In August 2020, Chernoff Newman began working with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC Health) to reach young, rural and skeptical South Carolinians with messaging surrounding the importance of adhering to public health guidelines set by the CDC and SCDHEC to slow the spread of COVID-19. Safety precautions such as social distancing, rigorous hand washing and the need for masks in public became a part of our everyday lives and we needed our state to see the impact taking these precautions would make on getting us back to business.

The catch? This effort was already underway with the CDC and SCDHEC leading the charge on pushing best practice messaging to the public. However, despite their persistent efforts, it was clear from social media, news outlet segments and anecdotal experiences that there was a significant portion of the South Carolina population not taking these guidelines seriously and not adhering to the recommended best practices.

Utilizing research to drive strategy

To help combat this issue, we reviewed data from several different sources, as well as our own internal study, CN Insights, which had been conducted a few weeks prior, of those most unlikely to follow the health and safety guidelines. We then created a strategic messaging framework and campaign that spoke to these demographics directly, making sure that it was different than the standard clinical messaging that large health systems traditionally use to communicate with the public. To be most effective, we targeted our audiences based on where they most readily consumed information, news or entertainment while they were engaged in high-risk behaviors like dining indoors or working out in a gym. We also determined it would be important to focus on minority and underserved communities across South Carolina to provide a much-needed emphasis on these traditionally overlooked populations.

Our creative team took the opportunity to provide a unique and impactful way for a healthcare entity to connect with South Carolinians across the state — a multimedia campaign called “Don’t Go Viral.”

Don't go viral - messaging and delivery that resonates

As the Chernoff Newman team worked closely with MUSC Health to refine our messaging and data points, we also coordinated on the most effective means of delivery for the campaign to encourage our target audience to not go “viral.” Our strategy was to utilize several different channels and mediums to communicate to our audiences based on their demographic and where our research determined the efforts would be most effective. For example, to best reach our rural audiences, we utilized radio and print publications to effectively convey our “Don’t Go Viral” messaging about best practices and testing options at MUSC Health facilities. For our younger, more urban demographic we developed content for social media and video-based platforms.

Campaign results

Today, the “Don’t Go Viral” campaign has been through three different phases of iterations and is still emphasizing the importance of public health guidelines. Across all three phases of the campaign, we’ve driven 30,000 clicks to the MUSC Health COVID-19 landing page, generated 42,320 social engagements and delivered 2,135,404 impressions to South Carolinians from Greenville to Beaufort to Myrtle Beach, Aiken, Rock Hill and everywhere in between.

As we look back on the campaign, I’d like to think our effort with MUSC Health played a part in helping our state slow the spread of COVID-19 to get South Carolinians back to work, church and social settings — safely.

View our “Don’t Go Viral” campaign case study for more details.

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Chernoff Newman provides strategic communications consulting and services to a wide range of industries and is here to assist you when needed. Feel free to complete this short form and I’ll contact you to see how we can be of help.

Blog Post Contact-Nick Murray
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