Once again, healthcare marketers and communicators are asked to rise to a difficult challenge that requires sensitivity.
As if you weren’t busy enough trying to reassure your community of the COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy, safety, and potential ability to make a real dent in the pandemic, add something else to your list: answering an understandably eager, growing number of people who want to get themselves or someone they love vaccinated as soon as possible. Emotions are running high and your community is looking to your organization to learn when and how they can access this potentially life-saving care.
The Biden administration has announced the U.S. will have enough doses to inoculate every American by the end of the summer and the country is on pace to vaccinate almost one-third of the population by May 1. But limited supplies, along with federal and state requirements for priority groups during the initial roll-out, have led to confusion and anxiety.
Follow our tips to help your community feel more informed, position your organization as a leading authority, and deliver remarkable content.
Translate State & County Guidelines
Help people understand how vaccine allocation phases will work in your community. Translate jargon or complex information into plain language. Tailor this content to your target audiences’:
- Health literacy
- Search terms
- Languages spoken
Explaining Vaccine Distribution
Spell out who is eligible and when, as well as the logistics of getting vaccinated at your organization. Be transparent about limited vaccine quantities while communicating your work to secure additional doses. Link to relevant federal, state, and county websites.
If you have an existing COVID-19 hub on your website, this is a great place for this information to live.
Communicate What Steps People Can Take Now
Make your content actionable and empowering, even for readers who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination.
- What can people do right now so they’re best prepared when the time comes to get vaccinated? Check out an excellent example from the Pennsylvania Department of Health on how to get ready, including talking to your doctor about whether the vaccine is right for you and learning what to expect during and after vaccination.
- Advise readers what steps they’ll need to take to successfully access vaccination services at your organization. For example, if they don’t currently have a MyChart account, do you recommend they create one?
- Continue your messaging on the importance of mask-wearing, handwashing, and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Protect Staff Capacity
Clear, easily found information that answers common questions and follows the recommendations in this blog post can help lower potentially overwhelming call and email volumes. If you don’t want people to contact specific offices or healthcare providers at this time, make that clear in your content. Let community members know if there’s a specific phone number or email address you want them to reach out to instead.
Publish Updates Regularly
Your audience needs ongoing reassurance, and regular updates help them stay informed while lessening anxiety. Aim for weekly social media posts. Send email updates whenever relevant news breaks or information changes.
Make an Emotional Connection
Maya Angelou said it best: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” To make your content resonate with your target audiences:
- Appeal to their sense of community. Make it a virtue to wait one’s turn and let others who have greater need go first. Put a human face on this message. Accompanied by “thank you for letting us go first,” feature your organization’s healthcare heroes or the patients who were vaccinated due to age, occupation, or other risk factors.
- Be positive. Aim for an optimistic, confident voice and tone.
- Lead with empathy. Everyone’s lives have been disrupted to some degree by the pandemic. Let your community know you understand how they feel — the people in your organization feel the same and are working hard to meet their needs.
- Err on the side of sensitivity. If you’re trying to make your message resonate with a specific group, get feedback from people in that group. Ask how your content may be interpreted, if there’s a more effective approach, if there’s any potential for offense or misinterpretation, and if the message is relevant to their needs, preferences, and concerns. Establishing these relationships if they don’t already exist not only benefits your content, but also shows that your organization cares about serving their needs.
- Weave in your brand ethos. Let your community know how your mission and values apply to your COVID-19 response, including your vaccination efforts. In real time, they’re seeing your organization works to improve everyone’s health and well-being.
Find More Tips or Ask For Feedback
Read further strategic recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination communications, or contact Geonetric today if you need any help with your efforts.