Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas

Public Agency Crisis Communication

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas funds cancer research in Texas. CPRIT’s goal is to expedite innovation in cancer research and product development, and to enhance access to evidence-based prevention programs throughout the state.

The Challenge

Turn the Tide of Public Perception Amid Allegations

In 2012, CPRIT was rocked by allegations of improperly approving product development grant funds. The accusations led to the resignation of the agency’s top officials, serious legislative scrutiny and a statewide media frenzy.

Hahn Public was hired to stabilize perceptions of the agency and turn the tide of public perception to set the stage for re-authorization of the fund prior to its eventual sunset scheduled for 2021.

The Solution

Renewed Messaging

In the early phases of engagement, the Hahn Public team focused on CPRIT’s most important audience: The Texas Legislature. Through a renewed messaging platform, a major daily press outreach effort and creation of presentations and talking points for stakeholders, CPRIT’s leadership was ready to restore the state agency’s license to operate.

With key reporters around the state, we established a cadence of regular interaction and set up an immediate-response protocol with the press regardless of good, bad or neutral information. At key milestones, Hahn Public pitched and prepped CPRIT’s CEO for interviews. Additionally, Hahn Public prepared CPRIT spokespeople for testimony and interviews by creating a comprehensive Question/Response library and customized spokesperson training using Hahn Public’s industry-best Predictive Interviewing Model™.

With support of a highly focused communications strategy, CPRIT saw success at the end of the legislative session with the passage of SB 149 codifying the key agency reforms. The passage of SB 149 restored full funding for the agency along with its license to operate. To build on the momentum, Hahn Public designed, created an editorial calendar and developed multimedia content for CPRIT’s new digital newsroom, which is now the agency’s hub for public information.

In preparation for re-authorization, our team designed and activated an “Influence the Influencers” initiative to take CPRIT on the road and drive traffic to the newsroom. We built and booked a 30-appearance presentation roadshow conducted by CPRIT’s research and executive leaders and continued to support the agency through social media and digital newsroom content, including through our in-house video department.

The Results

Successful Restoration of Funding

With a highly focused communications strategy, CPRIT had its funding and license to operate restored by the 85th legislature. In the 86th, legislators overwhelmingly supported HJR12 allowing CPRIT to be presented to Texas voters in November 2019 for reauthorization. Voters then approved the reauthorization by a nearly 30-point margin (64 to 36 percent).