Hampton Roads COVID Campaign
Best practices for global campaigns focused on stopping the spread of Covid-19 include: having unified messaging that is genuine in its empathy and support, aligning the campaign with major and/or experienced partners, tailoring marketing collateral to the culture/language of the regions on which the campaign is focused, and providing accessible, inclusive collateral and language that recognizes and serves to reduce populations hardest hit (because of socioeconomic or other inequalities).
Each of the campaigns below focuses on stopping the spread of Covid-19, therefore, some are funded via partnerships with health organizations, some are funded through partnerships with federal or local governments, and some are funded through partnerships with corporations. A selection has been provided to offer a well-rounded picture of best practices in place. Notably, each of the campaigns mentioned follow all of the best practices mentioned, though they are organized by the biggest best practice they meet.
Marketing focused on the Covid-19 pandemic is recent to the marketing industry, having been around for less than six months in most of the world. That said, identifying best practices for this niche marketing focus was difficult. To that end, these best practices were identified through a synthesis of the most prominent global campaigns from major organizations – and the commonalities seen among them.
Interestingly, most campaigns are delivered via typical media outlets – primarily social media, followed by TV, print, and radio respectively.
BEST PRACTICES: 1) Unified Messaging & 2) Genuine Messaging that Empathizes & Supports
- Two best practices are marketing campaigns that have unified messaging, or the same focus, phrasing, and language across all collateral, and messaging that is genuinely-focused on the good of the public and provides empathy and support.
- Bynder’s 2020 State of Branding Report – Covid-19 Edition (an update to their 2020 report released two months previous to this one) details how more than three quarters (79%) of global brands surveyed were “somewhat concerned” or “very concerned” with making marketing language or presentation mistakes that tarnished their brand’s image. Bynder’s best practice stated that, “During this time, it’s more important than ever that brands present themselves with one unified voice and remain close to their brand values.”
- One global campaign is the “Stop the Spread” campaign organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the UK government. The campaign is being promoted “in many countries spanning across Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East and Latin America,” and supports the “WHO’s work towards addressing the infodemic of false information about COVID-19 and busting myths about the spread, diagnostic and treatment of the disease.”
- The “Stop the Spread” campaign comes with a toolkit (prepared by the UK government) that includes translatable assets all with a unified message, so every country is getting the same information the same exact way. Those in the UK view the ads on local BBC channels or via videos online.
- Economic Times notes how global brands are focusing their marketing collateral on language that emphasizes empathy and support for global citizens, while offering direct actions that can positively impact the lives of those the campaigns reach. They note how important it is for brands to avoid “for good stunts” that might make the public think they’re only out to make themselves look good rather than to actually help the public. They note the importance of spreading positive energy and support via positive language, inspiration, and ideas on how to function safely and happily in today’s new normal.
- The article also notes how major global marketing experts are recommending that brands “demonstrate how they are working beyond profits to stay close to their customers and fulfill their societal roles in a wider community.” Also mentioned is how important it is to avoid “superficial and sensational marketing campaigns,” which can turn audiences away from a brand or organization.
- Examples of global campaigns that are genuine, empathetic, and offer support include those from Nike, McDonald’s Audi, and Volkswagen; some collateral for these can be found here.
BEST PRACTICES: 3) Alignment with WHO, Other Major Health Organizations, and Partner Governments; 4) Partner with Major/Experienced Corporate Players ; & 5) Tailored Language & Marketing Collateral
- Additional best practices for marketing campaigns focused on stopping-Covid-19 are those aligned with the WHO, major health organizations, partner governments, or major/experience corporate players – each of which uses language and materials specifically tailored to each of the various regions for which the campaign materials are produced. This includes providing translatable collateral on campaigns that touch on multiple regions (with different languages, cultures).
- The WHO/PAHO (World Health Organization / Pan American Health Organization) launched a campaign called “We’re All In,” that serves to raise awareness and response of Covid-19. This campaign was launched in conjunction with the government of Trinidad and Tobago, in their efforts to limit the spread and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The campaign includes downloadable materials, like common sense at businesses and in the workplace posters, violence prevention during the pandemic posters, a radio jingle, and a series of short videos on topics like social distancing, elderly care, and domestic violence reduction.
