Why a Multi-Channel Strategy is Critical to COVID Vaccine Comms
While the number of people expressing trust in the COVID vaccine process is increasing, recent surveys show that nearly 30% of the population is hesitant when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine (with numbers increasing in some areas).
The “what” of vaccine messaging is undoubtedly important. But the “how” and “where” of delivering that messaging is perhaps just as important – and an area that many communicators overlook. COVID vaccine communications require both unique approaches to messaging and a broader strategy to delivering that message.
It’s a well-known fact that the more a person sees a message the more likely they are not just to act upon it but develop more trust in the source of that message. To that end, A recent study found that expanding a communications strategy from a single-channel (only email or website) to multi-channel (email + web + SMS, for example) increased response rate by 37%. Another study found multi-channel communications had a positive impact in building trust – AND increased both online and offline interaction.
It’s clear that when it comes to COVID vaccine messaging, hitting the audience with a consistent message in multiple places is crucial to the success of any COVID vaccine campaign. Because there are so many channels, communications should make sure they understand which channels their audience uses the most and why they chose each channel.
Starting with a Strong Hub
When it comes to the COVID vaccine, governments on the local and state level are working to strongly position themselves as trustworthy experts on when, where, and how their communities can receive the COVID vaccine.
A key part of any successful vaccine campaign will include a central informational hub, usually a website. This cornerstone of a multi-channel strategy sets the tone for message consistency and should be considered the main destination to which messaging in other channels drives readers. This destination should fulfill all of residents’ top questions and information needs allowing visitors to the site to sign-up for future communications, or possibly sign up for vaccine waitlists for example. Together, Granicus’ govDelivery and govAccess solutions enable governments to build their messaging hub and enable visitors to their sites to opt in for future updates.
Establishing a consistent tone and message for this central repository of information not only makes it easy to keep all vaccine-related content in one place for review, it can also help build trust that combats vaccine hesitancy.
Creating an Effective Central Channel
Because this website will serve as the touchstone for messaging throughout all your channels, it’s crucial that web-based messages align to outbound digital communications to inform visitors to take action on vaccination plans and address the trustworthiness issues that can lead to vaccine hesitancy. Here are some factors to consider in a vaccine communications website:
- Tone and voice: While the messaging tone may occasionally differ by channel, a friendly and authoritative voice across all content builds and maintains citizen trust. Vaccine messaging should always include the implication that all residents will receive the vaccine and will be notified ahead of time.
- Accuracy and relevance of information: If messaging through another channel promises something that either conflicts with the information on the website, or is not available for any reason, visitors will lose trust in the information being provided by both website and non-website messaging.
- Timeliness: Especially for groups that have goals centered around active participation in the vaccine process, timely information will be vital to the success of engagement and trust-building through communications. Along these same lines, “loss aversion” is an effective technique to spark engagement around vaccines (“don’t miss your chance”).
The most effective COVID vaccination websites have clear calls to action and information that directly addresses visitor needs. Clay County’s website, for example, also uses graphics to illustrate timelines that could be confusing to some visitors if only in text.
Finding Channels That Connect
Digital communicators often have multiple messaging channels at their disposal. Many of these channels may have been effective in achieving goals in previous campaigns. These channel tactics may have even been successful in producing outcomes similar to those for COVID vaccine communications.
It’s important, however, to consider the unique differences that come with vaccine-related communications, and how they might have a different impact on your channel strategy.
For agencies with limited resources, Granicus’ Experience Group (GXG) offers expertise developing multichannel, multi-audience campaigns.
Take the time to review your current communications channels and adjust as needed by considering the following:
- How can existing channels be used to deliver messaging?
- Do we need to get the message out quickly or reach the broadest audience?
Speed versus reach presents pros and cons. Social media channels are quick but may not reach everyone. An effective SMS messaging system may reach more communities that are not accessing social media as frequently.
- Can one piece of content be adapted for use on different channels? Can previous messages be repurposed? Is content mobile-optimized so people can easily access it on their phones?
- Are there “boilerplate” messages that are already approved and can be distributed on short notice? Identifying an expedited approval process for communications that includes three people or fewer will allow for more agile content strategy execution.
Getting the Most from Various Channels
Multi-Channel strategy is as unique as the city, county, or state creating it. In addition, a multi-channel strategy is never static. It requires attention and adjustment to provide the best outcomes. Taking the time to recognize the successes, identifying the opportunities for improvement, and overall impact of each channel will increase both the chances of meeting organizational goals and understanding effective communications to the audience.
Here are some ways that common pieces of multi-channel strategies are being implemented in COVID vaccine communication plans.
Strongly performing emails from the State of New Jersey; Ottawa County, Michigan; and other state and local groups show that specific, actionable information in subject lines have the greatest chance for engagement.
Using tools such as govDelivery can help agencies not only efficiently deliver to specific audience segments, but access data that shows which deliveries had the most impact. For example, “Appointments Now Available” has shown to be more effective than a subject line such as “A Vaccine Q&A with the Surgeon General.” Even emails stating that vaccine appointments are filled have proven to drive increased engagement rates.
SMS messaging allows for much more direct communication with audiences compared to social media or email. Text message campaigns often see higher response rates than other channels.
However, the cadence of text messaging in a communications plan must be carefully determined in order to avoid being seen as an annoyance. Ways that SMS messaging can be used for vaccine communications include:
- Automated messaging for both awareness messages and details of vaccine availability
- Sharing information or links on demand
- Opt-ins for updates on vaccine availability
- Time-sensitive messaging about appointment openings, as well as appointment confirmation and wait time information
- Multilingual messaging and other personalized approaches based on audience segment
Even within social media, the platform being used can influence the best ways to convey a message. While Twitter is best for short and direct messages that are tweeted multiple times per day, Facebook allows for combinations of multiple images and longer text. Paid placements in social media also provide a way to proactively reach audience segments that may not currently follow your organization’s social media channels.
Digital billboards bring the high exposure of billboards with the agility of digital messaging. As with traditional billboards, this channel can help build message consistency and branding. Unlike traditional print billboards, digital signage allows you to provide the most current information about vaccines, conduct real-time updates, and connect viewers to other channels for further messaging.
Take the next step in vaccine communications strategy. Granicus’ Experience Group is ready to work with agencies shaping their messaging. For those agencies looking to increase the impact of their current strategies, our Vaccine Playbook provides further ideas and insights on high-impact multichannel communications.