Benchmark Assisted Living is the largest assisted living company in New England and one of the top 10 in the nation. Despite tremendous growth, 200 percent in the last three years, and an excellent reputation within the industry, the Wellesley Hills, Mass.-based company was not well known in the New England business community. In order to continue its growth, Benchmark needed to gain additional exposure with business leaders outside of the assisted living industry and maintain its excellent reputation in an industry at times marred by controversy. The challenge of the situation was that assisted living was a business industry that few reporters “cared” about. No reporter followed the industry or was assigned to write about the ups and downs of the industry and/or its players.
Additionally, in the fall of 2004, Benchmark was poised to complete two of the largest deals in the history of the company. Benchmark asked O’Neill and Associates to create a public relations plan that would gain the attention of the Boston business community. The two deals Benchmark would be completing were: a $160 million acquisition of nine Village Retirement communities throughout Southern New England in one of the largest transactions in the assisted living industry in five years and a $148 million recapitalization with the Kuwait Finance House of Benchmark’s longest held portfolio.
O’Neill and Associates developed a communication plan for Benchmark that included media briefings with leading New England reporters, press material development and news story pitching ideas, including capitalizing on the many award opportunities presented to Benchmark. O’Neill and Associates also created a comprehensive crisis plan for the organization for use in all its residences.
O’Neill and Associates announced each deal individually and afterwards pitched the cumulative story of Benchmark’s major financial dealings and the impact that had on the size and capability of the company. O’Neill and Associates also decided to focus on real estate reporters as the assisted living industry is trying to make it very clear that it is different than skilled nursing homes. Target publications included the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal and papers covering the regions of the acquired properties.
O’Neill and Associates successes on behalf of Benchmark include:
- Solid business brief coverage of individual deals throughout New England and the markets where the communities were sold;
- An excellent page three article by the Boston Business Journal;
- A well-placed story on the front page of the Boston Globe’s Real Estate section with large photographs of CEO Tom Grape interacting with residents;
- Feature as one of the fastest growing private companies by the Boston Business Journal;
- An executive profile of Tom Grape, highlighting the success he has had growing the company from a start up in 1997 to the largest assisted living provider in New England, in the Boston Business Journal;
- Excellent trade coverage of Benchmark’s two financial deals; and
- Positive coverage in regional and local papers where Benchmark was acquiring properties.
About working with O’Neill and Associates, Benchmark Chairman and CEO Tom Grape says, “Working with O’Neill and Associates is a pleasure. They were user friendly, responsive and creative about helping accomplish our goals.”
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