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Inspiring action to Combat COVID-19 and increase health equity with a national multi-channel campaign

The biggest public health crisis in over 100 years demanded an epic response.

IQ Solutions’ drive to improve health equity is built upon a simple foundational truth: understanding must always come before action. In the case of COVID-19, taking action continues to be a life-or-death decision for so many of our family members, neighbors, friends, and associates. Our campaign for the Federal COVID Response formed a data-driven, multi-channel marketing effort to get critical, up-to-date health information out to the public quickly.

Precision targeting included those most at risk for contracting COVID-19. In addition to Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities, vaccine hesitant rural audiences were also a focus of our clear, actionable messages.

Supporting recruitment in COVID-19 clinical trials to find new treatments was a pillar of our campaign. From our years working to improve public health and wellness, we knew greater diversity in clinical trials was essential to finding therapies that were safe and effective for everyone. People of every racial and ethnic group needed to know about these trials. Quickly.

We engaged primarily with populations most at risk of infection, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19—specifically Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities.

altTargeted social media posts generated hundreds of millions of interactions with the CombatCOVID.hhs.gov website putting it ahead of ahead of highly trafficked HHS sites such as HIV.gov, healthypeople.gov, and niaid.nih.gov.

How We Did It

Listening

With public health communications, there’s a fine line between comforting and compelling. We took a step back and listened to what people across the country—in big cities and in small towns—had to say about COVID-19. We analyzed conversations surrounding COVID clinical trials and the media platforms where they were taking place. Knowing the best places to connect with our audiences was as important as understanding which messages would move them to action.

altEducational materials including brochures, flyers, postcards, bag-stuffers, and window clings were distributed through pharmacies, testing sites, clinics/primary care physicians, urgent care centers, emergency departments/hospitals, and more.

Applying Behavioral Science

Our messages had to instill confidence and calm heightened emotions caused by fear, loss, and confusion. The logical solution to this complex public health challenge was to apply a social norms theory to encourage behavioral change. Engaging health care partners, peer influencers, and other trusted stakeholders as messengers was the most direct path to motivating at-risk populations. Our approach balanced the target audiences’ self-interest with a community’s collective interests. It weighed social identity with the ever-changing expectations of how we as members of racial groups, ethnicities, religious communities, extended families, social groups, and localities are expected to think and act. 

Forming Strategic and Creative Partnerships

From the start, our cross-channel efforts pulled from a wide range of trusted communications and public health experts to drive traffic to the CombatCOVID.hhs.gov website. Our data-driven researchers employed every available method from quick-turnaround surveys to focus groups, from content analysis to national case rate metrics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and health care providers from coast to coast. Above all, we tracked COVID-19 awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Our strategic messaging and creative teams worked side by side with our social media and digital content teams to develop plain language educational materials that were critical to increasing understanding among populations with lower health literacy and access to care.

We started by designing the Combat COVID logo. The integrated campaign included more than 120 creative executions for streaming audio, broadcast radio, digital video, TV, display ads, direct mail, out-of-home/transit, an interactive quiz, email marketing, and digital/social media. The active messages for this audience-based effort were aspirational, hopeful, and empowering. We also emphasized the personal, familial, and societal rewards that could be gained by clinical trial participation. Whether in English or Spanish, every campaign element featured clear, understandable language and simple graphic elements. This allowed us to connect with all audiences powerfully and persuasively.

Putting Boots on the Ground – A Lot of Them

To raise awareness of Combat COVID among Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino communities, we conducted regional outreach with 400+ state- and community-based stakeholder organizations. Our regional outreach teams prioritized 20 major cities representing COVID-19 hotspots, clinical trial sites, and priority populations. We formed strong working partnerships with 100+ organizations. In turn, they shared what they learned from us with nearly 250,000 neighbors, church groups, civic organizations, families, associates, and friends. Finally, our team of ambassadors and promotoras, in association with the National Association of Community Health Workers, achieved more than 3.5 million Combat COVID touchpoint interactions through webinars, eblasts, community events, health clinics, health fairs, social media, and website promotions.

altThe IQ Solutions regional outreach team distributed educational materials to thousands of health clinics, health system facilities, and independent health care providers nationwide.

Amplifying Every Touchpoint

Our work for COVID-19 clinical trials is a clear example of how IQ Solutions combines the strengths of earned media with the targeting precision of paid media. For example, we garnered more than 11 million broadcast radio impressions. Our social media and digital content team’s strategy drove traffic to CombatCOVID.hhs.gov by the hundreds of millions. Supporting webinars, podcasts, Twitter chats, Facebook live events, even national holidays, the team kept audiences informed with up-to-date, unbiased facts.

Finally, IQ Solution’s public service announcement (PSA) campaign in targeted markets reached shoppers through in-store audio at pharmacy and grocery store chains across the country. Our educational videos were seen in waiting-rooms at 82 hospitals and nearly 8,000 medical offices in 20 markets with high rates of COVID-19. In just 1 month, the PSA campaign generated nearly 37 million gross impressions with a commercial ad equivalency of more than $1.6 million.

altTestimonial videos, radio ads, and social media posts added a personal and trustworthy tactic to share positive messages about clinical trial participation and beneficial outcomes.

Working in tandem with radio and TV, we chose public transportation ads as a highly efficient method to target urban communities with higher rates of COVID-19 cases and lower rates of vaccinations. Generating 400+ million impressions via buses, bus shelters, train, and metro station platforms, these creative executions were part of a campaign that increased traffic to CombatCOVID.hhs.gov by 170% within 30 days and by more than 800% within the initial 2-month run.

altTraditional media such as out-of-home signage and transit promotion significantly increased direct website traffic to CombatCOVID.hhs.gov

Supporting Health Care Providers’ Roles in Clinical Trials

IQ Solutions developed numerous easy-to-understand materials, in both English and Spanish, to help providers explain ACTIV clinical trials to patients. Informational videos, brochures and flyers, FAQs, chart flags, study reference cards, posters, and outdoor signage were distributed to more than 100 trial sites across the United States. These materials helped health care providers confirm that patients were eligible to join an ACTIV clinical trial, and helped patients understand how the trial worked.

Careful research. Innovative communications strategy. Social media expertise. Compelling creativity. These are the hallmarks of every IQ Solutions campaign. For Federal COVID Response, we’re happy to add “life-saving” to the list of results.

Detailed , informational videos ensured patients fully understood what volunteering for a clinical trial entailed.