- The World Health Organization, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation, and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation have created the “Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO,” which is the first of its kind globally. The campaign serves as a fundraising drive to support the WHO’s global response to stopping the pandemic, as well as to “support additional Fund partners UNICEF, the World Food Programme, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the vaccine development alliance CEPI.”
- The WHO campaign page shows the huge amount they’ve collected so far, as well as the huge donations to various organizations they’ve already disbursed. The Solidarity Fund campaign is spread through each of the partner organization’s websites, as well as across social media, like through Facebook Fundraisers. They provide a text-based donation option, as well. The campaign so far has earned support from a number of huge global brands, including Facebook, Google, TikTok, Adidas, American Express, Bloomberg Philanthropies, AWS, and Cisco, to name just a few.
- A huge (albeit unnamed) campaign from a partnership between the UK government’s Department for International Development and the global corporation Unilever focused on targeting “a billion people worldwide with a Covid-19 handwashing campaign.” The £100 campaign is half-funded by Unilever and half by UK aid, and is led by two of the corporation’s brands, Domestos and Lifebuoy. These brands have in place long-term large-scale hygiene programs all over the world that they’re leveraging to support pandemic reduction hygiene practices.
- The fact that Unilever is already positioned in many of the countries where their products, services, and information campaigns are most needed is excellent for easily promoting the new campaign along the same lines as they’ve promoted older campaigns. Additionally, the company has the revenue to back up the support necessary for a global program, and has experience with fighting other pandemics (like rotavirus and typhoid) through their handwashing and hygiene programs.
- The Unilever/UK campaign includes collateral for TV, radio, and print advertisements, and social media postings. The ads will be spread over “countries across Africa and Asia, like Kenya, Ghana, and Bangladesh,” with messages “tailored to communities in these countries to ensure they are effective” and relevant to local populations. The campaign is also leveraging experts at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who will analyze the program as it progresses to ensure “it has the biggest impact” where it’s needed most.
BEST PRACTICES: 6) Accessible & Inclusive Resources & 7) Focus on Reducing Inequalities
- Other best practices for global marketing campaigns focused on stopping the pandemic include ensuring that all resources are accessible to everyone, especially as it relates to language and/or disability barriers, providing collateral that’s inclusive to all those living within the region, and that is focused on reducing inequalities for the hardest hit or poorest in the region.
- In Australia, the Department of Health launched an information and preparation campaign called “Stop the Spread and Stay Healthy.” The campaign provides practical tips for all Australians to use in stopping the spread of the disease – based on common sense hygiene principles. It includes print ads, posters, radio pieces, and ads for TV all with the “aim to educate the general public on ways they can stop the spread and protect vulnerable people in the community, including older people and people with disability, from catching COVID-19 Coronavirus Disease; each of the resources is inclusive and accessible to all, with CC (closed captions) and “easy read principles with illustrations to aid communication.” The resources are also translatable, making them even more inclusive and accessible.
- The “#LetsFlattenTheCurve” campaign is a global initiative inviting members of the public (including individuals and brands) to “submit creative campaigns that encourage everyone to practice social distancing in order to flatten the curve.” Submissions are shared across all social media platforms, and including original poster series, hashtags, and fact-based campaigns by companies like Biolumina. Several of their ads had the tagline “Get Factcinated” and featured truths and myths about the virus.
- Other Biolumina ads focused on anti-discrimination during the time of Covid, using the myth, “All Asians have Coronavirus.” It then states, “Don’t be blind to the truth. Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. Why do we? Unmask the myth.” A different set of the same series uses the myth, “Only old people get Coronavirus.”
- Additional submissions to the “#LetsFlattenTheCurve” campaign can be found here.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration have partnered to provide pandemic-related humanitarian aid to the hardest hit among the global community, “including women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced,” as they are the ones who “pay the highest price” for their socioeconomic inequality. The campaign is a $2 B humanitarian aid appeal. The campaign is part of the on-going “Decade of Action” campaign by the United Nations.
- The campaign includes a wide selection of goals, another of which is gender equality. The United National Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) prepared "a checklist for COVID-19 response that includes 10 asks for Governments. Deputy Executive Director Åsa Regnér says that women carry countries' well-being on their shoulders and that right now, they are working day and night holding societies together, through health care, maternal care, elderly care, online teaching, child care, in pharmacies, in grocery stores and as social workers.”
