The power of hope (1) | Inquirer Opinion
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The power of hope (1)

/ 04:15 AM September 08, 2022

The power of hope (1)

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was much uncertainty and everyone needed reassurance. Filipinos needed to hear a knowledgeable voice of authority. However, there was a multitude of voices reacting to the situation as it unfolded. There was just so much noise. To exacerbate the situation, there was also fake news. A clearer message of hope and optimism needed to be heard.

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From all sectors of business and government, the importance of communication was emphasized, especially during a crisis like the pandemic. What was needed was an integrated, insightful, meaningfully relevant, and unified communications plan to ensure the credibility of the message, as well as the messenger.

In June 2020, I was invited by Task Force T3 to help with communications for the private sector. The goal was to create communications to build consumer confidence and help reopen the economy safely. The communications task was to encourage people to leave their homes, after being in the longest lockdown, move on with their lives, knowing COVID-19 was present and vaccinations were nowhere in sight. How do you ask the public to trust this message? How do you convince them it’s alright to leave the safe confines of your homes and that they would be protected by wearing a mask, washing their hands, and distancing? Finally, how do you do all that in a hopeful and optimistic tone?

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The importance of embracing the discipline of communications was essential to crafting a relevant and meaningful message. We needed to transform the public mindset from learned helplessness to empowered vigilance. Our consumer felt powerless, but Filipinos being inherently optimistic and having the desire to help others and connect with the world, led us to the insight of “when all seems lost, hope drives us to look for the happiness we deserve.”

With the help of the advertising industry, the line and the campaign “Ingat Angat Tayong Lahat” was born. It highlighted the importance of the resilience of the Filipino spirit in times of crisis like typhoons, floods, and natural disasters, and reminded citizens that as Filipinos, we will overcome.

With the contribution of 45 brands and close to 250 multimedia partners and a production team, this first campaign was ready by Oct. 9, 2020. To date, 8.5 million have viewed this campaign on YouTube and Facebook.

By 2021, the task shifted to increasing vaccine willingness. The challenge was about asking Filipinos to trust in COVID vaccines, which had been developed for the very first time. Just like any product, available supply was critical, and the communications had to adapt to whether supply outstripped demand and aligned with the government’s prioritization by sector.

Vaccine hesitancy peaked at 33 percent in May 2021 and declined to 8 percent by December 2021 (Social Weather Stations), driven by continuous education and communication through campaigns and vaccine events. Once again, the Ingat Angat Bakuna Lahat campaign was created by the advertising industry, guided by the expertise of the Philippine Medical Association and the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, and produced and distributed by the multimedia industry. The campaign materials garnered close to 10 million views, including a campaign where over 200 restaurant brands offered discounts to vaccinated persons.

In 2022, after two years of educating Filipinos to wear a mask, wash their hands, and distance, another mindset change was needed. People needed to shift from community quarantine to alert level status and to appreciate the situation by monitoring new cases and hospital utilization rates. The communications objective was about teaching people to live with COVID like any other virus and still be able to continue with their lives safely. The most important guidelines for people were vaccination, appropriate ventilation, wearing a mask, and isolating when sick. The messaging shifted to Tuloy ang Ingat, Tuloy ang Angat, and launched in March 2022.

The massive implementation of the campaigns rested on the values of our multimedia partners who generously contributed a total of over P1.8 billion worth of media values for almost two years. This amount is equivalent to the budget of a top advertiser in the country.

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In planning the execution of the communications campaign, a key consideration was the changing situation. How would a message encourage people to move forward with their lives to safely reopen the economy work if the number of cases would rise and another enhanced community quarantine would be imposed?

(Part 2 of this article will be published next week.)

Margot Torres is managing director of McDonald’s Philippines and head of communications for Task Force T3.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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