The past year has been full of uncertainty, anxiety and worry over COVID-19. And while things look to be slowly improving in many parts of the country, misinformation and a thirst for knowledge are still running rampant in our communities — this time over the COVID-19 vaccine.
As healthcare communicators, it’s our job to provide relevant, accurate and interesting information to the public. And it’s never been so urgent as we encourage individuals to schedule their vaccines. We need to dispel myths and outline facts.
As you gear up your healthcare organization’s COVID-19 vaccine communication, here are a few tips and best practices.
1. Make information accessible
The first step in creating great content is always making sure your audience can find it. This is particularly true when it comes to readers searching for information about the COVID-19 vaccine — where they can get it, who is currently eligible in your state, and how to sign up.
To answer this demand, many organizations are shifting their COVID-19 resource hubs to COVID-19 vaccine hubs. We’ve talked before about how Providence used content to connect with patients during the pandemic.
In the first days and weeks of the virus, they created a coronavirus resources hub that was easily accessible from their home page. A prominent banner at the top of the page directed visitors to a microsite, where they could find resources about how the system’s hospitals were handling local cases and what residents could do to support healthcare workers.
Now, the top banner of their homepage points readers to COVID-19 vaccine information. A simple but significant change that clearly guides visitors to the information they need.
2. Use plain language
Most of us had never heard of an mRNA vaccine before the pandemic; much less understood how it works. Unfamiliarity — and some individual’s uncertainty around the vaccine — makes using plain language in your COVID-19 vaccine communications even more essential.
Take those complex concepts and break them down to give readers the facts. Here are a few great examples of how some healthcare organizations use plain language to provide helpful and reliable information to their audiences:
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains how mRNA vaccines work and answers many other common questions.
- AdventHealth uses plain language in their video to address common questions and concerns around the vaccine.
- Children’s Health Dallas created a clear and simple infographic to address parents’ concerns over the vaccine and backed it up with an informative blog post.
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3. Be honest
One of the most challenging (and at times frustrating) aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that information is constantly changing. That’s particularly true when it comes to vaccine availability and eligibility. We are all eager to learn where and when we can expect to get vaccinated. Many of us anxiously check vaccine sites for loved ones already eligible.
The best way to address that uncertainty is head-on: Be honest, upfront and truthful about the information your health system has — and what information you don’t know.
Johns Hopkins Medicine does a great job outlining the facts about vaccine availability. They also offer clear next steps for readers — whether it’s scheduling an appointment at one of their sites or connecting with a community organization.
Honesty also helps build trust with audiences, especially when it’s communicated with understanding and empathy. AdventHealth does a wonderful job with this and goes far to help their audience share the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine in a recent blog, “How to respond when a loved one is hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine.”
4. Be flexible and adapt
As new populations in the community become eligible for vaccination, it’s likely you’ll need to shift your COVID-19 vaccine communication. After all, you’ll be able to reach older patients through much different channels than you will younger adults when their turn comes.
Work with your marketing and digital teams to better understand where your target audiences are and what type of information they’re looking for. That may mean optimizing content for Instagram or Twitter instead of Facebook as you work to reach different audiences. Or, you may have multiple (yet coordinated) campaigns running at once:
- A targeted campaign that utilizes office signage and email to reach patients currently eligible for a vaccine
- A general communication campaign providing updates to the community and offering insight and information
- A digital public health campaign that encourages adults to get vaccinated
5. Make internal comms a priority
Your employees, especially frontline healthcare workers, are key to sharing trusted information with the community. Make your COVID-19 vaccine communication a priority for all employees in your organization. That may include:
- Highlighting vaccine updates in regular COVID-19 communications (including your hospital’s supply and expected changes in supply)
- Utilizing your hospital’s intranet with a link to COVID-19 vaccine information that’s easy to find on the home page
- Sending regular emails to employees that share updates on vaccine availability and next steps
- Hosting town halls that include a question-and-answer section to provide new or changing information about the vaccine
Keep up your safety messaging
Although there is hope in the vaccine rollout, it’s important to remember that safety measures like masking, hand-washing and social distancing are still critical to keeping the virus at bay. Don’t lose sight of this important information in your messaging.
With successful COVID-19 vaccine messaging, and a continued focus on safety measures, we’ll be on a path to brighter, healthier days.
Need help planning and implementing your COVID-19 vaccine communications? Find out how WriterGirl can help with our custom content approach and services.