- This link from Ads of the World provides a huge collection of advertising marketing videos from around the world all related to Covid-19, if it may be of interest.
Best practices for US-based campaigns aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 include campaigns that offer unified messaging from a genuine perspective that shows empathy and support, utilizing social media to drive active audience engagement while combating misinformation, and communicating how the campaign (or brand/organization) is using their resources to contribute to the greater good.
Similar to the global campaigns, it was difficult to separate all campaign best practices from those specifically focused on campaigns seeking to stop the spread of the virus. In light of that, each of the examples given below detail that type of campaign (or as close as could be found), though the best practices can apply to all types of campaigns produced during the time of the pandemic.
BEST PRACTICES: 1) Unified Messaging & 2) Genuine Messaging that Empathizes & Supports
- Similar to global best practices, a best practice utilized in US-based campaigns is to prepare all marketing collateral on each campaign to have unified messaging that is genuine, empathetic, and supportive of the intended audiences. Some campaigns offer stock messages – asking participants in the campaign to use standard language to keep the messaging unified. Many campaigns open with customer empathy, and maintain that sentiment across all collateral from the campaign.
- Experts note the importance of brands and organizations delivering the right message during this time, since it has never been “more important to make an authentic connection with consumers and show true understanding of their emotions, motivations, fears and needs.”
- One way campaigns keep unified messaging – within their campaign and within what’s trending – is by attaching popular hashtags to their campaigns (in addition to the campaign-specific hashtags, which are necessary for a solid campaign). According to Khoros, popular pandemic hashtags include “#socialdistancing, #quarantineandchill, and #mypandemicsurvivalplan.”
- YouthLead’s campaign is called “(You)th Stop the Spread Campaign: Join the Fight against Covid-19.” The campaign asks for UGC (user-generated content) from participants in the campaign – with each participant submitting a photo of themselves holding a sign with one of the standard messages provided by the organization. The photos, as well as other campaign materials from the organization, are spread on the YouthLead platform, as well as being shared across their social media platform pages.
- The YouthLead campaign also comes complete with specific social media posting/messaging text and social tags. Additionally, participants can sign the group’s pledge to “Do Acts of Good” – and will receive a badge for their dedication to the cause.
BEST PRACTICES: 3) Drive Active Engagement via Social Media & 4) Ensure to Stop/Rebut Misinformation Directly
- In the US, best practices include utilizing social media to drive active engagements with campaign audiences, and using the campaigns to stop/rebut misinformation directly – in the ways the audience will listen to and heed the advice.
- PR Daily notes the boom in social media use since the lockdowns and social distancing began, including double-digit increases in daily users for the last two quarters across most major social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. One expert recommends taking advantage of lower-priced paid advertising on these sites, since the ROI is greater when the price is lower.
- Interestingly, the pandemic has changed the best times to post on different social media sites, and this article from SproutSocial offers insights into the current best times for posting, as well as detailing other changes to social media usage and marketing that could affect a campaign run on those sites. The same report shows that audience engagements have increased significantly (by an average of “44 engagements per day across all networks and industries”) or an increase of about “7.3 engagements per post per day.”
- Additionally, Toolbox notes the huge growth in active social media engagements since the pandemic hit and so many in-person events were canceled. Many companies, organizations, and individuals have turned to asking for UGC (user-generated content) or have created/hosted live/virtual events that include viewer participation – using each of these strategies to drive engagements; notably, all of these engagements occur via social media platforms, especially Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Notably, however, it’s key that the campaigns do their part in stopping or rebutting the vast amounts of misinformation spreading on social media platforms these days.
- Falcon IO offers a slew of strong and interesting social media engagement campaigns based on Covid-19, though the focus ranges from how a brand/organization is doing its part to support patrons (and others) to simple inspirational support during this time of global crisis. You can see the variety of ads here.
