SELF Magazine’s mission is to help people feel better. To do that, we share accurate, inclusive, empathetic information about people’s health and bodies to empower them to make the best decisions for themselves. In 2019, as the World Health Organization declared vaccine hesitancy a top-10 global health threat, we decided to use our platforms to address this public health emergency. Our goal with the Vaccines Save Lives special digital issue and campaign was to use narrative storytelling, evidence-based reporting, and creative imagery to show how necessary and life-saving vaccines are—for your health. your family’s, and your community’s. In addition to the digital issue filled with first-person experiences and deeply reported service pieces, we partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics to create medically accurate stock photos that positively convey the vaccine experience—a direct response to the shortage of non-fear mongering images available. We published the images on Flickr and the AAP website under a Creative Commons license so anyone (i.e. journalists, medical professionals, marketers, or media outlets) can use them at no cost. The #VaccinesSaveLives social campaign included a strategic promotional plan across SELF’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat channels to spread awareness and combat the vaccine hesitancy crisis. Beyond our platforms, we engaged a curated network of key partners and allies to evangelize the message. We leveraged our highly popular Snapchat Discover platform by creating a special #VaccinesSaveLives edition that presented relevant content for that audience in a way that is most compelling to that channel’s demographic.
Studies have shown that myth-busting doesn’t work, since people are more likely to believe statements that they’ve heard repeatedly, even when they are false. So we knew that our editorial package and framing on social media would have to be different and highly strategic. That’s why we chose to amplify the message that vaccines save lives–it’s a positive, factual message that celebrates the life-saving aspect of this crucial medical intervention. To get the word out about our project, we sent personal emails to our large network of vocal healthcare providers, health journalists, and vetted wellness influencers with social-ready assets—including our digital cover for the issue—and information about our hashtag campaign and why this public health issue is worth talking about. Additionally, we tapped into our partner’s—the American Academy of Pediatrics—robust network to spread the word even further in the medical community. We created an extensive Twitter thread about why we were creating awareness about vaccines for others to retweet and interact with. Because vaccination can be a controversial topic, we also worked behind the scenes with the major social networking sites to ensure we were taking proper precautions to optimize brand and staff safety. We made the decision to turn off comments on Instagram so there was no opportunity for people to spread false information about vaccines on our platforms via comments.
For the Vaccines Save Lives stock photo project in partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, we created an open source license to the imagery on Creative Commons, available via an album on Flickr where anyone (medical professional, marketer, media brand etc.) can download the images free of charge.
We issued a joint press release with AAP announcing the issue and images.
We leveraged content from the Vaccines Save Lives package to create a special Vaccines Save Lives edition on our popular Snapchat Discover channel. As our audience there is predominantly Gen Z, we focused primarily on vaccines that are top of mind to them, such as HPV, and ensured the content overall was presented in a way that was relatable, digestible, and of interest to this audience.
#VaccinesSaveLives sparked a cultural conversation, with coverage from national news outlets like Slate, The New York Times, Fast Company, etc., and social buzz led by health professionals, journalists, and more. Reaction on social media was notably strong for the stock photography project, with many prominent names in politics, the health industry and beyond tweeting about our project, alerting other medical professionals or outlets on how to find and download the images to use. Over six months post launch, we still see our images used in major outlets and the Flickr album has been viewed tens of thousands of times.
Articles from the Vaccines Save Lives issue made an impact on social media, with social driving nearly 40% of traffic. The tweet in our thread announcing the campaign was our top performing tweet of the month, which was also 1477% higher than our top tweet the following month. This tweet also had our highest engagement, including the most likes, replies, and retweets for the entire year. On Instagram, we leveraged the images and digital cover we created for this project to announce the issue, and garnered a high like count for each post. Even though turning off our comments on these posts diminished our engagement analytics on Instagram, we knew it was the right thing to do for our readers and our staff, to ensure safety.
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