With the accelerated rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, many employers now face the question: What and how should I communicate with my employees about COVID-19 vaccines? 

This is not only an issue that is relevant and important for employees’ health and safety, but also an opportunity for businesses to live up to their commitment to employee wellness and a higher social purpose. Research on increasing vaccination has listed employers as one of the five key agents that drive vaccine updates along with providers, regional immunization program managers, legislators, and parents. 

Further, as businesses rise as the most trusted entity for Americans, (even more trusted than government leaders, NGOs, and the media nowadays, according to Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer), it’s essentially the organization’s social responsibility to educate the workforce about COVID-19 vaccines and help to battle against vaccine hesitancy

Qiongyao Huang, Ph.D. Candidate, Hong Kong Baptist University; Benjamin Lynn, University of Florida; Chuqing Dong, Ph.D., Michigan State University; Shijun Ni, Hong Kong Baptist University

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly became a global disaster that impacted almost all Chinese and U.S. companies and presented them with new relationship management challenges. The heightened public emotions during the pandemic added more uncertainties to organization-public relationships and were likely to change companies’ relationship cultivation strategies. Companies could not afford to risk losing the relationships they had with their publics as societies were reshaped. Thus, the global pandemic provided a meaningful context for research to explore the relationship cultivation strategies that companies used on social media.

The goal of this research was to explore relationship cultivation and social media strategies that Chinese and U.S. companies used to maintain relationships with their stakeholders during the COVID-19 pandemic. A content analysis of Weibo and Twitter posts from Fortune 500 companies in China and the U.S., respectively, was conducted to examine the effects of their relational efforts on stakeholder engagement.

SmithGeiger Group explored the factors that impact Americans' decisions on whether or not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Interviews of 3,046 U.S. adults were conducted December 4-11, 2020. All respondents consumed news media sources on at least one platform weekly.

Key findings include:
  • Respondents said the most important factors regarding their decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine were safety of the vaccine (73%), effectiveness of the vaccine (70%), and possible side effects (65%).
  • 52% of Americans said the opinion of their own doctor or nurse was the most important opinion for their vaccine decision, followed by opinions from federal health agencies such as the CDC, DHHS, or NIH (49%).
  • The most impactful vaccine messaging focused on a desire to avoid loss and help others.
  • 49% of respondents said they were more likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine after seeing the message "Get vaccinated. Don't put your family through the pain of losing you to COVID-19."

USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations
The USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations examined how politics affected polarization amid the 2020 United States Presidential election, and how polarization in turn affected public relations.

Two surveys were conducted. The first survey of 940 communication professionals and 519 journalists was conducted between November 30, 2020 and January 6, 2021. The second survey of 833 U.S. residents was conducted December 1 through 4, 2020.

Key findings include:
  • 53% of respondents expected polarization of opinion on social issues to stay the same.
  • 32% predicted polarization would increase.
  • 28% of Americans said their willingness to listen to different points of view would increase after the election.
  • 66% of respondents thought the election would lead to an increase in workforce diversity.
  • PR professionals expected an increase in:
  • Activist demands placed on the business (72%)
  • Employee expectations of companies' role in society (70%)
  • Consumer expectations of the role of business in society (63%)

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