Building the iBio Hub:
Leveraging Earned Media to Expand the
llinois Life Sciences Ecosystem
In January 2022, the Illinois life sciences community had reached a pivotal moment—not only had it seen considerable growth in recent years, but the sector also was poised for rapid expansion. In order to capitalize on that growth, the Illinois Biotechnology Innovation Organization (iBIO)—the state trade association that represents nearly 91,000 biosciences jobs in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries—needed help. The group sought an agency that would elevate not only iBIO’s work, but also the state’s life sciences community, to key stakeholders. Given the agency’s successful strategic communications and healthcare and business media experience, a major local pharmaceutical company executive recommended The Harbinger Group (THG) to iBIO.
In an effort to elevate iBIO among key audiences, which include investors, legislators and current and future biotech members, THG immediately set to work spotlighting the organization’s many contributions to the greater Illinois business and life sciences communities. In detail, that work has included:
As America’s third largest city and the economic heart of Illinois, Chicago possesses all the trappings of a premier “big bio” hub—infrastructure, technology, and institutions that support life sciences sector work. Despite this, other major metropolitan areas have also gained traction as biosciences centers, attracting significant investments, biotech corporate headquarters and more. To compete at a national level, iBIO needed to increase its brand exposure to elevate Illinois as an ideal location for life sciences audiences to plant their roots and grow.
At a Glance
THG saw its opportunity to elevate iBIO as the epicenter of the Illinois life sciences ecosystem when the organization began preparing for the announcement of its new chairwoman, Marilyn Vetter. The announcement represented an opportunity to highlight how critical the life sciences industry had become in Illinois, as well as a moment to position iBIO as a forward-thinking biosciences group.
Together with THG, iBIO used the introduction of its new chairwoman to discuss plans for the next three years of the Illinois life sciences industry, including greater industry investment, as well as details about pioneering therapies for successful patient outcomes. To share these goals, THG’s communications strategy included reaching local, business and trade media across a variety of channels. All told, the team:
With the success of this initial announcement, THG followed its proven process of conducting earned media and social media audits to identify trending topics, target reporters and media outlets, along with competitor coverage and engagement. Once this foundational research was complete, the team used the insights gleaned to create strategic plans for greater earned and social media reach.
While earned media remained THG’s priority, the team also developed a social strategy and robust content calendar to support iBIO. This change marked a notable departure for iBIO, which—prior to working alongside THG—did not possess a comprehensive social media strategy. Each week, THG members drafted copy, created videos, developed surveys and shared content that aligned with iBIO messaging and goals for greater overall audience engagement.
Key components of THG’s approach included:
The Harbinger Group focused on earned media opportunities for iBIO and John Conrad.