COVID-19 Updates

Weekly Comms Report — A New Year of Hope and Chaos

This new year has kicked off with a potent mix of hope and chaos — including triumphant stories of healthcare worker vaccinations, but also post-holiday COVID-19 case counts climbing and turmoil on Capitol Hill around the transfer of power. 

Marketers and communicators play a critical role in ensuring the hope stays prominent as we journey toward widespread vaccinations and eventual herd immunity. We stand with you in support of your role to usher a post-COVID-19 world. 

Below are some quick recommendations for how to communicate today, but you can also search from 200+ pieces of content about marketing and communication around COVID-19 at our content hub.

Communicating about COVID-19

1. Manage internal and external expectations.

What We're Hearing: Frustrations among healthcare workers and the general public continue to mount as the rollout of the vaccine continues to hit a number of roadblocks. Healthcare workers have reported widespread disorganization and even free-for-alls, while some senior citizens have been lining up and camping overnight for the chance to receive a vaccine. Overall, a lack of clear communication across the board is further hampering an already difficult vaccine rollout that is behind schedule.  

Communications Recommendation: This is only the beginning of what is planned to be the largest vaccination effort in our nation’s history. Right now, the single best thing a health system can do is manage expectations appropriately across all stakeholders. First and foremost, communicate with all employees and clearly outline the process you are taking to vaccinate staff. Be specific and clarify what they can expect in the coming weeks. The general public is seeking much of the same information, but they are also interested in finding out how they can ensure they get a vaccine. Unless stronger communication is established now, chaos and confusion are likely to continue, which would not bode well for expedient vaccinations once vaccines are available more broadly. Does your system’s vaccine rollout plan include a regular cadence of communication with internal and external stakeholders?

2. Promote data-informed facts and refute false claims.

What We're Hearing: While health systems are currently busy managing those ready to receive the vaccine, influential figures who oppose the vaccine are working to deter others from receiving it. Internally, there have been reports of disgruntled staff doing everything in their power to stop vaccination efforts, or at least temporarily derail them. Externally, larger campaigns are underway by groups that oppose the vaccine to propagate misinformation and foster public distrust.

Communication Recommendation: It may be easy to get distracted by the demand for the vaccine, but it is critical to not let any naysayers in your community gain momentum based on false information. We still have a long road ahead, and we’ve learned just how fast (dis)information can spread during the pandemic (take, for instance, the national mask debate). To combat the seeds of mistrust being sown, consider launching your own campaigns both internally and externally to deliver the facts, and lead people to where they can find additional information.

3. Focus on retaining and communicating with your most valuable marketing asset: healthcare workers.

What We're Hearing: The list of challenges rural health systems have endured this year seems never-ending. Now, they are facing another crisis as pandemic politics drive healthcare workers out of small towns, leaving personnel gaps in places that desperately need them. A population health expert from the University of Kansas reports that more than a quarter of all public health administrators in Kansas have quit, retired, or were terminated this year — most are attributing this to the pandemic’s exacerbation of the political divide and toxic individualism.

Communications Recommendation: Health systems who experience this reality should pay special attention to internal communication and employee retention efforts in the new year, especially as recruiting remains a challenge as a result of nationwide staffing shortages. While health systems across the country have shown gratitude for their healthcare workers, it’s clear that some communities have fallen short. Consider rethinking how you are honoring your frontline workers, and be sure to offer resources to help them combat any criticism they may be facing from the community at large.