- Some misinformation campaigns, like those selling snake-oil products claiming to cure or combat the virus, or conspiracy-theory doctors spreading religious-based misinformation, are very popular in some communities and with some groups, especially in regions (or groups) with higher numbers of conservative religious institutions, and lower education and income levels, among others. Campaigns produced for these regions need to focus on what those individuals believe to be true – and combat those beliefs with facts - while being very careful not to talk down or shame the intended audience, as this would work against the campaign.
- Social Media Today offers a small selection of campaigns with uplifting/positive messaging that also relay facts and fact-based language. Examples include National Geographic, which is offering all their pandemic-related updates and informationals for free, to Guinness US, which has donated half-a-million dollars toward helping local communities combat the virus, to No Name Brands, which provided a 20-second handwashing timer video – to help educate the public on the importance of washing long enough while helping to lessen the impact of the virus on audience members.
BEST PRACTICES: 5) Communicate How the Campaign (or Brand) Contributes to the Greater Good
- Another best practice for these campaigns in the US is using the campaign to communicate not just how and why to help stop the spread of the virus, but also highlighting what the organization/brand is doing to ensure they are contributing to the greater good of everyone, and are not just out to profit off those suffering at home.
- UserTesting notes the importance of campaigns clearly communicating how the brand (or project related to the campaign) contributes to the greater good, or betterment of everyone’s lives. Some brands are doing this by offering free or reduced-cost services, like AAA or Hootsuite, while others are investing in “scientists that are working tirelessly to end the crisis.” They note the importance of ensuring the brand, campaign, or project is not viewed as profiteering in any way, as that’s likely to kill any good will created previously or engender ill will toward the organization/brand hosting the campaign.
- Uber is one brand that’s doing their part of slow the spread with their campaign featuring the slogan, “Thank you for not riding with Uber.” Although not conducive to earning the company revenue, the message is a genuine one that supports individuals by asking them to behave safely during this difficult time, and will end up building significant brand equity for the company in the long run. The commercial for this campaign can be seen here.
- CMSWire notes how well the Uber commercial was received, with their survey participants believing it was “an elegant approach that also somehow offered hope when we can all ride again,” and stating they felt the ad was “inherently forward-looking in its message.”
- If the messaging itself is not enough to show support, then offering products/services can add additional oomph to the campaign. CMSWire’s study showed that high praise went to the American Automobile Association (AAA) commercial that highlighted the company’s goal to provide free roadside assistance to all healthcare workers and first responders during the entirety of the pandemic. Although this campaign is not focused specifically on stopping the spread of the virus, it shows direct-action support for frontline workers doing everything they can to slow the spread – which is good enough by proxy for the American people.
- A similar campaign from Geico that included a commercial highlighting the 15% credit-to-drivers scored very high with participants of the study “because it demonstrated kindness, but also because of the subtle underlying message that the company is rewarding people for contributing to the greater good during the crisis by staying home.”
- This link from Stackla offers a selection of advertising by major global and US-based brands – showcasing some of the campaigns focused on the pandemic.
There are initiatives all over the world localized to helping specific communities survive and thrive during the pandemic. The website ActionAgainstCorona.org features 758 of these initiatives across a variety of categories, topics, and foci; the initiatives run the gamut from collecting donations to providing medical or psychological support to the targeted communities. In Vietnam and Malaysia, the Vietnamese Women’s Association Center has partnered with Dutch Lady in a coordinated effort to provide milk products and soap for free to the hardest hit areas in the region, as well as to frontline responders working to combat the virus. In the US, there are a wide variety of localized projects going on, many of which feature donation collection and direct assistance for locals, as well as some that feature simple artwork used as a means to social distance while maintaining a sense of community.
Notably, only one of these actions provided success metrics, likely because the data they’ve been collecting is too new; it is certain that greater details (like the success of one version of an initiative or another) will be forthcoming in the quarters to follow.
LOCAL ACTIONS (GLOBAL): ActionAgainstCorona.org Initiatives
- This website offers 758 global-localized initiatives – and their campaigns / messaging – based around stopping the pandemic, helping people or businesses survive, and other topics. The initiatives can be filtered by category (with choices like alleviation, human rights, impact support, logistics, and social inclusion) or support needs (with choices like analytics, content, growth hacking, marketing, and social media). Each of these initiatives has its own set of project tasks and success markers.
