For this month’s SciComm challenge, create an empathetic graphic or short visual message about the COVID-19 vaccine or another vaccine!
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. This awareness month is observed to highlight the importance of vaccinations. These vaccinations include those for all ages all the way from the MMR vaccine as an infant, HPV vaccine as teenagers, to the shingles vaccine as an older adult.
People have been hesitant about vaccines long before the COVID-19 pandemic and the release of the COVID-19 vaccine. Social media and its role in the spread of misinformation sure hasn’t helped. Despite some social networks’ efforts to remove misinformation from their platforms, the people who are posting vaccine misinformation simply find ways to remain active and keep their posts live.
About 22% of the U.S. population identifies with the label “anti-vaccine” at least sometimes. This is not just a problem in the U.S. A survey of over 140 countries found alarming rates of anti-vaccination sentiments, especially in Western countries. France had the strongest anti-vaccination stance. It should be noted that some people are vaccine-hesitant, which means they are not considered anti-vaccination. Additionally, neither one of these populations are uneducated. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. So assuming they are uneducated may hurt your communication efforts.
There are, however, some known tips and strategies for combating vaccination-specific misinformation including calling out distortions in science and leaning on scientific consensus, building trust and relationships with your audience, and even using storytelling一a favorite of Lifeology’s一to tell real people’s stories to explain the science!
A great strategy that is a necessity and is related to the strategies mentioned above is empathy. Empathy is all about meeting someone where they are and understanding their feelings. Before you are ever going to change someone’s mind about anything, especially immunization, you have to be able to see the topic through their lens. Facts are just not enough.
Get to know the person you are talking to if you don’t know them already. Even if the person you are talking to is a relative you have known for a long time, try to get to know them in a different regard. Ask new questions. Find the values and interests you have in common. Try to understand the background they are bringing to the table. Be transparent and honest一always!
To learn more about communicating with empathy, check out this month’s new SciComm Program course: Empathy in Science Communication.
When thinking about transferring this knowledge into a graphic or another short visual message, what should you do? In the design world, this is called “human-centered design.” Be kind, honest, transparent, and understanding. Don’t be accusatory, dishonest, or dismissive.
Here are some general tips:
- Ask people questions and tailor your graphic from there
- Use a story with empathetic characters
- Don’t be afraid to use emotion to invite your audience to engage with the graphic
- Build empathy with analogies
- Have a beginner’s mindset, and try to succinctly answer who, what, when, where, why, and how in your graphic
August SciComm Challenge
For this month’s SciComm challenge, create a graphic or short visual message around getting the COVID-19 or another vaccine, focusing on empathy in your message and its content or design. For example, you could start your creation process by talking to people you know who haven’t been vaccinated and learning about their concerns, emotions, thoughts and fears. Use this as an opportunity to build trust in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and to combat misinformation.