Campaign Approach to Reaching Black Audiences

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  • Representing nearly 14% of the U.S. population, the Black community is one of our country’s hardest hit communities by the COVID-19 pandemic, and reaching this audience is essential.
  • Although Black Americans are only slightly more likely to get COVID-19 than are non-Hispanic White people, they are nearly three times more likely to be hospitalized as a result and twice as likely to die from it (CDC, 2022).
  • According to CDC’s weekly tracker on vaccine demographics, 16.2% of people who had initiated a first dose in the two weeks prior to March 15, 2022, were Black, which is over indexing compared to their share of the U.S. population (12.4%). However, only 10.3% of all those with a first dose of the COVID vaccine are Black, and this demographic group was the second least likely, after Latinos, to have received a booster dose at 43.7% of those eligible.
  • Black Americans are more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to become infected with COVID-19 because they are more likely to be essential workers, and they are more likely to have conditions that put them at an increased risk of severe illness if infected by COVID-19.
  • To reach this important and high-risk community, the Campaign has created a steady drumbeat of activities, including Campaign ads featuring trusted Black messengers like Black doctors, engagement of Black media, community outreach vaccination events, and partnerships with organizations embedded in these communities.

Audience Market Research and Testing  

A robust and continuous cycle of research drives all Campaign activities, including the approach to reaching Black audiences.     

  • Primary research includes focus groups and interviews, creative testing surveys, and a weekly current events survey (a probability-based survey of 1,000 representative U.S. adults 18 and older), with findings provided by key demographic groups. Additional research includes audience segmentation and monitoring of news stories, social media, and secondary research. Findings are summarized for use across the Campaign.
  • Additional outcome surveys and analysis, along with social listening, enable performance tracking and real-time impact assessment to inform quick adjustments to messaging in a rapidly changing environment.  

Key Messages for Audience  

Messaging guidance is based on qualitative and quantitative message testing insights, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expert recommendations from audience-specific creative agencies, environmental scans, credible external research results, social listening, and iterative testing, among other inputs.

Campaign research has demonstrated that across all audiences, framing messages that point to the severity of COVID-19 and the benefits of the vaccines were generally the most effective. Research has found that for the Black audience specifically, the below messages, when used together, were the most effective at driving intention to vaccinate.  

  • Many children’s hospitals are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 children who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccines. Getting family members vaccinated as soon as possible and wearing masks in public indoor spaces are the best ways to protect younger children until they are eligible for vaccines.
  • The best way to protect yourself and others is not to roll the dice that you’ll get infected and survive. It’s to get vaccinated.
  • Even mild cases of COVID-19 have caused damage to the lungs, heart, brain, and many other organs, leading to an increased risk of long-term health problems such as strokes or seizures.
  • The more unvaccinated people there are, the greater the chance COVID-19 has to spread and mutate into more contagious variants that cause severe disease. According to CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are our best defense and are effective against current variants.
  • Thousands of Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The risks of infection, hospitalization, and death are all much lower in vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people.

Campaign research has also demonstrated that across all audiences, messages which indicate that vaccines and boosters together protect against the worst outcomes of COVID and that boosters extend protection to keep one safe from emerging variants were generally the most effective to drive intent to get a booster shot. For the Black audience specifically, the following message was shown to be most effective.

  • COVID can cause severe disease, hospitalization, or death. COVID vaccines and boosters protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID, and also help reduce the spread of COVID in communities, further reducing risks for our most vulnerable populations.

Partnerships and Outreach

Key Activities and Metrics

As part of a robust partnership strategy, our approach to building relationships within the Black community includes engaging community partners serving Black audiences where they are and supplying them with the resources they need to communicate with their constituencies. Our portfolio of partner organizations includes corporate, sporting, and not-for-profit national organizations with unique reach into the Black community.

