The Business of Safety: Building Public Health Campaigns on Main Street

Jan 29, 2020 | Healthcare, Public Relations

Normalizing public health behaviors and motivating communities to do their part  

Communicating effectively is challenging in the middle of a crisis – let alone during a global pandemic. COVID-19 has left communities and organizations in every corner of the world scratching their heads on how to best deliver messages effectively while keeping communities together, but apart.

A large component of effective communications is persuading audiences to pay attention, connecting emotionally and tying reasoning to take action to common values.

Fredericksburg Downtown, which sees 1.5 million visitors annually and is a member of the National Main Street program, was looking to break through cluttered news cycles. Their goal was to elevate important calls to action while normalizing safe behavior and reinforcing the importance of every individual taking action. Survival of Main Street was counting on it.

The community’s campaign included business tools, communications and public awareness resources.

The Business of Safety

Businesses were being asked to take on health practices that were unfamiliar and costly. At stake was the community’s health and the survival of small business on Main Street. Gavin worked with Downtown Fredericksburg, a Main Street organization, to create resources to make it easy for business owners to get essential information to act quickly.

Gavin worked with City of Fredericksburg and Virginia Department of Health communications teams to craft a set tools based on a constant feedback loop of identifying needs and challenges within the business community.

Normalizing Behavior and Motivating Safe Behaviors

Public behavior modification coupled with positive support reinforcement has been necessary to the community acting safely together. Moving the public to adopt new behaviors, while feeling confident in participation in the same behavior was an essential measure of success.

We worked with the Downtown/Main Street Manager to develop a series of communications, including a social media cadence of content to drive public education and awareness.

Gavin created a compelling campaign that stood out visually to educate and encourage residents and visitors about the COVID health and safety protocols. Downtown businesses were encouraged to take advantage of distributing the messaging while responsibility promoting the community to frequent their spaces in a safe manner. We delivered an integrated social strategy that was eye catching and spoke to patrons while reinforcing key safety messages.

Vivid graphics and lighthearted messaging turned a serious situation into one that would unite the community, aid small businesses and empower all to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Monitoring and Educating

Reinvigorating the downtown scene with socially distanced and masked patrons was at the top of the priority list. To better position downtown as a safe place to visit where everyone played their part, Gavin crafted concise messages to make public safety easy to take part in, while normalizing necessary behaviors to keep each other safe while being out and about Downtown.

  • Mask up to protect others – Normalizing mask wearing when visiting public spaces has been a key part of the campaign, positioning masks as a must-have accessory, giving new meaning to the essential item.
  • A distanced community is a happy community – Social distancing has caused many people to feel depressed and isolated. Gavin turned the tables on the health precaution’s limitations by integrating a message of togetherness to remind all that they’re never alone.
  • Keep Clean – A new emphasis on public cleanliness and self-sanitization has boomed in the wake of the pandemic and will likely be here to stay after. Informing Downtown Fredericksburg’s key stakeholders of the sanitary precautions and procedures put in place to protect customers played an essential role in delivering what the community needed to hear most to stay informed.
  • To Go is the Way to Go – The restaurant and hospitality industries have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, from being shut down completely to staff and customer capacity limitations. With less and less foot traffic coursing through dining rooms, carryout has become the hero of restaurant survival.

Creating a targeted and focused message is crucial in a world cluttered with mixed messages.

Any public service campaign must consider the challenges it must cover come to achieve success, whether it’s building a connection emotionally with audiences who are isolated or normalizing behaviors that were previously unknown or expected.

Communicating through multi-media strategically is the key to rising above the noise and ensuring the success of any organization, community and the general public.

It’s time to elevate your health and wellness communications and campaign strategy. Gavin can help.