Communications Guidance for Businesses

Communicating about COVID-19 Vaccines

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Updated: May 19, 2021

The United States is weathering one of the greatest health crises in our history. Fortunately, new vaccines offer hope that we can turn the tide against COVID-19 and get back to life and the things we love. Vaccines save lives. They also require trust, transparency and accountability. 

This document provides general guidance for communicating about COVID-19 vaccines to workers, customers and other stakeholders. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so you should be prepared to customize outreach for groups with unique needs and questions. To help you get started, we’ve also prepared key messages, audience insights and guidance for responding to sensitive questions.

Key Facts

Public Opinion

The Business Case

Americans are looking to employers and brands for trusted information about the pandemic, and they expect businesses to help lead our country toward a stronger, healthier future.

  • 72% of Americans trust their employer more than government, NGOs, or the media. [Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2021]
  • 68% of Americans look to CEOs to step in when the government does not fix societal problems. [Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2021]
  • 73% of Americans want to work for a company that protects its employees during the pandemic. [Source: Morning Consult]

Messaging Guidance

Businesses can help turn the tide against COVID-19 by delivering clear, consistent messages that are grounded in research and science. Here are some tips and tested messages.

1. Lead with empathy and use emotional triggers
  • We all miss moments of connection with family, friends and coworkers. Vaccines are one of the fastest ways to get back to these special moments.
  • You can protect the people you know and love by getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and continuing to practice safe behaviors— like mask-wearing when needed/required, avoiding crowds, hand washing and social distancing.
2. Emphasize that vaccines are safe and effective.
  • Medical professionals are distributing safe and effective vaccines that will help us get back to life and doing the things we love.
3. Acknowledge concerns, but provide the promise of scientific, unbiased answers.
  • Having questions about vaccines is normal.
  • The science is clear — COVID-19 vaccines are lifesavers. Just like all other vaccines, these were authorized by the FDA based on clinical testing.
4. Highlight ways to learn more about vaccines, reinforcing trusted sources of information.
  • We want to make sure you have access to trusted information in order to make the right decisions for yourself and your family.
  • If you have questions about whether vaccines are right for you, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider.
5. Don’t let politics or partisanship slip into your messaging.
  • Keep your language neutral and focus on science-based facts that can help people make their decision.
6. Emphasize positive, empowering messages grounded in personal responsibility.
  • Reinforce that each of us has the power to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19. Avoid negative or fear-based messages.
7. Be honest about the enormous challenge that lies ahead.
  • Most Americans understand that mass vaccination is a long-term and complicated process. Avoid messages that imply vaccine availability will “flip the switch.”
  • Even after vaccines are widely available, we’ll still need to wear masks as needed/required and practice other preventive measures. 
8. Don’t ignore that there are side effects or diminish / exaggerate them.
  • It’s normal to experience some mild discomfort following a vaccine. This is a sign that your body is building protection.
  • Being open and honest about side effects helps build trust.
9. Share empowering stories from people who get vaccinated- once vaccines are widely available. 
  • Surveys suggest many people are waiting to see how vaccination goes for others before making up their own minds.
  • Be sure to keep it voluntary and protect confidential information. 
10. Be thoughtful about messengers.
  • Cultivate trusted messengers who reflect diverse communities and can speak to the unique concerns of different groups. Make sure these leaders and individuals can truly listen as much as they speak.

Language Do’s & Don’ts

Do Say

the pandemic

ending the pandemic

back to life; back to “moments we miss” with family & friends

safe and effective vaccines

authorized by the FDA based on clinical testing

get the latest information

keep your family safe; keep those most vulnerable safe

public health

medical experts and doctors

community immunity

community vaccination

personal responsibility

protocols / guidelines

essential workers

policies that are based on facts/science/data

inform, educate, answer questions

people who still have questions about vaccines

Don't Say

the coronavirus

defeat/crush/eliminate the virus


back to “normal”

the “vaccine” (singular)injection, shot

a vaccine developed quickly

Operation Warp Speed; Emergency Use Authorization

there are still things we don’t know

keep your community safe;keep your country safe

government

scientists

herd immunity

mass vaccination

national duty

orders / imperatives / decrees

frontline workers

policies that are sensible / impactful / reasonable

convince

people who are hesitant, skeptical, resistant, or “anti-vaxxers”

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