An illustration of COVID-19 vaccine campaign messaging buttonsCOVID-19 vaccines have provided a much-needed injection of hope and optimism in many parts of the world. Here in the U.S., more than 237 million shots had gone into arms by the end of April, with very few reports of severe side effects.

As COVID-19 vaccine campaigns continue to roll out on local media, Facebook and other outlets, infection rates are declining in many parts of the country. In response, the Centers for Disease Control has eased restrictions for fully vaccinated nursing home residents, travelers, and gals and guys who just like being outside. Disneyland re-opened after a 13-month closure on April 29, and cruise lines are getting ready to set sail later this year.

But as COVID-19 so often likes to remind us, we still have a way to go before this pandemic is in the rearview mirror. One challenge is vaccine hesitancy among many communities of color. Social, economic and political factors play a role, and the potential outcomes are sobering. Public health data consistently show that these communities are particularly vulnerable to the disease. Compared to white people, Black, Hispanic and Native American people are:

  • About four times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19
  • Nearly three times more likely to die of COVID-19

Moving the needle with targeted initiatives

Governments, health systems, foundations and even barbershops have taken notice and are developing COVID-19 vaccine campaigns to build vaccine confidence among minorities.

Recognizing that highly effective public health campaigns often happen at the local level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health jumped in with a funding opportunity earlier this year. The initiative will encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination efforts among underserved populations with $250 million in funding for about 75 projects.

The deadline for submissions just closed in late April, but it’s encouraging to see that many foundations and hospitals are already jumping in with COVID-19 vaccine campaigns.

Here at WriterGirl, we’ve been impressed by a multifaceted marketing campaign by Trinity Health, a Michigan-based not-for-profit Catholic health system operating 92 hospitals in 22 states.

The campaign, called “It Starts Here,” checks all the boxes for a successful campaign. Features include:

  • Targeted messaging
  • Factual presentation
  • A positive, empathetic tone
  • A strong call to action
  • Multiple communication platforms

Let’s take a look at how “It Starts Here” gets the job done.

Targeted messaging

Some marketing campaigns are subtle in the way they target their intended audience. In fact, we’ve seen a few COVID-19 vaccine campaigns that are so subtle it’s easy to miss the point. One, for example, only features photos of minorities — yet the copy never mentions anything specific to minority groups.

That seems like a missed opportunity. At a time when information is coming at us fast, it’s easy to tune out messages that don’t seem geared to us personally. Trinity Health’s campaign landing page takes a different approach. Every photo depicts a person of color smiling under their mask, and the web copy directly addresses vaccine hesitancy (and safety) for people of color.

Trinity Health's COVID-19 vaccine campaign landing page

Trinity Health’s “It Starts Here” campaign landing page.

Factual presentation

Science is on the side of approved COVID-19 vaccines, and Trinity Health isn’t shy about getting the word out. The website presents evidence in a “myth vs. fact” format, touching on many of the concerns people have about the vaccines and countering those myths with science.

The content doesn’t over-sell. And it doesn’t ignore gray areas, such as the uncertainty about how long the vaccine protects a person from the virus. It’s the kind of communication that builds trust and gives people the information they need to decide for themselves.

Read more >> 5 ideas for effective COVID-19 vaccine communications

A positive, empathetic tone

Nobody wants a lecture about COVID-19 vaccines (or anything else for that matter). Trinity Health’s campaign website is the opposite of a lecture, with bright colors, optimistic photos and captions, and empathetic messages such as:

  • This pandemic has changed life as we know it.
  • We understand that many people have questions and concerns about the vaccines.
  • Thank you for taking the time to learn about the vaccines.

This approach makes web visitors want to learn more, not click away to cute cat videos on YouTube. Which sometimes happens when people start reading about COVID-19 online. Who doesn’t love a cute cat video?

A strong call to action

Any self-respecting COVID-19 vaccine campaign website is going to include a link to make an appointment for a shot. Trinity Health’s site offers that but goes further with a downloadable vaccine guide that they encourage visitors to share it with loved ones. It’s a useful resource that can help people learn about the vaccine from those they trust most: family and friends.

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Multiple communication platforms

Like any effective marketing communication initiative, this one is part of a larger campaign that includes social media, colleague/community surveys and virtual town halls. This means that the campaign can reach more people and connect with the same targeted audience multiple times.

We could say a lot more about what makes this COVID-19 vaccine campaign a winner — including its use of clear, easy-to-understand plain language. For now, we’ll just close with a big thank you to Trinity Health and organizations around the world that are doing what they can to end this global health crisis. As the campaign’s landing page says, “We’re all ready for a new day.” Campaigns like this one might just get us there.

If you’ve been impressed by a vaccine campaign geared to communities of color, let us know about it on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Looking for support to create a high-impact marketing campaign? WriterGirl’s team of healthcare writing experts is standing by and ready to help you achieve your marketing goals. Reach out to us any time to get started.