Healthcare PR

Generating healthy ROI for an innovative healthcare startup

Discover how Sterling Communications built a robust branding, content, and public relations program for a Silicon Valley healthcare startup tackling one of medicine’s toughest challenges.

Swiffer and Duracell may not seem like they have much in common with prediabetes, but Karl Ronn was always the type of leader to see hidden connections.

Karl’s research work on consumer packaged goods for Procter & Gamble led to a fundamental realization about the healthcare industry: “Patients are people, not a disease they have.” Chronic disease continues to grow despite increased spending on disease management. While habit change is hard, the focus has to be on enabling them to make the needed changes. That takes time and understanding how we can support them in the small changes that fit into their life. This means taking a different approach of being more supportive, less prescriptive.

Yet, if you’ve ever seen a toothpaste commercial, you’ll know that selling fresh breath is far more effective for sales than preventing cavities. 

Almost 100 million Americans have prediabetes. Left untreated, prediabetes develops into type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease that costs the U.S. healthcare system $412.9 billion a year and takes years off patients’ lives. Ozempic, Wegovy, and other medicines have proven to help with weight loss — unless patients stop paying for their injections.

Karl wanted to know if there were proven, permanent solutions to not just preventing prediabetes but reversing it. Gathering dust at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was a lifestyle change program clinically proven to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% for all participants, and a whopping 71% for participants over 60. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) was all about taking small steps needed to build sustainable, healthy habits.

There was only one problem: Few doctors and almost no patients even knew about it. Karl saw his opening, and joined up with the innovation arm of the American Medical Association to incubate a company to bring it to market in a completely new way. First Mile Care was born.


Joining forces with Sterling Communications

To help craft First Mile Care’s marketing messages and publicity programs, Karl partnered with Sterling Communications. He wanted to establish a clear online presence and raise awareness with medical providers and physicians to kickstart the enrollment process.


Nailing the messaging for company launch

Sterling Communications collaborated closely with First Mile Care to develop a dynamic website that effectively communicates the company’s mission, values, and offerings to its target audience. In parallel, Sterling worked hand-in-hand with First Mile Care to craft compelling messaging that captured the essence of the company’s vision and resonated with key stakeholders. This messaging was then integrated into the company launch press release, which served as a cornerstone for announcing First Mile Care’s entry into the market, generating buzz, and garnering media attention.


A subject matter expert-led strategy

First Mile Care’s DPP program is run at the hyperlocal level by zip code and led by a nutritional coach. Each week, classes focus on education around wellness topics such as nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep, and hydration. Our mission was clear — leverage the vast wealth of knowledge from the team of First Mile Care wellness coaches to showcase the results of program participants. Sterling’s content program focused on both owned and earned media to distinguish First Mile Care as a leader in the pack.


The power of a company blog

The First Mile Care company blog sets the stage as the perfect platform to showcase the broad bench of health coach expertise. Through close collaboration with subject matter experts, our content team produced 70 wellness blog posts that coincided with the weekly program curriculum. Consistently sourcing information was key. By repurposing virtual webinars hosted by the coaches and independently identifying original content topics for written Q&A’s, our team consistently met our editorial goal of two blog posts a month.


Real results, real impact: First Mile Care’s DPP success stories shine

Stories have significantly higher news value when they feature real people and real results. For companies, this means showcasing customer stories. We interviewed 13 program participants who completed First Mile Care’s DPP to exhibit results such as weight loss, lowered A1C levels, or complete prediabetes reversal.

Through a proactive media outreach strategy, the health transformation story from Al Cisneros Jr., a Tomball, Texas resident who locally completed the DPP by First Mile Care, was profiled in the Houston Chronicle. Cisneros joined the program after his doctor recommended it, and began making smart choices to get healthy and stave off his pre-diabetes diagnosis. The transformation columnist, Lindsay Peyton, loved the story and wrote about Al’s transformation with First Mile Care, resulting in a front-page cover story for the newspaper. Boasting 3.1 million unique monthly visitors, the full story is also available online.


First Mile Care’s strategic content propels publicity success

A built-out library of content put First Mile Care in the optimal position to proactively pitch the media to garner consistent coverage. By responding to timely journalist requests with a library of approved content, First Mile Care garnered 35 media mentions, including the Huffington Post (10 Foods With Serving Sizes That Are Way Smaller Than You Thought) and Eat This, Not That! (The 5 Best Lifestyle Habits That Will Keep You Feeling Young, Science Says).

“Your brain ages just like the rest of your body as part of the natural aging process. It shrinks, slows down, and becomes less adaptable to change. Therefore, to stay healthy, it’s critical to stretch your brain as well your heart, legs, and other muscles.” — Eat This, Not That!


Elevating leadership through industry perspectives

Executives serving as thought leaders and publishing industry perspectives play a crucial role in shaping the narrative and direction of their respective industries. To establish healthcare expertise, First Mile Care executives and DPP coaches participated in the ongoing thought leadership campaign.

Ultimately, thought leadership enables executives to influence and drive positive change for their companies and missions. As the company reaches milestones and expands, communications efforts can adapt to showcase this growth.

“Sterling Communications has been instrumental in providing strategic guidance that elevates our content pipeline and workflow. The team’s expertise in industry positioning and insightful thought leadership experience has proven invaluable for crafting compelling messaging. With their guidance, we’ve been able to leverage our staff’s expertise more effectively, resulting in a seamless and efficient content creation process. Their partnership has truly elevated our company’s presence and ensures we showcase growth publicly as our program expands. ” — Karl Ronn, founder & CEO

Expanded partner ecosystem, expanded content

When First Mile Care partnered with UT Houston’s Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research (CHPPR) to implement DPP lifestyle change programs in Texas clinics, the Sterling team initiated and managed end-to-end collaboration of content opportunities. 

Showcasing significant growth, First Mile Care is a perfect case study for its funders Health2047, an innovation subsidiary of the American Medical Association. When Chicago Medicine coordinated a feature on Health2047’s portfolio companies, First Mile Care’s program maturity and patient program results was an obvious company to feature. 

Raise your brand awareness. Increase your industry influence. Build your thought leadership. Sterling Communications is here for you.

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