Marathon Strategies

PRWEEK: Marathon’s Phil Singer discusses how the PR Industry can drive vaccination efforts

PR firms can help corporate leaders be a source of truth and trust for their employees.
By Phil Singer, CEO Marathon Strategies

Business leaders have both a moral and financial imperative to promote COVID-19 vaccinations among their employees, but getting people to roll up their sleeves has been a challenge for many companies.  

For the PR industry, this is an opportunity to do what we do best by helping corporate clients view workforce vaccination efforts as a complex communications challenge that requires a full-scale, integrated campaign to succeed. 

While many public figures — including faith leaders, celebrities and social media influencers — have joined the cause to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, many Americans are still hesitant to get their shot. According to a recent Census Bureau survey, 23% said they will “probably not” or “definitely not” get vaccinated. This hesitancy is even higher among select demographics; in the same survey, nearly a third of Black adults and adults aged 25-39 said they are unlikely to get vaccinated. 

For companies, the challenge of getting employees vaccinated lies in the origins of vaccine hesitancy itself. For many, vaccine skepticism is a deeply rooted issue influenced by forces that can be difficult to overcome, including cultural beliefs, distrust of the government or healthcare system and the current climate of confusion and disinformation. In response, some companies are working to combat vaccine fears through creative avenues, such as “myth-buster” email blasts, social media campaigns and even celebrating vaccines with cake and games at on-site clinics. 

But while these types of one-off initiatives are a good start, they’re unlikely to move the needle on their own. Building on such measures, businesses must view vaccination efforts like any other long-term public campaign or policy challenge that require a sustained, strategic communications plan to succeed, particularly given the enormous business implications: Getting more employees vaccinated means a safer work environment and fewer chances for outbreaks that could force employers to close their doors.

Simply put, a vaccinated workforce means a healthier America and a healthier American economy. This is where PR firms are perfectly positioned to help companies develop and implement multifaceted communications strategies for internal vaccine promotion. 

To address the current climate of fear, confusion and widespread misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, PR firms can help corporate leaders be a source of truth and trust for their employees. An educational messaging campaign that is based on research and data can provide employees with access to evidence-based and up-to-date information about the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Not only will this build trust between employers and their staff, but it will also help stop the spread of disinformation that is in part driving vaccine hesitancy throughout the country. 

But the C-suite cannot be the sole voice for vaccine information among their employees. As with any communications campaign, the messenger is as important as the message, and companies must consider engaging external voices whom their employees are likely to trust. That means identifying third parties in communities who can validate the importance of getting vaccinated, particularly those who have already been vaccinated and are willing to share their experiences. This could include religious leaders, local health care organizations, school groups and others who can communicate to employees why vaccines are essential for protecting not only their own health, but the health of their co-workers, families and communities. 

With messages and messengers in place, businesses need to get creative about opening up communication channels and platforms necessary for engaging staff. Providing opportunities such as webinars and town halls for employees to ask questions or voice concerns to company leaders will help build rapport and trust. At the same time, this will also require that company voices are adequately prepared to answer difficult questions from their employees. 

Achieving widespread vaccination will do more than just get employees back to the office. Beyond benefiting a company’s bottom line, a vaccinated America means getting children back to school, keeping essential workers and healthcare workers safe and shoring up the nation’s economic recovery. Vaccination efforts are a unique opportunity for business leaders and PR professionals to work together to create safer workplaces — and a safe society — for everyone. 

View the full article in PRWeek here.