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.
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!
Want More Expert Perspective?
Get more insights like these to inspire your healthcare marketing plans and and career path.