Everyone is counting on the vaccine to return the planet to its axis and the economy to growth mode.
Yet polling shows many Americans — depending on the poll, anywhere from 33% to 50% — would take a pass on vaccination.
That’s a problem.
As a public service, I’ve developed the bones of a communications plan for getting the country on board with a vaccine. Before jumping in, I should acknowledge that my experience lies in the tech sector, not health care. But that has an advantage in the sense that I’m not tied to conventional playbooks. It seems to me that unconventional times call for unconventional measures.
One more caveat. I’m assuming the vaccine works.
I’ve even got a code name for this campaign: Operation Smart Speed
First things first. Establish a new White House spokesperson for all things related to the coronavirus, including the vaccine.
This person cannot be President Trump.
It pains me to say this because I’m a fan of Dr. Fauci, but this person should not be Dr. Fauci. Studies including this one from The New York Times show Republicans aren’t buying what Dr. Fauci is selling.
What we need is a fresh face from the medical scientific community who will speak the unfiltered truth.
Which means also eliminating the head of the FDA, Dr. Hahn, a.k.a. Dr. Chloroquine, as a candidate for this role.
Every Tuesday and Friday at 9 a.m. EST this person will hold a press conference to share an update on the country’s fight against the pandemic. President Trump will not attend these briefings. The only other people on the podium will be from the medical community in support of that day’s briefing.
Education on Vaccines
We need to develop a microsite that educates the American public on vaccines.
We can’t worry about the fringe loonies who believe eating buffalo steaks prevents baldness. This site is geared for the remaining 97% of Americans.
The idea is to share the science behind vaccines in conversational language and visuals for easy consumption. The site would also capture the success of vaccines in wiping out diseases ranging from smallpox to the measles, explaining the before and the after.
Knowing Americans trust medical scientists, our primary spokesperson and colleagues would show the way through this information.
From a look-and feel-perspective, I envision something along the lines of this site from the CDC and FEMA on COIVD-19.
Again, design for easy consumption.
Reach Americans Through Channels That They Trust
Seventy percent of Americans do not trust the national media to provide accurate information on the coronavirus much less a vaccine (NYT study previously mentioned).
What do they trust?
They trust themselves and they trust their social channels, which brings us to Google, Facebook and Snapchat.
Our primary medical scientist needs to sit down individually with Sundar Pichai, Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel and essentially say, “You want to be a force for good. Help me inform the public on the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine, that it’s a safe and how taking it will help the nation return to some semblance of normalcy.”
If you plug [vaccine for coronavirus] into Google today, it retrieves the following:
Plus, we know the public doesn’t trust the national news media, and yet the search catapults the national news media front and center.
Instead, I’m suggesting any search that includes the word “vaccine” allocates the real estate at the top of the page — top of the SERP (search engine results page) to use the language of Google — to our medical scientists educating and informing the public. If Sundar feels the company can’t give away these ads for free, certainly some type of off-the-rack discount is in order. Though Google’s ad revenue has taken a hit from the pandemic, the Alphabet conglomerate still reported $6.4 billion in total profits last quarter.
While I’m not on Facebook and know less about this platform, a couple fundamentals seem obvious to address. First, Zuck needs to commit to figuring out how to stop the spread of fear mongering on the vaccine. And given the huge percent of Americans depending on Facebook for news, we need to figure out how the facts somehow, someway, end up on top. I’m thinking of a combination of tweaking the algorithm and human curation should do the trick.
For the younger demographic, we turn to Snapchat and Evan Spiegel, the one head of a major social media platform who has already shown a willingness to take a stand for the public good. Of course, we want everyone including less susceptible younger people to take the vaccine, but that’s not the core objective of the Snapchat campaign. Instead, the idea is to arm this community of 238 million Snapchatters with the facts and rally them to pester their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents to get vaccinated. When brainstorming with Evan, you might ask for input on the broader question of how to get America on board with a vaccine. He’s an individual who cares deeply and has fresh ideas on how to move the country forward in general as reflected in his “We Stand Together” manifesto.
Who else do people trust, particularly those who tick the Republican box since they tend to be most dubious about a vaccine?
Religious leaders like ministers, priests, bishops, etc.
We need to win over this audience at the grassroots level, a massive undertaking similar to the type of organizing that goes into a presidential election. Still, if the RNC can figure out how to curry favor with the fine citizens of Laramie, Wyoming, they can figure out how to reach thousands of clergy, rabbis and imams with a two-fold objective. We want these religious leaders devoting homilies to the importance of being vaccinated as well as creating some hoopla around their own vaccination.
In the case of the latter, to ensure maximum reach, religious leaders would ask someone at the clinic to shoot 60 seconds or so of video on a mobile phone capturing their vaccination in action. They then send the footage to a centralized video studio where we drop the video into a template — front-end video and closing-video already created — voila, ready for posting on YouTube.
I’m not suggesting that we completely ignore media relations.
This component has a place in Operation Smart Speed, but in a supporting role.
Again, the idea is to leverage medical experts led by our primary spokesperson in the media.
Returning to the NYT poll, we see only 7% of Republicans trust the national media to communicate accurate information about the coronavirus. Yet, we know these same Republicans believe what they hear from Fox News as reflected in the Pew Report data below.
With this in mind, we feed a steady stream of medical experts to explain the importance of a vaccine to Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and the like.
One more point on media relations and announcements —
This must be a bipartisan effort. If we’re going to build credibility for our medical experts leading the charge, we can’t feather White House propaganda into the narrative. I raise this because the FDA recently sent out a news release on convalescent plasma that does exactly that and proved to be an utter disaster.
The Needle Is In Your Court, Dr. Hahn
This should give the FDA a running start on their communications plan for the vaccine.
Back in 2017 I offered my unsolicited advice to the Golden State Warriors on how to capitalize on their platform for the greater good of the country. They didn’t come calling.
I suspect I won’t hear from the FDA either. That’s fine.
I’m simply trying to do my part as a concerned citizen.