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The Importance of Equity and Diversity in All Communication Programs

Julie Colehour, C+C

C+C - 2020 Platinum Sponsor of the Puget Sound PRSA Annual Meeting

What do you do when the Department of Health is trusting you to raise awareness and enrollment in a new initiative that will help save the lives of your fellow Washingtonians? To make sure the campaign is as effective as possible and you leave no stone unturned.  That means that traditional approaches are not enough – when you want to reach the entire population you need an integrated campaign that raises awareness, addresses concerns and communicates calls to action in 37 languages.

Since March, C+C has been working with the Washington State Department of Health to produce public education information to help stop the spread of COVID-19. We have worked with them on paid, earned, shared and owned media campaigns.

But this new ask was daunting, as no other state had conducted a COVID-19 campaign in more than 10 languages, but the DOH and C+C were committed to equity and reaching everyone. With the help of many partners we still managed to do it. Engaging diverse audiences helped us uncover new concerns and build a stronger program.

On Nov 30, C+C helped the Department of Health launch Washington Exposure Notification (WA Notify). It uses smartphones to alert users if they may have been exposed to COVID-19. It is completely private, and doesn’t know or track who you are or where you go. Studies have found that the more people who use exposure notification, the greater the benefit. Models based on three counties in Washington state show that even a small number of people there using WA Notify would reduce infections and deaths

We learned a few lessons we wanted to share with everyone:

  1. Micro-influencers are even more powerful than you think –Think about the gaps in your communication efforts and use micro-influencers to fill them and provide authentic calls to action. We found Seattle gaming influencers to be very effective.
  2. Look to community groups for support - We focused extensively on groups such as Latino Community Fund and Pridefest and they helped us in ways we didn’t imagine at the start.
  3. Large employers – Large employers were the third cornerstone of our campaign, and dozens of the largest companies and associations signed on to spread the news (many had PRSA members in their comms departments – thank you!). We knew messages from them would reach large numbers of people quickly, address concerns and have high open rates.

The launch was a huge success with hundreds of TV, print and radio articles in the first week. Most importantly, more than one million Washingtonians activated it in the first four days. As of the time I write this, more than 20% of adults in the state had turned it on, a faster and greater penetration rate than any other state that launched before us.

We have two challenges for all of you.

  • Activate WANotify on your smartphones if you have not yet done so. It helps you, our family and your community
  • In any B2C campaign, make sure that equity and diversity are baked in from the beginning. It is better for you, better for your clients and better for the community


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