February 22, 2021 by Adam Malik
Your office culture will likely determine whether or not you must receive a COVID-19 vaccination before returning back to office. Whatever your business decides, the tone and style of your messaging around vaccinations needs to match the approach, a senior communications executive from Hub International advises.
When communicating your vaccine program, “it’s not going to be a cakewalk. It’s not going to be easy,” acknowledged Meagan Tyson, senior vice president and national director of employee communication and design.
The first thing to keep in mind is to always keep your staff informed. Don’t leave them in the dark wondering what’s going to happen.
“Essentially, no news is definitely not always good news,” Tyson said during Hub International’s webinar entitled Implementing an Employee Vaccine Program: Cost, Access and Communication. “It’s really important to communicate because open communication provides clarity and direction to your employees. It keeps your organization moving, and ultimately your employees are going to have confidence and trust in leadership and the company.”
It’s perfectly fine to tell staff that not all the answers are available and that the next steps are being determined. “Even if you don’t know what your direction is going to be quite yet, that’s okay,” Tyson said. “And it’s more than okay to tell your employees that you are working through that currently.”
According to the Government of Canada, about 1.4 million vaccine doses have been administered as of today. As of a little more than a week ago, 307,218 people (0.81% of the population) had received two doses.
“There’s no topic that has garnered more interest,” Dr. Marcos Iglesias, Travelers chief medical director, said in a piece on his company’s website in regards to employees discussing vaccinations.
Leadership teams have three basic options:
Whichever road is chosen, the accompanying messaging should fit a certain style and match the corporate culture.
“Crafting the right message can be tricky at the best of times,” Tyson observed. “And now we’re adding a global pandemic and a whole new vaccine to the mix.”
She offered the following advice for each option.
If a P&C insurance organization is going to make it mandatory for every employee to be vaccinated before they return to the office, then strong, credible stats need to be cited from primary sources in any messaging. That means getting data from places like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the United States or the Public Health Agency of Canada.
These primary sources should be used instead of news outlets or other secondary sources of information.
“There’s also a lot of misinformation out there,” said Iglesias. He warned that misconceptions, which are often found repeated on social media channels, could discourage some employees and their families from going to and getting vaccinated.
“Use statistics and other facts and figures,” Tyson recommended. “Make sure you do include exclusions to the mandatory vaccination program, such as pregnancy, religious views, or medical conditions.”
Messaging should also use words like “must,” “required” and “necessary,” she said. “Use exclamation points, bold font, underlining or all caps to really communicate that sense of urgency and requirement. Make sure you do so judiciously — don’t go crazy. Have a clear call to action, and repeat it often across all the communications that you push out.”
Messaging should be simple and to the point. Use a phrase like, “Before returning to the office, you must provide proof of vaccination to human resources.”
If you make vaccination voluntary before returning to the office, you don’t need to place so much emphasis on facts and figures. “However, when you do use some statistics, try to pull from your own population. That can make things really impactful,” Tyson said.
For example, if a portion of your staff has been vaccinated, use that statistic in your messaging.
“Emphasize employee testimonials and personal case studies,” she added. “This really gives some personal life to your communications. It can really help employees who are on the fence to see: ‘Oh, hey, my friend got it. Maybe I should consider it a bit more.’”
Humour is good, but use it sparingly, Tyson advised. And don’t let it detract from the seriousness of your messaging.
When vaccination is voluntary, words to use in your messaging may include “care,” “concern,” “community,” and “family.” For example, a message can say something like, “Give immunity a shot. Take care of yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated.”
Those who prefer to stay neutral will educate and provide information to their employees, but they will not mandate or encourage employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
For those who take this approach, you will still want to cite primary credible sources. But avoid harder words like “must” and “required,” Tyson said. Also, steer clear of extra punctuation like exclamation marks and avoid bolding words.
Do, however, use statistics and other facts and figures, she added.
Whatever the final decision is as to what program and accompanying messaging, leaders should know that it’s not an easy one. “We know the process can be downright terrifying,” Tyson said. “Deciding what type of campaign to roll out to your employees is a difficult decision.”
Tomorrow, Part Two will look at the role of leadership in any vaccination rollout program
Feature image by iStock.com/Rawpixel