Case Study: Effective Vaccine Thought Leadership Marries Strategy and Timeliness


Just like when the pandemic hit in March, the FDA Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines marked significant moments in time for the country. Everyone was in the same boat — scrambling for information, yet this time healthcare providers who anticipated this milestone were in the unique position to provide answers.


Drawing from lessons learned during the early days of the pandemic, Riverside Health System — a leading integrated health system serving Eastern Virginia — prioritized internal and external stakeholder communications, with the goal of establishing itself as a leader in vaccine planning and distribution in a competitive local market. They planned ahead, moved quickly and offered 24/7 transparency and accessibility to educate and inform local residents and the media about COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy, distribution and administration plans.


As a result, even in a crowded healthcare landscape with other hospitals and health systems vying for similar megaphones, Riverside was able to establish a leadership position locally and nationally to showcase their preparation efforts and expertise. MERGE partnered with Riverside to ensure the health system’s position as experts within their community, leading vaccine distribution efforts in their region and across the state. Anticipating impending FDA approvals, MERGE worked with Riverside to develop a focused strategy, key messages and a thought leadership platform with subject matter experts in place weeks in advance — establishing a competitive advantage that positioned them to take action immediately as FDA approvals were granted.


With a strategy, message and spokespeople approved and ready, Riverside successfully established itself as the primary source for local broadcast, radio and print outlets reporting vaccine distribution news. With key foundational materials in place, MERGE was able to establish first mover status for Riverside that elevated thought leadership to a national level — generating media interest from outlets including The Washington Post, CNBC, NPR, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and NBC Nightly News. For Riverside, this exposure built a positive and credible reputation with reporters both locally and nationally as a primary source to revisit even as new information is released and new consumer questions arise.


Check out the case study below to see what Riverside and MERGE set out to do, why the approach was successful and the results garnered.