- Under the Social Inclusion category, for example, there are 93 localized initiatives all over the world. One project provides support for “thousands of children living in Greek migration camps” which are in “need [of] psychological support. Another project is focused on “creating employment opportunities for women through micro-franchising and offering an alternative to high-risk shopping” in Nicaragua.
- Under the Support Needs – Marketing category, there are 24 localized initiatives globally. One project, called EduTechAid, seeks to provide technology to students without access to same so they can continue their schooling through online education. Another project, this one based in Kenya, is called Youpersonify, and it’s a “social health platform connecting people, patients, and caregivers alike, through online support communities.”
LOCAL ACTIONS (GLOBAL): Dutch Lady Vietnam / Malaysia & Vietnamese Women’s Association Center
- The Vietnamese Women’s Association Center has partnered with global brand Dutch Lady Malaysia and Dutch Lady Vietnam to provide 50,000 boxes of Dutch Lady milk and 30 boxes of soap to those quarantined in the Son Loi commune in the Vinh Phuc province. Announced via Facebook (among other places), this initiative is aimed a providing humanitarian aid in the form of nutrients and hygiene products to improve the health of the people and medical staff in this particularly hard-hit region. The campaign also included a video featuring key company dates of progress, footage of their factories, and happy Vietnamese (and other Asian) peoples living happier and healthier lives through use of the company’s products.
- Additionally, the company has also donated more than 100,000 milk packets to frontline workers at hospitals across Malaysia. Each of these is focused on improving the health and hygiene of people in Vietnam and Malaysia – and partnering with local entities, like the Vietnamese Women’s Association Center, to do so.
LOCAL ACTIONS (US): Donations Collections
- WAMU highlights over a dozen different local projects, many in the Washington DC area, that were set up to collect funding for those most in need during the pandemic. In response to DC school closures, which left many children without food, local nonprofit Martha’s Table pledged to assist local families with “$15-per-day grocery-store gift cards” totaling more than $300,000 in all. Two other charities in the area, The Capital Area Food Bank and Miriam’s Kitchen, are also raising money to contribute to local food insecurity and shortages.
- In addition, a local group of teachers opened a GoFundMe account with the intention of buying “$100 gift cards for every Arlington student who qualifies for free or reduced lunch[es].” The estimated tab for their donation is about $830,000. To date, they’ve raised over $272,091. Other groups collecting monies include the PTA (parent-teacher association) at Shaw’s Seaton Elementary and nonprofit organization FirstBook.
- To read more about many of the local projects happening in the DC area (and organized by local residents), read this article from WAMU.
LOCAL ACTIONS (US): Neighborhood Rainbow Hunt / Window-Based Scavenger Hunts
- Both of these local actions described in this section are directed at helping people/families find peace, hope, and connection during a time when so many are lonely and isolated, rather than stopping the spread of the virus specifically. Since they actions help make social distancing feel more community-oriented without risking anyone’s safety (and with keeping safety measures intact), it’s been included among these findings.
- A video from ABCNews highlights the rainbow hunts going on in neighborhoods across America; these hunts inspire kids and families to creativity in creating a public rainbow (in their yard or windows or neighborhood) that shows so other neighbors can spot the rainbows as they social distance from their neighbors.
- The BillyPenn reports that, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “bright window drawings are popping up all over the city,” helping families find “solace in a social-distance-friendly activity.” After one man heard about rainbow hunting from a family member in Brooklyn, he put together a Google sign-up form for his South Philly neighborhood, and within just over 24 hours had 55 addresses signed up to participate, “indicating they’d hung a rainbow to be discovered.”
- Other rainbow hunts have been seen in Boston, Massachusetts, and Louisville, Kentucky, among other cities.
- A similar project is also popping up in areas around the country, like in the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois back in late March. Block Club Chicago reported that, in that neighborhood, one mom had organized a window-based scavenger hunt. The kid-based art activity had already seen the addition of a window-art butterfly, Easter egg, and rainbow.
- A US-based website, DidTheyHelp.com, offers immediate and curated information on how different brands (and celebrities) responded to major events, like the coronavirus pandemic. This marketing company has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, and Washington, so their efforts don’t technically count as “local / individual efforts,” though they are not affiliated with any government or major health organizations, and they provide an interesting/unique service to the world so they were included on the list. The site also has sister pages for the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Africa and the Middle East.
