Requiring my team at MediaSource, a public relations agency that works mainly in health care, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was the right thing to do. That’s why I mandated that my team get the shot a full month before President Biden announced his vaccine requirements.
We now have 95 percent of our staff vaccinated with the remaining requesting an exception for religious or medical reasons. While some may see this decision as a controversial move, I believe that it’s the responsible one.
Communicators have a crucial role in the pandemic, disseminating life changing and potentially life-saving information. Communications leaders who run PR businesses also have the power to change the narrative around the vaccine as America struggles to get its population fully vaccinated.
If you haven’t already mandated it, don’t be afraid to step up and do so. Heed your own best practices and communicate often and loudly about why. With my PR team and video crews often on site at hospitals interfacing with doctors and patients, I made the decision to keep my team and my clients’ teams safe. It was a no-brainer since studies show that getting vaccinated helps keep you from getting seriously ill from the virus and reduces transmission should you be infected.
Here are my tips on how to make the vaccine requirement decision and communicate it:
Consider company values
Your company values can provide a guidepost when making decisions such as this one. Use your organization’s values as a litmus test to help you come to a strategic resolution and keep emotions in check. Backing up your vaccine mandate decision with company values can help justify it when communicating it to others.
Communicate internally first
It’s important to share as much information as possible with your internal team before you begin sharing information externally. Your employees are the heart of your organization. Have empathy for their emotions and potential fears when beginning the conversation. Be intentional in engaging your employees and provide two-way communication for them to ask questions, raise concerns or share their opinions in a way that is safe and without risk of retaliation. Have your HR representative involved in the process.
Understand that an issue like mandatory vaccination during a pandemic is a sensitive topic and you will likely receive criticism, especially if you step out in a public way. Don’t let comments on social media make you second guess your decision.
Take your own advice
Because we are so often communicating for other company leaders or external clients, being the one with the message can feel uncomfortable. Don’t forget to heed your own communications advice—know your message and talking points and stick to them.