Campaign Approach to Reaching General Audiences

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Overview

  • Campaign products and initiatives are designed to help people who are vaccine hesitant—those who want to protect their health but have questions about vaccines—become more willing to consider vaccination against COVID with the right information and resources. The Campaign aims to connect with Americans from a wide range of backgrounds and the "General Audience" counts everyone across the United States. In addition to people who are vaccine hesitant, a large portion of our general audience includes those who are likely to share information with vaccine-hesitant friends and family, and people who have not yet gotten a booster shot. The Campaign also specially designs messaging to reach diverse populations and those disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the approach to each of these special focus communities is separately described.
  • At the beginning of March, the United States was approaching 79 million known cases and more than 945,000 deaths from COVID-19. The share of people ages 5 and older in the United States who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is 81.2%.
  • In a January 2022 national survey conducted by the Campaign, 73% of adult respondents were already vaccinated and another 12% either had one dose or were ready to get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. An additional 5% of respondents wanted to wait and see before getting vaccinated against COVID-19, and 9% had no intention of getting vaccinated at all.  
  • In the same survey, 54% of parents with children 17 or younger either had already gotten their children vaccinated or planned to do so as soon as they were eligible. Another 27% of parents wanted to wait and see before getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19, and 19% had no intention of getting their children vaccinated at all.  
  • In a February national survey conducted by the Campaign, 73% of vaccinated adults reported having received a booster shot. Of those vaccinated adults who had not received a booster, only 41% reported that they were likely to do so.  
  • Campaign and external research indicates that it is important to use credible, science-based information in communicating with all audiences about vaccination and also to acknowledge that it is normal for people to have questions about the vaccines and to be prepared to provide fact-based responses about safety and effectiveness. Since minimizing people’s concerns about the vaccine can increase resistance, the Campaign avoids judgmental language when talking about people who are concerned about taking the vaccine.
  • Campaign focus groups have consistently found that non-vaccinated audiences generally view their family physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the most trusted sources of information about COVID-19.

Audience Market Research and Testing 

A robust and continuous cycle of research drives all Campaign activities.

  • 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 CDC, expert recommendations of audience—specific creative agencies, environmental scans, credible external research results, social listening, and iterative testing, among other inputs.

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

  • 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.  
  • COVID-19 can cause severe disease, hospitalization, or death. Vaccines offer you the best protection from the worst outcomes from COVID-19. 
  • Vaccines offer you the best protection from COVID-19. If you’re already vaccinated, getting a booster shot when recommended will help ensure your protection continues, including against the new variants.  
  • Everyone in the United States ages 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated. Vaccines are free and available at a location near you. Getting vaccinated has never been easier or more convenient.  
    • COVID-19 vaccines are free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of health insurance status. 
    • About nine out of 10 Americans live within 5 miles of a COVID-19 vaccination site, including doctors’ offices and pharmacies. 
    • To find the site closest to you, visit vaccines.gov; text your ZIP code to 438829 (GETVAX); or call 1-800-232-0233. 

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 audiences who said that they would "wait and see" before getting a booster shot, the following messages were shown to be most effective: 

  • Even mild cases of COVID have cause 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. Boosters give you an extra layer of protection from COVID.
  • We’re making progress to move past the pandemic. We know more about the virus than ever before, and we know that if you're vaccinated and boosted, you're 10x less likely to get COVID than if you're unvaccinated. Getting vaccinated and boosted is your best defense against COVID.
  • Just because you had COVID doesn’t mean you can’t get it again. A COVID vaccine and booster are the best way to protect yourself against serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
  • Over time, vaccines may become less effective at preventing COVID. Getting your COVID booster extends your protection and keeps you safer from emerging variants.  
  • Getting a booster gives you extra protection from COVID, including from variants that might be more contagious or cause more severe disease.    
  • CDC recommends that everyone ages 12 and older who are vaccinated get a COVID booster 5 months after their Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, or 2 months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccination.

Partnerships 

Bringing trusted messengers to the forefront, partnership activities leverage extensive networks across HHS and amplify tailored resources for key audiences.