- The site’s Covid-19 leaderboard  shows the top 50 “heroes” and top 50 “zeroes” – for those companies having the best and worst response, respectively, to the pandemic. The top 5 heroes are Telus, Morrisons, Walmart, AT&T, and Unilever, while the top 5 zeroes are Elon Musk, Jair Bolsonaro, Hobby Lobby, Donald Trump, and Britannia Hotels.
Extensive searches reveal a huge array of articles related to Covid-fatigue, pandemic messaging fatigue, pandemic / health communication fatigue, and other types of related fatigue, most of which are from the last two months. This demonstrates a huge uptick in this issue in a short amount of time. Two of the biggest flashpoint issues causing this fatigue are the mask vs anti-mask debates and altercations, and the exhaustion from seeing so much misinformation, flawed information, and conspiracy-theory information spreading within the country.
INDICATOR: High Volume of Covid-Fatigue-Related Articles
- Searches using various strategies and Boolean-based strings show a huge number of articles related to Covid-fatigue. These articles come from a wide range of sources, like major news and media outlets, digital marketing and media companies, health organizations, and third-party sites – mostly dating from mid-May 2020 through the current date. Examples of these searches are found here, here, and here, though this does not represent the exhaustive searches conducted.
- Some searches noted the change in wording to “message fatigue” by some organizations, and “communication fatigue” by other organizations, as well. The National Institutes of Health notes that messaging fatigue can lead to a strong desensitization to information, which leads to lower empathy across the board.
- Many of the articles from media or marketing companies focus on how brands can steer the messaging away from the type of language that is contributing to messaging fatigue during this pandemic. These articles are focused on helping brands and organizations move past the “pandemic information overload” and into fresh content that will engage readers/viewers.
- Another set of searches found articles related to working from home during the pandemic – translating the communication fatigue into the more specific “Zoom fatigue.” Yet another named “caution fatigue,” which referred to being overwhelmed by so much conflicting advice on proper safety measures during the pandemic (like mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, use of various drugs, etc).
INDICATOR: Fatigue from the Growing Divide over Wearing Masks
- For months, Americans have been fighting on social media, in their neighborhoods, and in local communities about wearing masks. Mask-wearers assert that the minor inconvenience caused by masks should not overshadow the positive effect the act has on flattening the curve; mask-deniers state that they believe mask-wearing is a violation of their rights and that being forced to wear one impinges on their freedoms in some way.
- An NBC News article detailed a confrontation between a typically non-confrontational frontline medical worker in Michigan (who was wearing a mask) with a man (not wearing a mask) who informed her the virus was a hoax. The article states that, “Across the country, there is a deepening divide between Americans who are firmly adhering to guidelines issued by public health officials to avoid the spread of the coronavirus and those who believe the recommendations are overkill, contradictory or just plain annoying.” They note that “masks, in particular, have become a flashpoint from coast to coast.”
- Some mask confrontations have resulted in people being spit or coughed upon (which is now a felony), some people getting into physical altercations, and even needless deaths. The NBC article details how Orange County, California’s chief health officer resigned after receiving death threats over a countywide mask ordinance she imposed.
- An article in the New York Times from late June offers a selection of videos of public mask-based confrontations across the country, from California to Texas to Florida. The article recounts an incident where a non-masker tried to forcibly remove a mask from another customer in a convenience store simply because the mask-wearer had shaken his head at him; the mask-wearer stated he hadn’t been in any type of physical confrontation for more than a decade or so before all this, but had been in several since masks became an issue.
- These confrontations are leading many essential workers, like grocery clerks and restaurant servers, to be involved in conflict resolution, which sometimes can turn ugly quickly. A manager at Hugo’s Tacos, a local-to-Los-Angeles taqueria with two locations, reported observing “five confrontations over masks in a single hour,” one of which included the customer throwing a full water cup at the counterperson. Unfortunately, too many frontline workers and managers are not being given training in how to handle these irate customers, nor are they being given proper support. Instead, some large corporations, like Walmart and 7-11, are recommending masks, but not requiring them, preferring to have their workers avoid confrontations – but also not following local mask ordinances.
