7 Insights that Inspired the COVID-19 Vaccine Communications Strategy at UNC Healthcare

by | Mar 8, 2021 | Healthcare Industry Insights | 0 comments

UNC Healthcare is at the forefront of vaccine communications strategy. We spoke with the system’s VP of Consumerism and Insights Victor Reiss about how his team is helping guide messaging for each community served.

UNC Healthcare VP of Consumerism and Insights Victor Reiss

In this con­ver­sa­tion for our health­care mar­ket­ing pod­cast, UNC Health­care Sys­tem VP of Con­sumerism and Insights Vic­tor Reiss shares key learn­ings that helped guide the system’s vac­cine com­mu­ni­ca­tions strategy.

Pro-vaccine consumers are thinking about others before themselves.

When Vic­tor and his team start­ed track­ing vac­cine-relat­ed sen­ti­ment in Fall 2020, his team learned that the dri­ving force for those who want­ed the vac­cine was to pro­tect the health of their fam­i­ly and friends—not self-preser­va­tion. “It was enlight­en­ing to find that peo­ple had greater con­cerns for their close fam­i­ly mem­bers than themselves.”

Hesitant consumers often just need more information.

For those who are hes­i­tant to get the vac­cine, Vic­tor and his team learned that they often didn’t under­stand the long-term effects or felt the vac­cine was rushed. For exam­ple, Vic­tor says the term ‘Oper­a­tion Warp Speed’ had neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions so they knew to avoid that lan­guage when cre­at­ing their vac­cine com­mu­ni­ca­tion strategy.

The skepticism among providers reflected safety and efficacy concerns.

Vic­tor and his team reviewed a nation­al study of providers and dis­cov­ered that only 25% felt com­fort­able rec­om­mend­ing the vac­cine to friends and fam­i­ly. “We had work to do not only with our com­mu­ni­ty but providers as well.”

Too much information can be as detrimental as not enough.

Armed with research, Vic­tor and his team col­lab­o­rat­ed with oth­er stake­hold­ers to cre­ate a mes­sag­ing frame­work inspired by a gar­den­ing anal­o­gy: When you over­wa­ter a parched plant, it can’t absorb all the water or it will go into shock—or the water will just run dry through the soil.

“If we hit peo­ple aggres­sive­ly and over­pow­er them with infor­ma­tion, it could have the oppo­site effect of mak­ing an impact.”

Empathy is an essential component of an effective campaign.

When devel­op­ing a mes­sag­ing frame­work for COVID-19 vac­cine com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Vic­tor said the UNC Health­care team made sure the tone was not coer­cive or trans­ac­tion­al. Instead, the system’s cam­paign strat­e­gy was built around three pil­lars: pre­pare our peo­ple, pre­pare our com­mu­ni­ty and pro­vide the best expe­ri­ence. The result is the sytem’s This Is Your Shot campaign.

“I have a say­ing, ‘They are our cus­tomers, patients, con­sumers or even cit­i­zens. They are not hostages.’”

Getting “back to normal” means different things to different people.

As part of their research, Vic­tor and his teams set up focus groups to test pro­posed mes­sages and deter­mine which ones would res­onate. For Vic­tor, a Eure­ka moment came when one of the respon­dents said, “I just want to wear lip­stick again.”

Untapped markets are a top priority.

When look­ing at the ear­ly results of their research, Vic­tor says it was clear more need­ed to be done in reach­ing what some call ‘vul­ner­a­ble’ or ‘under­served’ pop­u­la­tions in receiv­ing the vac­cine. How­ev­er, he says this is not a reflec­tion of vac­cine hes­i­tan­cy as much as it is about equi­table oppor­tu­ni­ty and lack of access.

“We refer to that cat­e­go­ry as ‘untapped” because it has a busi­ness connotation—everyone wants to go after an untapped mar­ket. We focus on the promise.”

Listen to the full interview!

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