Key Activities and Metrics

  • National Organizations. Early in the campaign, partnership work focused primarily on multicultural organizations at the national and local levels. In December 2021, the campaign partnered with the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) to support campaign activities through their national and local member organizations. Specifically:
    • During December 2021 and February 2022, the BGCA distributed 1,280 COVID-19 vaccines across 7 states (IN, TX, FL, IL, CA, MN, MA) by implementing:
      • Awareness campaigns
      • Vaccine sign-ups
      • Virtual outreach
      • Information workshops
    • The BGCA events were promoted on billboards, radio, and social media outlets, with an estimated reach of over 60K impressions.
    • In partnership with National PTA, we hosted a virtual webinar, Take Action to Keep Kids Safely in School: What Your PTA Can Do to Address Vaccine Hesitancy. The webinar's goal was to equip select PTA leaders with accurate and culturally sensitive resources and practical strategies to help address vaccine hesitancy. Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, and Anna King, National PTA President, were among the panelists. A total of 344 attendees registered for the virtual webinar event. We also partnered with the National PTA to:
      • Share campaign resources and host vaccination clinics in 19 local PTAs across the country. 
      • The National PTA shared campaign resources on its website and published two blogs as part of its Storytelling Highlight: We Can Do This blog series to raise national awareness about the campaign, share critical campaign resources to a broader audience, and highlight the takeaways from the 2/2/22 national convening that included the U.S. Surgeon General and other thought leaders. 
    • The Campaign is expanding its partnership with the National PTA and starting new collaborations with the American Library Association and the Association of Children’s Museum, with activities slated to begin mid-March. 
  • Toolkits. The Campaign has created numerous toolkits to provide communication materials for partner organizations as well as resource collections to bring together available campaign materials on a specific subject, such as to promote booster doses or encourage parents to vaccinate kids ages 5–11. Many toolkit materials are available in the top languages widely spoken in the United States by people for whom English is not their first language. A selection of toolkits created for general audiences are linked below: 

Key Activities and Metrics

The team has created surround-sound, broad-reaching paid media across all platforms, targeted nationally (television/radio) and regionally (television/radio/print/out of home) and hyper-locally (digital out of home/digital/social).  

  • Ads are tailored to population needs to increase vaccine confidence while reinforcing basic prevention measures and to increase vaccine uptake by communicating how and where to get vaccinated.
  • Ads in the general audience campaign focus on:
    • Parents of children 5 and older
    • "Movable Middle" (adults 18–40 who are vaccine hesitant but have not ruled out getting vaccinated), with emphasis on young adults ages 18 to 25
    • The booster eligible population
  • As of February 2022, the Campaign has delivered more than 39 billion paid media impressions across media types (e.g., paid search, digital media, and offline media like TV, print, and radio).   
  • Campaign paid advertising reaches more than 90% of Americans each month, more than 20 times per month on average. (Nielsen, Jan 2022).  

Milestones

  • Early in the Campaign, Slow the Spread efforts reinforced 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 has evolved with the course of the pandemic. Initially the campaign focused on older adults as the first eligible population for vaccinations, then targeted health navigators—the health care decision makers in families, young adults, and now parents of children who are eligible for vaccination. Tailored ads to encourage boosters for the vaccinated are also part of the Campaign. 
  • Protecting the Nation (PTN) uses social, digital, and search ads to answer frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccines and dispels emerging misconceptions through factual, research-based messaging. Using trusted messenger videos in PTN ads enhances the ability to produce significant change in targeted attitudes and beliefs and increase vaccine uptake.

Earned Media 

Earned media uses trusted messengers and market-tested messages to engage and inform audiences and to encourage vaccination.