- On social media, dueling memes and hashtags are in play - #maskitorcasket is one example for mask-supporters, while #nomaskday is one example for non-maskers. An array of memes (supporting both sides of this issue) can be found with a quick search of a typical American Facebook user’s profile. Examples of pro-mask and anti-mask memes can be found here and here respectively.
- The previously mentioned Hugo’s Tacos has gotten a slew of emails and social media comments from non-masked patrons upset over being forced to don one to enter the establishment with language like, “’Why is it the responsibility of a taco stand to dictate to its customers a personal freedom of choosing to wear or not wear a mask!’ it said, concluding: ‘Go to hell taco man. Close permanently! Do us all a favor!’” Combined with the violence that has overtaken America since Trump took office, and with the current protests, riots, and increased militarized-police presences across the country, Americans are overwhelmed with the hatred within the borders of the country – and are seeking respite outside social or any media – and spending more time outdoors (social distancing) or having quality time with their families.
- The initial (and lengthy) lack of support from Trump’s administration on wearing masks helped make this issue highly political and divided along party lines, as well (with many Democrats supporting mask-wearing). Even the CDC stated prior to early April that “those without symptoms did not have to wear masks,” but shifted their advice to recommending that everyone wear masks in public after that date (April 3). Trump and Pence have only recently begun wearing masks in public, though not all the time, and often, not properly (with the mask fitted over both mouth and nose).
- This also has contributed partially to another indicator of Covid messaging fatigue, as detailed next.
INDICATOR: Fatigue over Misinformation, Conflicting Information, and Conspiracy Theories
- Along with masks, another flashpoint in America is the horrifying spread of misinformation, conflicting recommendations, and conspiracy theories related to the virus, pandemic, related health concerns, or even unrelated other aspects. With this having gone on publicly, in the media, on social media, and in American neighborhoods for months, the whole country is tired-to-the-bone of these issues.
- Notably, in a small study conducted in various US cities by NBC News, some respondents said “their faith is eroding in those tasked with keeping them safe, while others felt it was more crucial than ever to abide by advice from officials to flatten the curve.” The same article notes that the split between those who support official recommendations and those who support misinformation or faulty recommendations is often along party lines – with Democrats (or blue-leaners) aligning more toward “trust[ing] in medical scientists and public health experts” over other officials spouting recommendations not based in sound science.
- That said, The Atlantic has been collecting President Trump’s falsehoods about the virus since the pandemic hit America. Nearly every day, and often several times a day, Trump has spread misinformation or outright lies about the virus, its impact on Americans, the death toll, symptomology, treatments, and possible ways to slow the spread. This constant stream of misinformation, plus the tons of misinformation coming in from external sources, like conspiracy theorists and companies like Breitbart, which bend the truth to whatever they see fit to say, have caused covid-misinformation fatigue in America.
- A study from the Pew Research Center (detailed in Vox) in mid-April showed that “80 percent of Americans said they saw fake coronavirus news in the early days of the pandemic,” which led to early confusion on how best to behave safely, as well as significantly more initial panic for some (and none at all for others). When tested, some respondents actually identified real news as fake, and fake news as real – again leading to more confusion and great misinformation fatigue.
- On social media, as with most things, the fatigue is spreading, though some sites are taking action to slow the spread of misinformation and relieve some of that fatigue. Facebook has been tested multiple times and has begun taking down misinformation sites, tagging false or partially-false posts with a public identifier, and taking other steps to address the issue plaguing their site. Instagram and Twitter are also cracking down in an effort to combat the flow of misinformation and the resulting fatigue.
- Conspiracy theorists are also running amok during this pandemic, spreading vast amounts of crazy theories connecting this to that back to this other thing loosely and with a lot of holes, yet more and more people are buying into these crazy theories. For example, BuzzFeed News reported back in April that a YouTube video that accused long-time pandemic expert Anthony Fauci “of being part of the deep state” was viewed more than 6 M times in just one week of being published.
- Other conspiracy theories, like those surrounding 5G causing the virus, or those noting how a Covid vaccine will be likely to include an injectable tracker for the government, are also abounding, once again leading to overload and fatigue among all Americans (but especially those trusting in science and experts rather than internet hokum).