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From the 6th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Spread the Facts

Finalist in Public Health

About this entry

Washington State was the first place that COVID-19 appeared in the U.S.  


C+C was hired by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) on March 17, 2020 to work in partnership to develop campaign series that encouraged behaviors that could help stop the spread.  


The team developed the Spread the Facts campaign, one component of the state’s multi-faceted communications, outreach, and policy strategy to address the pandemic. In the Fall, the team added an effort to get Washingtonians ready for the COVID-19 vaccine. The campaign had  

the following goals:  


1. Flatten the curve of COVID-related deaths and illness in Washington State.  

2. Increase the number of WA adults who intend to get a COVID-19 vaccine.  

3. Drive traffic to the website.  


The campaign has included a phased approach to remain nimble to address critical messaging over time:  


Phase 1: Education about initial Stay at Home, Stay Healthy Order 

Phase 2: Address mental health by promoting healthy coping strategies 

Phase 3: Preventive behavior focus: wear masks, small gatherings and physical distancing  

Phase 4: Ongoing fast-turn customized support to Counties experiencing spikes in cases  

Vaccine: Build receptivity and intention to get a COVID-19 vaccine

Why does this entry deserve to win?

We used extensive research to create marketing plans to encourage COVID-19 preventative behaviors and increase intent to get the vaccine. The campaigns were created with messaging in mind to reach all Washingtonians. We segmented outreach to priority audiences. Our initial behavioral campaign launched in just one week, and we transcreated messaging initially into 5 languages and then into 18 languages. 


We researched COVID-19 behaviors and the vaccine to gain insights that informed our strategy. From our research on COVID-19 behaviors we learned that most people in Washington report doing the desired behaviors of wearing a mask, staying six feet apart and gathering in small groups. We leveraged this social norm by incorporating a “thank you” strategy into the campaign. Also, people were picking and choosing which behaviors to follow. They weren’t doing them all together, thinking that doing one or two of the behaviors was enough, so we emphasized that all three key behaviors must be done together.  


One of the strongest motivators was that people want this over. People are willing to engage in behaviors that they don’t like if they believe it helps end the pandemic sooner. Therefore, we used “Not forever, but for now” more widely in the campaign to leverage this motivator. Our research also showed that young adults respond best to messaging that is personally relatable/speaks to them. We applied this information to our strategy by creating ads and messaging for young adults that spoke directly to them and acknowledged their unique challenges, including relatable visuals and voice talent. We learned that reality-based messaging is a powerful influencer of behavior for some audience segments, and that the messenger matters. Audiences responded best to local, trusted messengers. Knowing this, we created three ad concepts using reality-based messaging that focused on what it feels like to have COVID-19 and what it would be like to say goodbye to a loved one. We also used real people/local voices as messengers. 


We learned that intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine was dropping due to perceptions that the process was not trustworthy and that there is a lack of information. The vaccine is an emotionally charged and stressful subject for people. Uncertainty and lack of trust drive these feelings. Safety is more important to people than efficacy. People are worried about long and short-term side effects. 


In December 2020, we created an education campaign to get people up to speed on the basics of the COVID vaccine (how it is being made and how it works) as well as help people be able to identify trustworthy information about vaccines. We kept messages simple, straightforward and transparent. Our focus was to share facts and help people find accurate information through the WA DOH website and Google search. For Q4 2020, highlighted results of clinical trials and independent testing to show that many people have successfully gotten the vaccine. In 2021, this strategy expanded to highlight local community leaders and health care providers that have gotten the vaccine. 


Campaign Metrics

1.1 billion completed video views  306,587 social media engagements  14.7% CTR Google Search campaign (top performing COVID-19 health department campaign in the U.S.)  More than 3.8 million clicks to the website. 

While this campaign is one component, the WA curve is better than most other states: 

As of January 12, 2021, WA ranked 46th out of 50 states in terms of COVID-19 cases per 100K population and 44th out of 50 in terms of deaths.  WA State had the lowest percentage of any state of people planning to have Thanksgiving dinner with people outside their household. As a result, a post-Thanksgiving spike was avoided with case numbers plateauing whereas most states saw a post-Thanksgiving spike.  WA saw the curve start dropping from its peak two weeks after the behavior blitz launch in October 2020 and then continue dropping for eight consecutive weeks. 

Intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine increased (about a 16% increase between Sept. and December of 2020). Pew Research study of US adults showed in September that 51% were definitely or probably going to get the vaccine; in December a Gates Foundation poll of WA adults showed that 67.1% were very or somewhat likely to get the vaccine.  

In 2021 after the continued efforts of C+C and WA DOH, WA ranked 8th in the U.S. for vaccinations per 100k. In June, Seattle, WA became the most vaccinated city, after fully vaccinating at least 70% of all residents over the age of 12 against COVID-19. 


Video for Spread the Facts

Entrant Company / Organization Name

C+C, Washington State Department of Health