Key Activities and Metrics to Date

  • The Campaign focuses its earned media outreach on placing local doctors as trusted messengers in local news outlets to answer current questions about vaccination. Focusing on a primary audience for each month—the unvaccinated, parents of unvaccinated children, or booster eligible—we refine the messaging and target four states where that audience is prevalent. In those four states, we conduct television, radio, and print interviews and release a ready-to-use article. We also choose target states for the other two audiences and proactively pitch local doctors from those states for radio and print interviews.  
    • As of March 1, we have placed more than 80 doctors in news programs in 39 states, resulting in 19,887 syndicated airings or postings of 726 original stories for a reach of more than 875.5M broadcast/online impressions.
  • Special topic media briefings provide another opportunity to bring local trusted messengers and HHS spokespeople to a larger audience. For example, when the authorization for the vaccine for 5–11-year-old children came into effect, we held a press briefing that featured Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. Lee Ann Savio Beers, President, American Academy of Pediatrics; Dr. Kenneth Alexander, Nemours Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Jody Thomas, The Meg Foundation. The briefing had over 30 media outlets in attendance, including Parents magazine, Parents.com, BabyCenter, ScaryMommy, and What to Expect.  
  • Campaign partner, iHeart Media, provides opportunities for both HHS spokespeople and local doctors on a variety of nationally syndicated and regional radio programs. Since January 2021, we have placed 23 HHS spokespeople and numerous local doctors on iHeart Media programs, including Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, a weekly spot on the Communities national public affairs program, and Georgia and Florida state public affairs programs, among others. The Campaign has delivered more than 208 million impressions from these opportunities to date.

Trusted Messengers

The Campaign’s influencer strategy is to cultivate and collaborate with a range of influencers, including community leaders, celebrities, musicians, artists, entertainers, medical experts, and digital creators, to amplify Campaign messaging to target audiences. Our goal is to increase trust and confidence in vaccines with our key audiences by strategically leveraging an individual's influence with their followers.  

For the general audience, the focus is on outreach to young adult and parent influencers, technology collaborations, and media partnerships.  

Key Activities and Metrics

  • Reddit, in coordination with the Office of the Surgeon General, hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session featuring Dr. Vivek Murthy, giving audiences the opportunity to ask questions about COVID-19, the pandemic's impact on youth mental health, and the importance of being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations. The AMA session generated over 300 comments and Dr. Murthy was able to respond to 21 unique questions. This effort delivered 23.7 million impressions, reached over 7.5 million users, and drove 79,129 clicks—38% of the clicks were driven by post-AMA ads, which led users to the AMA thread.  
  • Collaborations with content creators include these recent successes:
    • Activated five BuzzFeed creators of diverse backgrounds via paid promotion and organically through social content to reach young adults. Their content delivered over 47.1 million paid impressions and 245,631 organic impressions, drove 65,000+ engagements, and garnered almost 60,000 clicks to vaccines.gov
    • Activated three Twitter/ArtHouse diverse creators to create content for young adult audiences, delivering engagement rates that were 3.7 times stronger than Twitter’s government benchmark and 3.4 times stronger than Campaign non-influencer creative. Overall, the content drove over 35.9 million impressions, close to 750 thousand clicks, 1.4 million engagements, over 10.7 million video views, and reached over 12 million users on Twitter.
    • Through City Mom Collective, launched a hyperlocal influencer campaign nationally with 27 local sister sites (collectives of local moms) in 27 geographic markets, creating social and digital content that generated more than 2 million impressions. 
    • With Mom 2.0, built a national influencer campaign with 27 parenting influencers and digital networks, creating and amplifying social and digital content that generated nearly 2 billion impressions (1,910,000,000). 
  • Working through Athletes for Hope, a non-profit that helps connect athletes with causes they care about, the Campaign launched school-specific "Get the Shot" PSAs in venues, on game broadcasts, and in social media with Big 12 Conference institutions (10 universities in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia), featuring football, soccer, and volleyball athletes and coaches.

Creative Sample

  • Slow the Spread: Digital ad. Launched March 2021.
    Slow the Spread: Digital ad
  • "It’s Time": Television ad reminding people that vaccines can help us push back against COVID-19. Launched April 2021.
    It's time
  • "Survivor Story: Katelyn": A digital testimonial ad for young adults. Launched February 2022.
    Survivor Story: Katelyn.
  • "Irreplaceable": Television, social, and digital ad for parents of children 5+. Launched November 2021.
    Irreplaceable
  • Protecting the Nation digital ad: COVID Vaccine Fast Facts: Booster Shots. Launched November 2021.
    Booster shots

     

  • "Fewer": Television advertisement encouraging people to get a booster to increase their protection against COVID-19. Launched January 2022.
    Fewer

 

Contact Us

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