, TBI and SCI.
Bioness engaged Schwartz Communcations to promote its FES technologies at the community and trade level, and drive informed patient demand. While this campaign was successful, at the beginning of 2009 Bioness presented new business goals to Schwartz, focusing on the MS and stroke patient communities – Bioness’ two largest patient populations that had not been specifically targeted with the PR campaign. Bioness wanted to reach these large audiences through high profile national media, in addition to the grass roots local PR and trade exposure the company was receiving.
Business Challenge• Increase Bioness’ presence in national consumer media
• Drive awareness of NESS products among the multiple sclerosis and stroke communities
• Measure PR’s impact on the company’s business goals
Schwartz PR Strategy
Bioness’ user list is peppered with amazing stories of average citizens who have been able to do extraordinary things because they regained the most basic function of life—mobility—with the Bioness devices. Working with Bioness, Schwartz uncovered a valuable resource - the stories of everyday people whose lives have been changed by Bioness’ technology. Leveraging these stories on the local and national level, the PR program consisted of two elements:
Local/Regional media campaign—designed to highlight rehabilitation centers where Bioness technology is available and profile local “heroes” who had overcome seemingly insurmountable odds with the Bioness technology and gained their mobility back. In addition to helping drive coverage locally, Schwartz and the Bioness team also uncovered patient stories in the MS and stroke communities that could be leveraged to the national audience.
National media campaign—designed to leverage Bioness’ best asset—the many stories of patients who have been positively influenced by the technology. Schwartz and Bioness worked together to establish relationships directly with patients whereby our team would contact the patients regularly to mine for personal milestones/updates in their recovery that represent a notable news hook for national media.
The campaign was a huge success, surpassing all of the aggressive goals set at the onset of the project.
Bioness patient Jonna Patton, who walked down the aisle at her wedding as a result of the Bioness device, was featured in an eight-minute segment on NBC’s The Today Show. The segment resulted in:
• A 400 percent increase in web hits to Bioness’ site in just one day
• Phone and web inquiries to Bioness were doubled for the next two week
• The company reported a six month in uptick in sales
Additionally, in May 2009 ABC’s Good Morning America featured a story on patient Joe Breiner’s battle to regain mobility and function in his arm and hand with the Bioness H200 after a stroke. The two minute long segment resulted in:
• More than 3 million viewers and pick-up on five ABC affiliates
• A 64 percent increase over normal volume to Bioness’ Web site
• Scores of anecdotal feedback from customers and their patients
To cap off the year, on December 28, 2009, a story in USA Today on the use of the Bioness L300 featured a former naval officer who suffered a stroke. The article highlights the device’s many benefits in helping patients regain their quality of life. While the impact of the story is still being felt, Bioness did report an increase in calls to the company’s call center the day the story appeared.
Over 13 million people heard about Bioness devices through print and broad-cast coverage alone in 2009.
Overall business impact—The surge in media coverage has positively impacted the bottom line. The company attributes more than $4 million in sales directly to leads from the PR campaign over the past year. The campaign exceeded expectations and resulted in an expansion of the program for 2010.