Home Culture & Lifestyle Why PR campaign to get Black Americans vaccinated for Covid-19 is fruitless

Why PR campaign to get Black Americans vaccinated for Covid-19 is fruitless


When the pandemic hit and we were in the early stages of quarantine and shelter in place orders, someone posted a video in a WhatsApp group I’m in of Black ex-pats here in Argentina. It was of two French doctors talking on-air about how a Covid-19 vaccine should be tested on Africans.

We were all enraged, but sadly not surprised. Unfortunately, this attitude toward experimentation and testing on Black people isn’t new, particularly without their knowledge or consent. Research The Tuskeegee Syphillis Study, or Henrietta Lacks HeLa cells for two examples.

Situations like these have only contributed to mistrust of both the government and the healthcare system over the years by Black people.

Data shows that the Black and Latinx communities have died of Covid-19 at disproportionately higher rates. The communities are more vulnerable for a variety of reasons. And because of that, there has been a number of public relations efforts in recent weeks to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has talked publicly about how one of the newly approved vaccines had a Black woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, as one of the lead scientists. They even went as far as to showcase her getting the vaccine.

Since then, I’ve seen numerous posts on social media and other think pieces with people admonishing the efforts and warning others not to fall for it. The sentiment largely echoed continued mistrust of the government, the healthcare system, and a larger overall system that hasn’t valued Black lives at the same level of others. They are skeptical that all of a sudden, Black lives are now a priority.

Representation matters, but it cannot be the only tool in reaching a skeptical population

The primary tool many are using as part of the campaign to increase the number of Black people who will get vaccinated is representation. Highlighting the role of Dr. Corbett in vaccine development, and showcasing her taking a dose are prime examples.

Yes, representation matters and is an important lever in inclusive marketing, but it isn’t the only one, particularly in cases with such complex history as this one.

Trust is missing. Trust is an essential component of persuasion. Until trust is established, it is unrealistic to expect anyone, including the Black community to change their attitudes about vaccination, or any product, service, or experience you want them to take part in.

You can’t take a superficial approach to building trust. And you especially can’t do it when trust is already fractured.

Superficial approaches to marketing rarely work, and especially when you are trying to reach diverse and niche consumers who have grown accustomed to being ignored and underserved.

Smart marketers go deep. That means going beyond representative images and photo opportunities to build deep relationships. That means acknowledging the atrocities that led to such gross distrust of the government and healthcare system.

That means spending time educating the community from established, active, and trusted sources on the vaccines, the development process, the mechanism of action, the side effects, and about any other questions and concerns and objections they may have.

It means showing up and being a part of the community over time, and demonstrating your care and commitment to their overall well-being, rather than at just at a time when it seems convenient as a part of a larger agenda.

Winning the trust of diverse and niche consumers takes time

It isn’t formulaic, in the sense that if you prop up leaders within the community than you will suddenly reap the attention, adoration, and loyalty of a group you previously haven’t connected with.

Consumers are smarter than that. Just because you decide to invite them to your party, doesn’t mean that they want to come.

As you work to build an inclusive brand, focus your efforts on delivering experiences over time that build trust and make diverse and niche consumers feel like they belong. Start by listening, being present, and focusing on their needs. In time, trust will develop, along with your ability to persuade.



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