The Tough Questions to Guide your COVID Comms Strategy

MERGE has been on the frontline of COVID-19 vaccine distribution storytelling and technology by working with clients to help navigate numerous aspects of the rollout process. As a highly complex area impacting the full healthcare ecosystem, we understand it can be a significant challenge as information changes regularly. To share our insights about best practices for communication planning, logistics and execution, we have crafted a checklist to help you strategically manage your own frontline efforts. The following provides considerations and questions through three lenses critical to a successful vaccine distribution marketing and communications plan: strategy, technology and storytelling. 



Considerations for discovery and research:


  • TimingWhen do you need to communicate with various audiences? How often will the communications need updates?
  • Audience. Who do you need to communicate with — internally and externally? 
  • Message. What critical information does each audience need? 
  • Insight. Have you surveyed audience members to understand where their points of interest, concern or confusion lie to meet them where they are?
  • Role. What is your organization's role in the vaccine distribution process? Can you clearly state your responsibility and the value of what your team offers to the process?  
  • Taskforce. Have you assembled a cross-discipline team involving key stakeholders from across the organization and/or external partners to inform logistical details, collect data and offer authority for decisions? This critical step helps ensure an effective workflow with an approval chain in place for quick execution and agile change, as needed. 
  • Communications template. What does your communications framework entail? What can be created proactively to enable easy updates and clarity of message delivery?
  • Source. Have you identified and defined reliable sources internally and that can be leveraged at the local, regional and/or state levels? 



Considerations for effective outreach:


  • Channels. Where is your audience right now? What channels will be most effective to reach your audience where they are seeking information? Has this changed?
  • Platforms and systems. What solutions are already in place to reach your audience where they are? Do any gaps exist? 
  • Infrastructure. How can you most effectively leverage your MarTech stack for deployment when the time comes?
  • Reach. Does your current infrastructure support both internal AND external communications? 
  • Reliability. Have platforms been adequately volume tested for expected increased traffic?
  • Scale. What enhancements may be needed to fill the gaps identified?
  • Support. What resources are needed to ensure appropriate monitoring and adjustments can be made at launch and post launch for a flawless user experience?



Considerations for inbound and outbound communications needs:


  • Reputation Management. Have you anticipated how to handle negative sentiment and planned for proactive communications across channels and vehicles to address potential issues?
  • Statement preparation. Do you have holding statements prepared to address specific anticipated issues? Have you identified expected questions and collected details to address? 
  • Trustworthiness of sources. Is the information you plan to share accurate? Do you have appropriate citation of sources?
  • Alignment with partners. Are key stakeholders/partners across all relevant teams, facilities, tech partners, regulatory bodies (local, regional, state levels), etc. prepared and aligned on response efforts? 


Bringing together storytelling and technology to effectively communicate COVID-19 vaccines updates is an important and pivotal step in helping local communities and the nation as a whole move forward from the pandemic. Regardless of what approach you choose, now is the time to plan and ensure your organization is prepared for success.