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How COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation Creates a Dangerous Environment for Brand Communications

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We are seeing COVID-19 vaccine narratives, misinformation, and conspiracy theories emerge online, which impacts brands in two main ways:

  1. It affects vaccine-related policy decisions and communications.

    If your brand is creating or evolving your COVID-19 policies, planning COVID-19 safety and vaccine support for your leadership team and employees, developing your “return to work” strategy and/or supporting programs, organizations or people related to the vaccine, these themes should matter.

  2. It creates a challenging environment for other brand comms.

    If your brand is posting on social media, issuing announcements, releasing a new commercial, launching new products or rolling out new marketing campaigns… understand you are communicating in an environment where what you say may — intentionally or not — come into contact with narratives that may distort your message or groups that may co-opt it in order to score points for their own agenda.

Below are top themes for vaccine narratives and misinformation spreading online.

TOP THEMES FOR VACCINE NARRATIVES SPREADING ONLINE

Vaccines don’t work 

These narratives stem from the anti-vaxxer playbook of calling into question the need for and safety of vaccines. Groups online are sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt around the effectiveness of vaccines, claiming that the government rushed vaccines, that they are not effective against variants of the virus, overstating side effects, and more.

Vaccine logistics are broken 

These narratives discuss vaccine distribution, who is getting it first, who is “jumping the line,” whether the vaccine will be required (case in point: travel), and potential policies that could be rolled out in the future. Supply chain is something that can be confusing even with great insights so this theme is particularly rife for misinformation. 

Vaccine conspiracy theories

These narrative are mainly an attempt to undermine trust — whether it’s toward a business leader, a company, or the entire system — to make the public question anything and everything around vaccines and allow other, even unrelated, narratives to thrive in a chaotic environment. Here we see conspiracy theories aiming to connect the vaccines to the Chinese government, calling them out as part of a plan to implant microchips in people in order to control the population, or part of a ploy for billionaires to get richer.

We found that 30% of the conversations around vaccines online are driven by inauthentic activity online. This can be a signal of coordination, where low-quality accounts or accounts created specially to amplify certain points of views online, are creating and amplifying content.

It’s important for brands, who are sources of information that have integrity in the eyes of the public, to know what is being shared online in order to communicate thoughtfully, protect their integrity, and restore trust.

Download our full report below and watch our webinar where we covered strategies for brands communicating, triaging incidents, and making decisions in this environment. Stay tuned as we deliver more insights around this ongoing conversation.

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