A communication strategy must refer to research even though it is at critical times and requires speed to measure the effectiveness of the communication being carried out.
The same principle applies when developing a communication strategy for the national COVID-19 vaccination program. “Don’t neglect research. Because without it, it is difficult for us to measure the effectiveness of communication,” said CEO and Principal Consultant Kiroyan Partners Verlyana (Veve) Hitipeuw to PR INDONESIA, Tuesday (19/1/2021).
According to Veve, as she is usually called, the least research that should be conducted is stakeholder mapping and baseline studies to measure perception. Stakeholder mapping helps communication practitioners to identify relevant stakeholders and their concerns. Starting from their position, whether they agree or not, to their issues and concerns. Meanwhile, the baseline study serves to find out gaps that need to be closed by intervening in our communication activities.
The hope is that through this research, communication practitioners can determine the main objectives to be achieved, communication goals, and communication challenges that will arise. Then practitioners can determine communication goals that need to be achieved through the communication program. Followed by how to achieve communication goals, what communication messages must be conveyed, and the supporting facts. As well as, how to anticipate and prepare solutions to issues of concern to stakeholders, who, in what ways, to the communication channels that will be used to support our communication program.
It sounds cliché, but in practice, it is often overlooked. We tend to rush into tactical steps, such as making communication collaterals or events. The measure of communication effectiveness is whether the communication goals and main goals are achieved and how much impact. “It’s not just the number of media attendances, articles, likes, shares, and so on. That is not wrong, but it’s actually only measuring output, not an impact yet,” said the woman who won a master’s degree at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences and the University of Bonn, Germany.
To determine the stages of communication, Veve continued, the steps that must be taken are to return to the initial process. Namely, depending on the objectives to be achieved and the reciprocity expected from the public/target audience. The objectives to be achieved can be in the form of awareness, acceptance, or participation (action) and support from them. “Ideally, if we generalize the process in general, of course, we need to start from awareness and acceptance, only then can we hope to get participation and support,” she said.
If we talk about when it will start, of course, it is necessary as soon as possible and as intensively as possible if we hope to get public support for the vaccine program within a certain period. Because the shorter the time we have to achieve the goals of support/participation, the greater the effort and intervention that needs to be done and the costs incurred.
The formula said Veve, if we want to get high support or participation, then the level of acceptance must first be high. For high acceptance, there must be high awareness beforehand. All of these stages require intervention activities or communication programs. “We cannot expect to receive high public support and participation if the public does not even know,” she said.
At this stage of raising awareness, the public needs to receive all accurate information about vaccines. The information they have will later influence the next process, namely acceptance. If there is misinformation at this stage, it will be difficult to achieve the next goal. Because it is necessary to make corrective efforts first.
In practice, there are always obstacles. For example, a low level of awareness and rejection. However, research conducted at the beginning will be very helpful in mitigating the challenges and obstacles that will be faced. According to Veve, the focus should be on the goals to be achieved and the need for continuous evaluation so that we can quickly make corrections or improvements to be able to overcome challenges and achieve goals.
Involve All Parties
Other things that should be paid attention to in carrying out public communication are the need to collaborate and involve multiple parties. Starting from all elements of the government, private sector, academics, public figures, to society.
However, this cooperation needs to be supported by guidelines that contain expectations on the roles of each party. Also with technical guidance on how each party/sector is expected to play a role. Make sure this guide is available for all parties so that it can be adopted, and each one can carry out his role according to the available resources. Without clear guidance, each party tends to go their own way. “It is necessary to have a special platform or channel such as telephone, e-mail that provides information related to this guide. So, each party knows its role and function, and how to do it,” she said.
On the other hand, by using cross-sectoral assistance, we can reach a more specific public. Especially at the stages of acceptance and participation, it requires in-depth education, so that it cannot be done in a too massive manner simultaneously and in a short time. One of them is by embracing state-owned and private corporations to carry out a special program to disseminate information related to vaccines to their respective employees in more depth with accurate information capital from the guidance provided by the government.
She gave an example, currently, many photos have been uploaded with the sentence “Ready to be Vaccinated and to Keep applying 3M”. Also, some are 5M. According to her, this effort is a good tactical step to increase awareness. However, this is not enough to increase support. So, there needs to be a form of communication that can provide more in-depth information.
Meanwhile, specifically for the involvement of key opinion leaders (KOL) and influencers, according to Veve, it must be returned to the research results and initial objectives. What are the strategic goals that you want to achieve? Is it just to achieve a high amount of exposure, or are you hoping that KOLs and influencers can become a good example so that the community will support the vaccine program? “If the latter is our goal, then what we should see is the impact on society, not just the amount of exposure from an upload to KOL or the influencers,” said the mother of one child.
To be sure, when we want to involve KOL and influencers, Veve advised that we must ensure that those concerned can help us in conveying messages to the public as expected. Find out who these KOLs/influencers are and their audience, make sure they are credible and can be trusted in the eyes of the public we are targeting. Do not let their involvement increase the potential for new issues.
According to Veve, whoever is invited to work together, make sure they refer to the communication principles for the COVID-19 pandemic which she quoted from the writings of the Executive Chairman and Founder of Kiroyan Partners, Noke Kiroyan, in PR INDONESIA Magazine, namely under-promise and over-deliver. That is, we do need to answer the concerns of stakeholders and the public, but not to exceed the proven knowledge and facts so as not to reduce public confidence in the vaccine program and the government.
“The public will certainly be happy if they get something more than what was promised. Conversely, if the reality does not match the promise, will reap disappointment. Even worse, the public loses trust,” said Veve while advising the government, or the related communication team, not to hesitate if they need support from the private sector, including communication practitioners in this country, so that the vaccination program can be implemented successfully, and the country is able to cope with the pandemic.
This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 70th Edition, issued on January 2021, page 26-27.
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