  • Toolkits: Created and updated toolkits provided for community/civic organizations' and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) communication needs.
  • Partners: Secured more than 120 active community partners, including community-based organizations, service organizations, health organizations, family organizations, educational institutions, faith-based organizations, and coalitions.
  • Trusted voices: The W. Montague Cobb/NMA Health Institute conducted 34 interviews with Black physicians for the Campaign to use as shorter, "snackable cuts" focused on a variety of questions and answers about COVID-19 vaccines. The video sound bites are being distributed through community organizations in the physicians’ respective cities with an estimated reach of 250,000–300,000 per snackable post.
  • In person events: Partnership agreements with premier health and service organizations are reaching communities of color. Events initiated with these partners have an estimated reach of over 1 million people. Examples:
    • Stay Well Community Health Fairs and Vaccine Events in partnership with the W. Montague Cobb Institute provided a grassroots approach to reaching Black audiences in cities that have high vaccine hesitancy and low vaccination rates.
      • We have supported a total of 13 fairs as of March 2022, and have had 3,513 attendees, 1,206 vaccinations, 867 health screenings, 2,289 health resources provided, and 939 trusted experts who attended and participated.
      • Earned media coverage of these events has brought a total reach of 2 billion impressions to date in targeted cities with large Black audiences, including Detroit, MI, Memphis, TN, and Shreveport, LA.
      • This integrated effort has included all aspects of paid and earned media and creative content to provide assets to local host and local community partners in support of the Stay Well Health Fairs.
    • The Campaign began collaborating with Black Men Engaged in December and together have reached more than 350,000 people through local events in Albany, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida. Partners have included businesses such as Lyft, government partners such as the Commissioners of Dougherty County, GA and the City of Jacksonville, FL, as well as community partners including Agape Health and Pack's Pharmacy.

Paid Media

Key Activities and Metrics

National, regional, and hyperlocal paid outreach to Black adults has run in 150+ media markets between 8/01/2021 and 1/31/2022, in 111+ local and national print publications, and 1,800+ radio stations on programming consumed most by the Black audience. More than two thirds of the media spend for Black audiences to date was through Black owned-and-operated media partners. The media buy incorporates:

  • Comprehensive, audience-tailored media plans, national and local media channels such as TV, print, radio, digital, social, and alternative out-of-home (OOH).
  • Trusted voices, such as radio DJ personalities, within target markets for more familiarity and credibility.
  • Custom-designed media channel segmentation and mixes to reach narrow groups within the larger Black community, including parents, young adults, and those ages 65 and older.
  • Added value placements based on the paid media buy across radio, print, TV, and OOH platforms, increasing the overall reach and frequency above what was purchased for Campaign messaging to the Black target audiences.
  • Relationships with trusted Black associations such as National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). Additional sponsorships with local Black-owned and -operated stations and media partners include DeDe in the Morning, ReachONE, and Café Mocha Radio.
  • Working in partnership with Sony Studios and Columbia Pictures, Incubation Labs, and PlayersTV, NBA athletes and their families spoke on camera about their experiences with COVID-19 and the hope provided by the vaccine. Beginning in mid-November, we distributed the players’ testimonial videos on broadcast and cable TV as well as through streaming services, PlayersTV, and on the players’ individual social accounts. This effort seeks to cultivate real conversation among the Black audience to educate, inform, inspire, and ultimately ignite action to vaccinate.
  • Black History Month-themed digital ads and a SHEMedia placement through their network of black-owned publishers and channels that celebrate diversity.


  • Early in the Campaign, Slow the Spread efforts included customized collateral for this audience to reinforce basic prevention measures with ads in radio, newspaper, digital, and social media.
  • Building Vaccine Confidence, the Campaign’s advertising push, included TV, radio, newspaper, digital and social media and digital OOH for this audience, initially focusing on seniors as the first eligible for vaccinations, then targeting health navigators—the healthcare decisionmakers in families, young adults, and now parents of children eligible for vaccination as CDC announced new eligibilities. Tailored ads for Boosters are also part of the Campaign.

