A community-led approach to protecting lives during the pandemic

Client: Cabinet Office and Department for Health and Social Care

Covid had a devastating and disproportionate impact on Black and Brown people and for various reasons, vaccine hesitancy was particularly prevalent amongst these communities.

Commencing in March 2020, our task was to reach all Black, South Asian and Polish communities across the country, to inform and encourage the adoption of Covid protective measures, from hands, face, space messaging and regular testing, to Covid vaccine uptake.

Critical to developing our communications approach, was our deep understanding of the numerous barriers to the uptake of Covid protective measures. Principally, misinformation and lack of trust in government and health institutions, meant it was imperative we empower and co-create with the communities we serve.

We organised briefing sessions with community activists to meet senior experts from the NHS, MHRA (the body responsible for vaccine approval), public health bodies and government ministers, Vaccine Minister and Secretary for State for Health. These sessions allowed for vital dialogue, addressing concerns and securing the involvement of community organisations and activists, who we worked with in reaching our communities.

Together, we provided trusted spaces for the public to access timely information on Covid, protective measures, and have their concerns heard and addressed.

We organised and supported hundreds of Covid Q&A Zoom sessions, Facebook and Instagram Lives led by community and faith groups with healthcare professionals. We deployed our multilingual street teams to engage with the public to quickly garner public sentiment. We facilitated and brought visibility to pop-up vaccination sites in our communities.

We leveraged calendar moments from Ramadan, Diwali, Christmas to back to school, to deliver our messaging while co-creating content with the NHS and over 200 community organisations.

In addition, we delivered an always-on approach to media relations, with support from our trusted voices. For example, we brought together key Black majority church leaders to issue a joint statement in support of the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out which landed 440 pieces of coverage across mainstream, Black and faith-based media, including The Voice, BBC News and Sky News.

We sought to meet our communities where they were, in every sense, responding and flexing our delivery to emerging insights as the pandemic evolved. Our expansive approach to community engagement has laid the foundation for greater collaboration with community organisations that serve multicultural communities.

In January 2021, news headlines revealed almost three-quarters of Black people in the UK were unlikely to have the Covid vaccine. Although not on par with their White counterparts, the uptake of Covid vaccine by Black and South Asians has been significantly better than projected.