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Blue Shield of California Foundation

A foundation looks to change the dialogue about health from treatment to prevention.

  • Strategy |
  • Editorial


When most people think about “health care” in terms of hospitals and doctors, Blue Shield of California Foundation wants to focus on the underlying factors of what makes communities healthy.


We created a core brand narrative that tackles the nuance of “health” in California and are working to ingrain that narrative among the Foundation’s staff and a wide range of audiences.


  • Develop core brand narrative with key themes and principles for messaging
  • Build and manage a flagship newsletter product
  • Conceive and run several storytelling campaigns about community-based health
  • Run regular internal workshops to ingrain narrative into all teams and their work



Higher newsletter open rate compared to previous Foundation newsletters


Each newsletter is opened an average of two times per person


Our content was the top visited webpage the month it was published, and visitors spent longer on this page than other Foundation pages

A core narrative that reflects the health needs of Californians

Most people associate “health care” with familiar stuff—hospitals, doctor’s appointments, treatments, prescriptions, etc. “Health” and, more specifically, “well-being” are tougher terms to define.


Blue Shield of California Foundation is dedicated to creating healthier communities throughout California. It supports programs that address the social determinants of health—factors like race, gender, economic status, and freedom from violence, which have an outsized influence on health outcomes. Highly-quality hospitals and an abundance of primary care and specialized physicians are important, yes. But the Foundation believes the real impact is in preventing health issues from arising in the first place—therefore reducing the burden on health care—especially among marginalized groups.


It’s a nuanced perspective, right? The root causes of health are much harder to grasp than how to diagnose and treat the problems that exist. For instance, individuals who experience or are exposed to domestic violence are likely to confront more health issues throughout their lives. Communities with a lack of affordable housing are likely to have worse health outcomes.

An organization focused on issues with this kind of depth can’t just communicate to folks in the healthcare system. It needs to communicate to people who don’t see themselves as working in “health”-adjacent spaces but who have a big impact on health, like law enforcement, schools, or immigrant support organizations. The Foundation has the resources, tools, networks, and stories to help these groups understand how they can improve the health of their community.


For the past three years and counting, that’s been the focus of our partnership with the Foundation: How do we create a resonant, cohesive, and nuanced narrative about the root causes of health outcomes? And how do we become a useful resource for the diverse audiences that would benefit from being part of that narrative?


A brand that reflects the needs of Californians and the values of the organization

We started by asking lots of people—staff at the foundation, grantees, health experts, community leaders, advocates—those very questions. We found that these audiences are looking to the Foundation for more than just grant dollars and announcements–which so far had been the focus of the Foundation’s publishing. They are looking for insights, resources, connection, and collaboration. We used these insights to create a core brand narrative for the Foundation—an articulation of its unique point-of-view, to guide how it acts and communicates.


Our core narrative helped center the Foundation’s priorities to achieve health equity and end domestic violence, through uniting editorial themes and principles and guidelines on language and tone. This narrative guided the Foundation on how it should talk about its three, seemingly disparate funding priorities in California—strengthening economic security, breaking the cycle of domestic violence, and ensuring communities have the power to shape policy solutions—in a cohesive and effective way.


Editorial products and storytelling that deliver the message

When it comes to communicating that narrative to the world, our background in journalism believes in the power of human storytelling and useful information products. Along with the Foundation, we launched a flagship newsletter, called Intersections, that curates the stories and insights that are most relevant to the Foundation’s work and that its audiences would also find useful. It goes out each month to a list of 7,000+ subscribers. We also launched storytelling campaigns on big topics central to the health conversation in California, like how the pandemic exacerbated inequality in the state, how different systems can play a role in preventing domestic violence, and what a future free from domestic violence could look like in practice. To do this, our approach was centered around combining powerful data with personal stories to illustrate what was really happening in California’s communities.


All the while, we’ve adopted a co-creation model with our client team at the Foundation. We do everything together, sharing responsibilities and guiding each other as we go. The Foundation team has taught us a lot about social determinants and root causes of health and we’ve taught the Foundation a lot about audience-first thinking and powerful storytelling. As a result, we’re better serving the Foundation’s audience and brand, while also building greater capacity within the organization.


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