Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is an independent and mission-driven education, research and clinical institution based in Atlanta. The historically Black medical school is a leading educator of culturally competent clinicians and researchers dedicated to creating and advancing health equity in underserved communities. MSM ranks among the nation’s leading medical schools and HBCUs. As a recognized and trusted voice with scientific public health credibility, MSM saw a need to dissuade holiday travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among Black individuals, who are more than three times as likely to be infected by the novel coronavirus and nearly two times as likely to die from it.
Their objective was to create a national public service announcement (PSA) campaign that would draw attention to the critical need for staying home, social distancing, and wearing masks. MSM recognized how difficult this message would be for families, because compliance would mean breaking generations-long holiday traditions. The institution also noted that the 15-29-year-old audience was particularly reticent to follow CDC guidelines.
To get through to people and break through the emotional responses to the idea of separating from loved ones during the holidays, MSM needed a creative, sensitive, and ‘loud’ campaign. The solution took the form of a star-studded video PSA entitled #StayYourBleepAtHome. Featuring celebrities including veteran journalist Soledad O’Brien, sportscaster Bomani Jones, and podcaster Jemele Hill and distributed via social media, the PSA was created to cut through the noise and connect with the audience.
Working closely with the MSM team, Dragon Army built and executed the social media-driven PSA. The campaign entailed four main components — video, custom content, agile community management, and amplification partnerships.
Dragon Army co-wrote the “Stay Your [BLEEP] at Home” script with the CMO of Morehouse School of Medicine, Goldie Taylor. It wove together subtle pop culture references like song lyrics, highly ‘human’ scenarios like enjoying your auntie’s famous sweet potato pie, and quick verbal snippets that could easily be extracted for short social posts. Together, these strategic creative elements made the message feel non-threatening, personal, and worth sharing.
To get people to listen and comply with calls to stay home and wear a mask, messaging was delivered not only by doctors and authority figures from MSM, but by celebrities as well. In addition to Soledad O’Brien, Bomani Jones, and Jemele Hill, the PSA included social justice activist DeRay McKesson, talk show host and comedian Loni Love, comedian Roy Wood Jr., actress Yvette Nicole Brown, and political analyst and podcaster Bakari Sellers.
The second pillar of the campaign was a catalog of custom gif, visual, and copy elements. The content was a balance of evergreen messaging about being a responsible member of society, current statistics around COVID counts, and traditional holiday images and language. Collectively, the effort made the “Stay Your [BLEEP] at Home” brand and hashtag #MSMMaskUp immediately recognizable and highly engaging for audiences on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
The social media campaign paid careful attention to channel role and purpose. To contain the risk of spread during the holiday season, the campaign ran from Thanksgiving through the start of the new year. Timing aligned with each of the various winter holidays, calling attention to and reminding people of the risks of gathering and promoting safe, healthy behaviors during the peak of the pandemic.
We were particularly attuned to the platforms where target audiences engaged most, as well as to their day and time engagement cadences. With a tightly coordinated posting approach and attentive community management, we were able to start and nurture important conversations that motivated good behaviors and staved off misinformation about mask-wearing and social distancing.
Working in partnership with BET, the campaign also garnered coverage in top-tier digital, print, and cable news outlets.
For Dragon Army, the MSM “Stay Your [BLEEP] at Home” PSA was a cross-team effort that brought together multiple disciplines. Our team of writers, graphic designers, and social media specialists got to work fast and operated like a well-oiled, socially distanced Mask Up machine. We developed the creative concept and execution strategy quickly as it became apparent that COVID infection rates were spiking right at the start of the winter holiday season, then moved immediately into production. In addition to our own team, we worked with MSM and BET to coordinate video producers and celebrity contributors. Throughout the duration of the PSA run, our team carefully monitored reactions to the various posts, making tweaks necessary to maximize impressions and engagement.
The campaign got the attention of and amplification from a wide variety of credible, important voices in the Black community, creating a platform for ongoing conversations. While we can’t know for certain how many individuals were persuaded to stay home, stay distant, and mask up, the social media metrics indicate massive impact.
During the six-week PSA run, the campaign achieved close to 1.3 million interactions. Some of the key metric highlights include: