Over the past year, health care marketers have gotten a lot of experience in public health communications. You’ve made it through the early- and mid-phases of a pandemic.
As of February 26, more than 14% of Americans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. These people still play an important role in helping to contain the spread of the coronavirus — and they have their own distinct questions about how to keep themselves and others safe. Google Trends shows that searches for “after covid vaccine” reached an all-time high in February. As states roll out vaccines to more people, interest in the topic will likely remain strong.
Hospitals and health systems can continue being a trusted resource for COVID-19-related information in the post-vaccine phase. Here are some tips for meeting the information needs of people in your community.
Consider Local Needs
People in different areas of the country may need to hear somewhat different messages. Does your organization need to primarily educate? Change or reinforce behaviors? Consider what opportunities you have to bolster information or fill in gaps based on what local media and public health agencies are (or aren’t) communicating.
And keep track of vaccine distribution in your state through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s vaccination tracker, which shows the percentage of the population that’s gotten one dose or both doses. The data can help you understand, at any point, what stage your audiences may be at in terms of need for information.
Discover Trending Topics
Invest some time in researching common questions of those who have received a vaccine—or are looking forward to receiving a vaccine and want to know what to expect. You can certainly get some perspective from your colleagues who were among the first in the country to get the vaccine. Take time to also understand what’s top-of-mind for those with less familiarity with medicine.
Great sources for information include:
- Keyword research – Check Google Trends and other keyword research tools to find common post-vaccine-related queries in your area. For example, in Iowa, “can you spread covid after vaccine” is a rising search term.
- Primary care providers – Ask them what questions patients have related to safety precautions after being inoculated.
- Surveys – Ask your followers on social media or add a popup survey to the COVID-19 section of your website. Ask users what questions they have about what to expect after getting the vaccine.
The media — What questions are news outlets covering? What similar concerns can you address in your own communication?
The post-vaccine questions you uncover may be the start of a helpful frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on your COVID-19 resource hub. They also may fuel story ideas for your e-newsletter, blog, or content marketing hub.
Reach Your Audience
Many people in your community have spent the last year taking in a lot of COVID-19 news, sorting through changing or conflicting public health guidance, figuring out vaccine eligibility and scheduling, and more. They may be coping with grief, burnout, or general distress. They’re probably tired. So, consider these strategies to make your messages resonate.
Keep Messaging Simple
At this point, it’s more important than ever to keep your messaging simple and straightforward.
- Omit unnecessary words
- Speak directly to the reader
- Use an active voice
- Use familiar, everyday words
- Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs
Consider also translating vaccine communications into languages commonly spoken in your service area.
Try a New Format
If you’ve been relying mainly on text, consider a new format for this last stretch of public health guidance related to the pandemic. You’ll likely be repeating some messages people have heard for months (for example: wear a mask). Engage the audience by presenting information in a new way – like an infographic, social media graphic or short video. Research shows that novelty motivates us to explore.
Focus on ‘Do’s
Positive phrasing can be easier to understand than negative. Focus your guidance on telling people what they can do more safely in the days, weeks and months after receiving their vaccine, rather than simply stating what they shouldn’t do yet.