The Foundational Steps to Increase Engagement with COVID-Vaccine Communications


For many governments, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed them to develop timely and effective strategies for messaging around public health awareness. While dissemination of the COVID-19 vaccine signals an important transition toward bringing the pandemic under control, the continued flow of specific and actionable public health information will play a role in combatting misinformation and building overall trustworthiness between citizens and their government.

A multi-channel approach to communicating with citizens that leverages digital communications represents a critical part of any vaccine communications strategy for state and local governments. Email, a measurable, cost-effective channel, remains one of the major, and most effective, means of communicating with the public.

Improve Civic Engagement and Transparency by Using Subject Topics

For many government communicators who use the govDelivery platform, topic creation is an important way to organize content development and delivery strategy for specific audiences. Addressing certain thematic content to audiences based on interest allows communicators to gather engagement metrics and develop insights into audience segments, as well as motivate audience members to take action (e.g., signing up for a vaccination waitlist).

govDelivery topics on a computer screen

Enabling community members to sign up for emails based on topics of their specific interest also gives them the sense that their government is listening to the things that matter most to them.

While many governments blanketed all of their subscribers with COVID-19 updates and information, there is now an opportunity to refine the approach by creating specific topics – in this case, one or more topics focused on COVID-19 vaccine information. This allows a clear, uninterrupted channel for conveying vital and consistent messaging around vaccine awareness and availability to the community.

How to Create Subscription Topics

Within govDelivery, subscription topics allow for organized information and easy public subscription to relevant topics through the Quick Subscribe Page.

When creating a vaccine-specific topic in govDelivery, administrators should:

  • Create a clear and concise name for the Vaccine topic.
  • Create a clear and concise short name for the Vaccine topic if it will be added to other topics in an existing Category with a similar naming convention.
  • Add a Topic Description that will appear to subscribers on the sign-up page. Descriptions should set the subscriber’s expectations on the content that will be provided, and how often they will receive content.
  • Tag the new Vaccine topic with a sign-up interest like “COVID-19.” This will help your bulletin topic(s) to appear in govDelivery widgets on participating agency websites, broadening the reach of your important communications.
  • Make sure the Topic visibility is set to “Listed” – this will ensure that the Vaccine topic will be seen by the public.

General Settings on govDelivery topics screen.

Once a topic is created, users must add the topic to a category in order for it to be displayed on the Quick Subscribe page.

How to Promote Topics

Once a topic is created, make sure your community knows it’s there! Here are a few tips for promoting a high-interest, high-importance topic like vaccines:

  • Prioritize vaccine-related topics in messaging and content promotion.  For many governments, the effort to equally promote all subject topics often leads to long subscription page that features long lists of topics. The importance and timeliness of vaccine-related topics requires special treatment to stand out from the crowd.
  • Use overlays to promote vaccine-related material. As more people investigate when, where, and to whom vaccines will be available, their first stop will likely be the local or state government website. Rather than having them hunt around for subscription options, give subscribers a list of priority topics instantly with an overlay that leads them to a custom Quick Subscribe page for vaccine-related content.
  • Promote with related content. Public health information is only one area that can provide a touchpoint encouraging readers to sign up for vaccine-related content. COVID-19’s impact on numerous areas of daily life provide an opening to note that vaccine-related information is available to readers, as steps are taken to restore education, business and other public functions.

Deliver on a Topic’s Promise

Adding a topic, however, is not the end of executing an effective vaccine-related email strategy. As previously mentioned, once a subscriber signs up to receive content for a specific topic, the communicator must deliver a steady stream of content and relevant messages.

For a topic like COVID-19 vaccine information, the content that would seem the most relevant to that audience would seem obvious. However, balanced information is key – for example, ensuring a mix of actionable information (such as when and where to receive vaccines) and awareness building information (such as content about the effectiveness of the vaccine and other points aimed at defeating vaccine hesitancy) can be challenging to achieve.

High-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. For example, “Appointments Now Available” has shown to be a more effective subject line than “A Vaccine Q&A With the Surgeon General” for open rates and engagement. Even emails stating that vaccine appointments are filled have proven to drive increased engagement rates.

An example of COVID vaccine-related bulletin

When dealing with something as immediate as COVID-19 vaccines, communicators should rely on the fundamentals. Create emails that engage readers. Follow the same delivery processes as other campaigns. And take the time to measure the effectiveness by reviewing metrics such as open rates and click rates.

An effective strategy for delivering vaccine-related information begins with small steps like creating clear Vaccine topics in govDelivery. Such a seemingly small action can make a dramatic impact on how citizens find and respond to COVID vaccine programs in their states and counties.

Check out Granicus’ Vaccine Communications Toolkit. It provides government communicators with everything they need to reach more of their residents with accurate, impactful messaging in support of vaccine distribution

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