The Handbook includes observations that are both surprising and heartening:
People are more unified than we think. While the media focuses on Covid-19 preventive measures as divisive, nearly 8 out of 10 Americans continue to wear a mask, socially distance, and wash their hands.
They’re more motivated to “do their part” than to go back to a restaurant. While politicians and public health leaders emphasize how testing and tracing will help us reopen the economy, the most motivating messages focus on something much more personal: our responsibility to others.
We’ve been making it too “easy” on ourselves. Emphasizing how simple and easy an action is can backfire by making it seem unimportant. Instead, emphasize the impact the action can have if people do it quickly.
Based on these insights and others, the Handbook details messages, images and stories proven to motivate people to get tested and participate in contact tracing. But as with any public health intervention, the recommendations are just the first step. To be successful, we have to help practitioners implement them, measure our success and make changes over time. The Rockefeller Foundation will be committing the time, energy and resources needed to make this happen.
Over the next several months, we will:
Host training webinars to show users how to put the recommendations into practice
Conduct one-on-one conversations with public health communicators to answer questions and provide technical assistance
Field monthly tracking surveys to measure changes in attitudes toward Covid-19
Produce detailed message briefs on specific topics like rapid testing
Highlight examples of successful Covid-19 Communications on social media
Build a Covid Communications Community of Practice, to learn from case studies, share audience research and crowdsource questions for exploration.
Changing communications habits won’t happen overnight. But we have to start now—because the most promising strategy will be for naught if we can’t motivate people to participate. And if Sam is any indication, the right words can have a transformative effect. By the end of our focus group, he was finally feeling confident in “how this works.”
“If there could be a rapid test in every home for every family and to take every morning, we could all get back to normal,” he concluded. “Wouldn’t that be ideal.”
It certainly would be, and we can get there —together.
*Name changed to ensure confidentiality