Earned Media

Key Activities and Metrics

The Campaign works with more than 140 local media partners, including both Black-owned-and-operated and mainstream media in areas and on programming with a large Black audience:

  • Bringing trusted messenger voices to the forefront, we have placed Black physicians, both local doctors and HHS spokespeople, in iHeart nationally syndicated programming, including The Steve Harvey Show, The Breakfast Club, and iHeart Communities, a national public affairs program. We have also placed local Black doctors on numerous local or regional iHeart radio shows. Placements have included more than 60 total television, radio, podcast, and print interviews, garnering 1.5 billion impressions to date including these two examples:
  • Arranged an August, 2021 media briefing expressly for the Black audience featuring Dr. Cameron Webb, Dr. Rachel Villanueva (National Medical Association), and Dr. Michele Benoit-Wilson (North Carolina Obstetrician) with 164 media representatives and community partners in attendance. Thirty-one original articles and broadcast stories from the briefing resulted in more than 16 million impressions.
  • Providing video sound bites from Black doctors for partners to use in media coverage.
  • Providing original articles for publishing. The Campaign has placed stories across 71 outlets, including Rolling Out, SwagHer, and Heart and Soul magazines, and AFRO American Newspapers, with more than 20 million aggregate readership; for example, "4 Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines and Pregnancy."
  • Sharing Dr. Nina Ford Johnson’s "I’m a Mom First" nationwide TV spot for additional attention through earned coverage. It aired on TV One and other Black TV stations with an audience reach of more than 59 million households (Placement Sample).
  • Working directly with nationally syndicated radio shows, including the DeDe in the Morning Show (more than 50 markets nationwide) and Café Mocha Radio (over 35 markets reaching 1.4 million weekly listeners) to place Black doctors from the National Medical Association (NMA)/Cobb Institute for interviews.
  • Sharing Black History Month-themed social media posts.

Trusted Messengers

Key Activities and Metrics

  • In collaboration with content creation agency, Mom 2.0, we built a national influencer campaign with high profile Black influencer Kelly Rowland, 20 community influencers, and six digital community networks to connect with parents and promote fact-based awareness around COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5+.
  • Through Twitter/ArtHouse, we worked with three Young Adult influencers, including Black influencer @MacDoesIt, to produce original content to Twitter promoting the benefits of COVID vaccination. The content produced by @MacDoesIt saw the strongest performance: His video was deeply personal, speaking about his experience contracting COVID and his struggle with it and drove over 7.5 million video views on the platform.
  • The campaign, in collaboration with BuzzFeed, engaged Black creator, @Freddie who created and launched content via Instagram to promote the impact and benefits of COVID vaccines and to encourage others to get vaccinated.

Creative Approach

  • To ensure cultural relevance and sensitivity in meeting the Black Audiences’ needs, Campaign efforts are guided and primarily developed by a Black-owned agency with nearly three decades experience within the community.
  • We develop assets based on data and research that reflect the overall diversity of the full Black community. Incorporating Black doctors and other appropriate Black influencers across workstreams, including paid media, increases their visibility as trusted messengers and helps spread campaign messaging.
  • By staying up to date on the latest trends, topics, and discussions within the Black community, we ensure that all Campaign activities are aligned with the current situation of the pandemic and social climate.
  • Our advertising is more interactive and visually stimulating (more animations, increased focus on video, etc.) for better engagement with Black audiences, and particularly young Black audiences (scenarios in gaming, dating, music, etc.).

Creative Samples

Campaign Approach BAA Image 1

Launched December 2021, December 2021, Spring 2021


Campaign Approach BAA Image 2

Launched December 2021


Campaign Approach BAA Image 3

Testimonial Ad with NBA’s Jrue  Holiday, Launched November 2021 and "Let’s Press Play TV, and Digital Ad, Launched May 2021


Campaign Approach BAA Image 4

Launched January 2022

Contact Us

Please visit for more COVID-19 information or Contact Us for questions about HHS’s work to boost public confidence in vaccines.