Influencing Public Policy

When does public relations become a matter of life and death?

In 2010, the American Society of Transplantation, an organization of more than 3,000 transplant professionals dedicated to research, education, advocacy and patient care in transplantation, engaged Brownstein Group to bring their message to a broader public. This challenge became especially acute in October 2010, when the Arizona state government implemented changes to the adult Medicaid benefit package, including the elimination of coverage for several non-experimental transplant procedures.



  • 2011 PRSA Pepperpot for Public Policy
  • 2012 PR News Nonprofit PR Award in Public Affairs/Issues Management

Leading the Charge

Arizona’s decision, made as a cost-cutting measure for a cash-strapped state, sent Brownstein Group and AST on a proactive media relations and lobbying effort, designed to raise national awareness of the situation in Arizona and influence the state legislature to reverse its decision.

The resulting proactive media relations campaign aligned AST with several other related associations and the Arizona Democratic Party to communicate the position that Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and the Republican legislature had made a decision that would ultimately mean a “death sentence” for many people needing transplants throughout the state.

Coverage was secured in several top-tier media outlets including Bloomberg, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, Arizona Star and New York Times.

AST was positioned as the clear leader in all communications that represented the voice of the transplant industry. The society received a large share of voice in all media coverage, including key quotes and interviews in a CNN segment with Anderson Cooper and the New York Times article. AST President Dr. Maryl Johnson also held a highly visible position at a joint press conference with the Arizona Democratic leaders and individual transplant patients, making a lengthy speech and answering reporters’ questions.

Prior to our campaign, Governor Brewer stood steadfastly by the funding cuts, arguing that it was a necessary cost-saving measure. As a result of our aggressive campaign and the resulting national attention, in early 2011 the Arizona government voted to repeal its decision, and the Medicaid coverage was reinstated, effectively allowing many individuals to receive life-saving transplants.

Experting Position

At a joint press conference with the Arizona Democratic leaders and individual transplant patients, AST President Dr. Maryl Johnson held a highly visibile position, giving a lengthy speech and answering questions from reporters.