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About the Host:
Host: DOUG SIMON
Guest: CARRIE JONES
DOUG: Carrie, you discuss that one of your most important roles as a communicator is helping organizations navigate issues surrounding vaccine rollout. Can you get into that a little bit for us?
CARRIE: Yeah, sure, Doug, and thank you for having us. As communicators in healthcare, we’re very passionate about helping to educate those so that they can take actions to lead healthier lives. And it’s been very interesting over the last decade of seeing the conversation around vaccines, and how it’s taken place, especially in the days of COVID as vaccine rollout is taking place across the country and globally, we’re seeing some of those vaccine hesitancy messages from the anti-vaxxers become more mainstream than ever before.
DOUG: So, you’ve got a unique ability to sort of track and be aware of those conversations. What are they telling you, and what are some ways that organizations can counteract that? I know it’s an enormous challenge.
CARRIE: Yeah, the anti-vaxxers are taking advantage of mainstream concerns around the vaccine. So, for example, we’ve seen Operation Warp Speed come out and there’s this natural human tendency to say, well, it’s happened fast, maybe the quality has been compromised. And we’re seeing the ant-vaxxers lob onto that and now have access to mainstream consumers where before they really were in an echo chamber only talking to themselves. So, your question is, what can we do about that, it’s message and repeat, message and repeat, and let people know that the process that goes into vaccine development, FDA approvals and what and all of the advantages that come with vaccination for diseases like COVID.
DOUG: And is that something that’s even harder to do, because sort of the messaging about COVID early on when little was known, and should you wear masks or not because health workers need them, because messaging was confusing early on, does that make the job that much harder for the vaccine space?
CARRIE: Yeah. Well, we’re dealing with trust here, right? And we’re seeing the public’s general mistrust of the politicians, the government, as well as healthcare professionals more than ever before. And that’s definitely contributing to the challenges of a successful vaccine rollout.
DOUG: Now, we’ve also seen that CEOs are almost becoming the fourth branch of government, and trust among corporations in some studies is actually increasing. Can that play a helpful role in this? And what’s the way to go about getting that message out that will be effective?
CARRIE: It’s a great question. I think all influencers will have a great ability to be able to help reach those around them. Certainly, CEOs and we’re seeing communities of color stand out and say that this is a good idea. But wouldn’t it be fascinating if we had other influencers like, I don’t know, Alex Jones or Gwyneth Paltrow to be able to contribute to the conversation as a way of having people look through a different lens?
DOUG: And I think if you can get Alex Jones to do that, you will definitely be the PR communicator of the year. That would be an impressive display. So, with the vaccine starting to be rolled out, what are some of the communications challenges out there? I mean, do people just assume it’s a panacea and we can go back to normal?
CARRIE: Wouldn’t that be lovely? I know personally that would be a dream come true for me. But as vaccines roll out, we know that we have to continue wearing masks. We’ve heard Biden say that what he wants post inauguration is to have the American public continue to wear masks for 100 days. We know that washing hands and maintaining social distancing will continue to be important. And here’s why. The vaccine does not provide instant immunity. The herd immunity threshold for COVID-19 is completely unknown, and the duration of the vaccine immunity is unknown. So, the communicators really need to continue to carry the message and serve by example about the importance of wearing masks and carrying these healthy behaviors forward.
DOUG: It’s so interesting because what a huge communications challenge to sort of have to advocate points that are seen to be in opposition. First, you’ve got to take the vaccine so we can get this under control. But then wait a second, even if you take it, that’s not going to solve everything. Nuance communication is really challenging, especially in this media environment where everything is either one way or the other. What are some approaches you’re using or suggesting to help get that message across, even though they may seem to be in conflict?
CARRIE: Yeah, it’s a couple of different things. The first thing we’re focusing on is what has the greatest impact the fastest, which is why you’ll see more communications today about get the vaccine with the mask continuity to follow after that. So, we want to time it out so that it’s not overwhelming. The second is to simplify the message, give consumers the reason why. And then the third is to do the best we can to step away from the politicization that’s taking place so that it’s not being associated with right wing or left wing, but rather on just taking care of the health of you and your family.
DOUG: That seems good advice, and hopefully our viewers will take that and pass it along. Any final thoughts that you’d like to close with?
CARRIE: I think the final thought for communicators is to remind people that as our healthcare workers are rolling out and administrating this vaccine, let’s remember to be kind and patient with them. It’s been a long, difficult, challenging process for the health departments to be rolling this out. And our frontline workers are bearing the brunt of people’s frustration. So, let’s lead with kindness and patience.
DOUG: That’s great advice, not just in the area of vaccines. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us.
CARRIE: Glad to be here. Thank you for having me.