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As the prime contractor for the COVID-19 Public Education Campaign, or We Can Do This, since August 2020, Fors Marsh Group (FMG) has delivered data-driven decisions and communications strategies—from promoting mask-wearing and social distancing in the pandemic's early days to slow the spread of the virus, to promoting COVID-19 vaccinations for different age groups. When vaccine boosters were needed to extend efficacy, we knew from experience that public perception could be a barrier to people getting more shots. Before developing messaging, we needed to learn as much as possible about how people were reacting to the need for a booster shot.  


FMG applies a research-first approach to every campaign and typically starts with an in-depth analysis conducted in-house by the FMG Social Listening Lab. We leverage the power of social intelligence software that continuously crawls social media platforms. We run queries across billions of conversations and posts to capture the most relevant and applicable data by monitoring platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and more than 100 million websites, blogs, and discussion forums. The tool uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to parse the massive amount of raw data captured. Analysts within the lab then interpret the results, integrating them with other research feedback, and provide near real-time insights as a starting point for understanding audience sentiment.    

Social listening is not only used in the formative stages of a campaign. We can use social listening to understand trends, track campaign performance and effectiveness, and inform strategic and tactical pivots to influence behavior change. The quantitative and qualitative data from social listening complement other qualitative tactics, such as focus groups, surveys, and interviews. This data triangulation becomes another component of the overall storehouse of knowledge that informs the tactical mix, messages, audience targeting, and segmentation in an integrated campaign.


An initial social listening report for the ASPA COVID-19 Public Education Campaign identified a need for clarity regarding the benefits of boosters and overall vaccine efficacy. For example, breakthrough cases in vaccinated people undermined confidence in the vaccine and public health officials. As a result, FMG addressed common questions in the campaign content, such as, "Does needing a booster shot mean your vaccine isn't working?" Trusted messengers such as the U.S. Surgeon General responded to these questions in the media.   

FMG merges the power of applied research with digital consumer intelligence. Our team's adept use of Structured Query Language (SQL) can be applied across multiple social listening solutions. As superusers of our preferred social listening platform, we routinely pilot and beta test new tools and provide user experience feedback to improve and refine the technology behind the social listening tool. Learn more about social marketing in our blog, Applying Marketing Methodology to COVID-19 Behavior Change.

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Ronne Ostby

Vice President, Insights and Strategy

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