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  • Writer's pictureShawna Bruce

The Coronavirus Vaccine Rollout - We have one shot at getting this right.

This week across Canada, we had announcements of the leaders behind the rollout of the Coronavirus vaccine. It was not a huge surprise to learn they come from a military background. Those announced to date (and I would bet there will be more) are respected and valued for the leadership, strategic planning, and abilities to manage a campaign of this scope, scale and importance. The country is in good hands for this next stage of the pandemic.

I read with interest this article in PR Week over the past few days (it's a long one!), but I feel it should be required reading for anyone involved in the Coronavirus vaccine's eventual rollout. Some of the highlights are discussions I've been having with other risk and crisis communication colleagues over the past several months. Getting the vaccine rollout available for distribution is one thing but getting Canadians to "take it in the arm" is quite another. The communications strategy and marketing plan for the vaccine rollout will drive our success at convincing Canadians to get immunized against COVID19. We have one shot at getting this right.

As we begin planning for the rollout of the vaccine, let's take a look at a few considerations that could support our success in getting Canadians to take action.

Four considerations:

1. Trusted and Credible Sources: Trusted and credible sources delivering the message to Canadians will help support the vaccination campaign. Those identified, must "walk the walk" by getting themselves and their loved ones immunized. We need them to be visibly promoting their support through traditional and social media platforms. Let's start identifying who those key influencers are now and get them on board so that others will follow. Doctors, sports idols, entertainers, scientists, political Leaders, (you get the idea). High-profile Canadians who have a public following are needed to support the vaccine campaign.

2. Words do matter: Research indicates that people rebel against the word "Lockdown" and suggest using "Stay at Home Order" instead. It has a better ring to it and makes it sound less militant. Also, numbers and data continue to challenge the average citizen. Stop talking about hospital rates and focus on the death rate. People understand death but may not necessarily appreciate their local hospital's capacity.

3. Tell the people how to take the actions you need them to take. Be clear and consistent about this – we have one shot at getting this right. The marketing plan needs to persuade people that the treatment is safe and effective. The plan also needs to tell Canadians where to go in their local communities to get immunized, and how to schedule the necessary appointments. The logistics behind the actions need to be efficient and manageable before we begin asking people to act. We also need to consider how we are communicating to our marginalized and at risk populations for those who use substances, or are homeless where they don't typically have access to medical centres. And please, can we develop comprehensive Q and A's on information hubs (like websites) before we start the rollout? Give Canadians the information they need to make informed decisions up front. We should be considering an inter-provincial collaborative effort.

4. Anti-Vaxxers – We know there will be Canadians who support the anti-vaccination side of this pandemic conversation — so plan for them. Prepare the risk communications to address their concerns and compare those concerns with evidence-based information. Also, start looking at how it may impact those who do not support getting immunized. Travel, for example, could be a restriction for many who refuse the vaccine. That alone could be a persuasive tactic for many to comply.

We still have a way to travel before this vaccine is ready for distribution here in Canada. As we begin ramping plans for the rollout, let's remember to bring in the communicators at the onset, and get their expertise into the planning phase of this campaign. To develop an effective campaign to support operational objectives, communicators need resources and funding. Those in charge of the rollout need to get them what they need to be successful. Let's also look at leveraging materials and developing a toolbox of collaborative products with the same consistent messaging for a national approach. I truly feel this is how we will achieve success and save the lives of our fellow Canadians.

This holiday season, please give the gift of good health by wearing your mask, washing your hands and physical distancing. Working together, we can make a difference.


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