Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 29, 2009

Coyne PR, Humana ‘Quick on Their Bike’ in ‘Bike-partisan’ Freewheelin’ Program

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Coyne Public Relations and Humana were both.

In a brand building campaign for health insurance provider Humana, Coyne PR took Humana’s bike borrowing program freewheelin’ to the 2008 political conventions.

As Coyne PR explained to PRSA 2009 International Conference in “Share and Share-a-bike: Humana Brings Bike-sharing to National Political Conventions,” partnership was a crucial part of their strategy. Working with Bikes Belong, a mission to put more people on bicycles lent credibility and guaranteed that the bikes and healthy living would really be the focus.

Through bike donations from companies like Trek, Humana provided 1,000 bikes to host cities Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul for use by anyone during each convention.

Coyne PR also ensured that the entire project was “green” by reducing paper use and using only green, recyclable products in all promotions and materials, down to the ties on banners at the freewheelin’ tents.

Though they had great preparation, there’s no substitute for having room for adjustment and being quick on your feet. Humana and Coyne never had to crack open their detailed crisis communications plan, but when hit with a potential roadblock, they found a way to incorporate it into their existing strategy.

When Hurricane Gustav struck, a tragedy that could have derailed the freewheelin’ campaign, Humana rallied around the cause and adapted their plan by offering to donate $10 to the American Red Cross for every mile traveled on a freewheelin’ bike.

The donation program allowed freewheelin’ to continue and also added a greater layer of importance to what was already a campaign about health and wellness.

Through “bike-partisan” messaging, the project got the backing of many legislators and saw  2,342 stories and 185.7 million media impressions.

Key legislators hosted their own rides throughout both events, allowing the team to generate press in those legislators’ hometowns, and the Coyne team accommodated when celebrities like Tom Brokaw and the cast of “The Daily Show” showed up to take a ride.

Coyne’s goal with this event was to have riders log 25,000 miles, one million calories burned and 4.4 metric tons carbon offset. They easily exceeded those goals. In the end, they logged 41,724 miles, 1.3 million calories burned and 14.6 metric tons offset.

While much of the campaign’s outcome came from Humana and Coyne PR’s extensive planning, it was their adaptation and reaction to the news around them that allowed it to be a complete success. For two weeks, not a single negative word about Humana appeared in the press.

Today, freewheelin’ lives on as a community bike program at

Jacob Sloan, lead social media strategist, Wieck MediaBy Jacob Sloan, lead social media strategist, Wieck Media, a public relations technology provider and social media practice specializing in online newsrooms with clients including Ford, The New York Times, Southwest Airlines and Baylor Health Care System. Connect with Jacob on LinkedIn and Twitter.

For coverage of the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, visit our Conference blog or follow the conversation on Twitter at hashtag #prsa09.

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