How communicators can reach the vaccine-hesitant

Those who are skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine or refuse to get one altogether are politically disengaged, and therefore best reached through unconventional channels.

The Biden Administration should take note: the COVID-19 vaccine hesitant are unlikely to be persuaded to change their minds by politicians. 

According to a survey conducted by performance analytics company Tunnl, which surveyed 5,000 people in the U.S., vaccine deniers, also known colloquially as “anti-vaxxers,” are less likely to be politically engaged, with 61% having no recent history of voting. But even more (69%) persuadable individuals, known as the “vaccine hesitant,” have no recent voter history.

Because these people are disengaged with mainstream media and don’t follow major behavioral patterns of the American public, it’s more challenging to communicate with them, says Sara Fagen, CEO of Tunnl. 

For instance, among the vaccine hesitant, 12% are less likely than the average American to watch broadcast TV. Instead, they are more likely than average to use platforms such as WhatsApp (44%), Tumblr (40%), Instagram (39%), Reddit (38%) and Twitch (36%).

This is due, in part, to the fact that much of the current vaccine-hesitant population are Gen Z and millennials, Fagen says, with 32% of people between the ages of 18-34 identifying as “vaccine-hesitant.” Comparatively, 24% outright refuse to get the vaccine. 

To get around these barriers, communicators and brands should focus on how vaccination can benefit that specific age group on the channels where they spend time, rather than the politics behind it, Fagen notes. 

“Hesitancy is not a political issue, but more so one of perceived need,” she says. “The best approach for the persuadable segment would be a social media campaign that specifically speaks to the risk younger adults face from COVID and how that risk can be easily and safely ameliorated through vaccination.”

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