Written by Lily Way-Lory
Photo by David Ruvic
Multiple channels across social media share messages regarding the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Despite the continuous rush of information, most messaging fails to create a common understanding of COVID-19 and what the general public should do about it. Especially with a fairly new vaccination underway, many people are hesitant to trust and participate in vaccination efforts across the country. Klassen et al. (2018) examined the communication efforts made by brands and official health organizations to analyze which methods proved to be effective in creating shared meaning and engagement. As a result, the study determined that each organization must tailor their content toward a specific target audience to create understanding. In other words, certain techniques on particular media channels appeal to specific people.
According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, health organizations most successful campaigns were found through both online and literary searches (Klassen et al., 2018, p. 3). The data collected explains that health organizations, as opposed to lifestyle or food brands, are less popular on social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook. Considering that information, those channels might not be appropriate when sharing information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Rather, understanding your audience and “tailoring a suitable health message remains important for health promotion design for both traditional and social media campaigns” (Klassen et al., 2018, p. 2). The Institute for Public Relations recognized this disconnect and aims to provide accurate information to those who need it.
The Institute for Public Relations lists a series of resources on their webpage including vaccine communication resources, reasons for vaccine hesitancy, disinformation, vaccine communication strategies, and more. Each section is complimented by articles, studies, and campaigns from a series of different channels. These findings are derived from sources such as the Guardian, UNESCO, and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The Institute for Public Relations successfully examines vaccine communication efforts by providing a vast amount of resources. Rather than providing an article per topic, the Institute for Public Relations provides a series of different sources from multiple perspectives, thought processes, and research.
Photo from Ohio Northern University
The channels used include government agency websites, research studies, and news platforms. Like previously stated, health communication was not as effective on social media compared to online and print sources (i.e., newspapers, magazines). Health campaigns that “run via social media have traditionally struggled to reach and engage with large numbers of people” (Klassen et al., 2018, p. 2). A majority of social media users look toward platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, for entertainment purposes. Most social media communication strategies involve developing relationships and interactions between brands and customers rather than sharing public health knowledge.
Biased and opinionated messages on social media regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine might be taken too literally and spread misinformation. The plethora of diverse information offered by the Institute for Public Relations aims to debunk common misconceptions spread across social media channels. In a study comparing lifestyle and food brands to health organizations, health organizations “were the only organization type to present statistics or facts in their posts” on social media (Klassen et al., 2018, p. 4). Rather than spreading information across social media regarding the vaccine, brands should amplify the voices of professionals who are providing concrete facts and evidence. Prompting engagement strategies, such as links to health information, are most effective in health communication efforts.
Photo from Toward Data Science
By providing online sources that implement facts, statistics, and research, the Institute for Public Relations successfully builds a strong network of accurate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. The Institute for Public Relations also includes information regarding vaccine communication strategies. For example, an Axios article listed on the IPR resource page explains that “certain vocabulary is more effective at getting the public to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously” (Fischer, 2020, p. 1). With a wide variety of topics, sources, and perspectives relating to the COVID-19 vaccine, the Institute for Public Relations provides users with reliable information that cannot be misconstrued.
Although the general public still lacks a common understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Institute for Public Relations serves as a strategic, functional resource for vaccine information. Data collected from multiple studies find that health communication is most effective when it is produced through online or literature sources. Additionally, this data also argues that in order for information to be properly retained, it must be delivered through the proper channel. Since each individual retains knowledge differently, the Institute for Public Relations provided over 40 sources on seven different topics relating to the vaccine.
Personal Brand Statement: Work with intention, purpose, and vibrance. Each experience is valuable and cultivates your sense of self.
Lily is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She will be graduating in May 2021 with a B.A. in Communication Studies and a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Studies. Originally from a small town in New Jersey near Manhattan, Lily appreciates the culture and vibrancy of city life.
Upon graduation, she plans to travel Europe before looking for work in New York City. She hopes to work in the music industry doing promotion or marketing. Lily enjoys a change of scenery and a change of pace. Her experience ranges from interning at Broadcast Music Incorporated in New York City to working as a therapy assistant for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Currently, Lily works as an Involvement Specialist at UNCW and assists student leaders in running their organizations.
In her free time, you can find Lily cooking vegetarian meals, doing yoga, or going on hikes with friends. Prior to the pandemic, she attended multiple music festivals and live concerts. Her passions include sustainability, music, and social justice.
Fischer, S. (2020, December 01). The words that actually persuade people on the pandemic. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://www.axios.com/pandemic-language-study-covid-19-lockdown-d6ea2080-11fb-486f-b295-164b510c86e7.html
Institute for Public Relations. (2021, February 18). IPR COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Resource Center. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from https://instituteforpr.org/vaccine-communication-resource-center/#vaccine
Klassen, K. M., Borleis, E. S., Brennan, L., Reid, M., McCaffrey, T. A., & Lim, M. S. (2018). What People “Like”: Analysis of Social Media Strategies Used by Food Industry Brands, Lifestyle Brands, and Health Promotion Organizations on Facebook and Instagram. Journal of medical Internet research, 20(6), e10227. https://doi.org/10.2196/10227