As concerns over the coronavirus grew, the department of consumer affairs knew it had to take a hard look at how people were getting their information, but more importantly whether the information was being understood.
“We knew there was a large population of non-English speaking people who live in the state and Hartford, “ said Catherine Blinder, chief of education and outreach for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. “But just translating into the language sometimes doesn’t have an impact.”
The department was aware it needed to get out important health and safety information to the public, she said.
“With COVID, it was clear we all had to come together to educate people,” Blinder said.
This was how the “Stronger than COVID” campaign was born. The campaign runs through the end of October.
The department decided to focus on the three most spoken languages, after English, in the state. It was decided to create a campaign that would be widely distributed in Spanish, Portuguese and Polish.
Most campaigns of this type that feature state government officials or politicians, often don’t have the desired result, Blinder said. In order for the campaign to work and achieve the desired results, the campaign had to reach these communities, she said. And the best way to do this was to feature people who were well known in the communities.
The campaign was made possible with support from the Governor’s office, the Department of Public Health and money from the federal government, said Max Reiss, communications director for the Office of Governor Ned Lamont.
The campaign consists of videos that are being shown on social media, ads in local community newspapers and radio spots.
The Spanish-language video, hits on key areas of protection against COVID-19 — washing your hands, wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and getting tested. The printed ads feature different people who are well-known in the different ethnic communities. The ad prominently displays the words “Juntos Somos Mas Fuertes Que El COVID-19.”
“At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were figuring out how to communicate with people, we realized the need to reach directly to the communities,” Reiss said. “We needed to make sure we were reaching every single corner of Connecticut.”
But, Reiss said, they all realized they needed a lot of professional help to accomplish this.
That led to working with local partners — both community members and agencies — to develop a plan that would reach all residents.
“It’s so gratifying, people are responding positively to the campaign,” Blinder said. “Putting up posters and people recognize the person and they say, that’s someone from my community.”
“We’ve spoken to local community folks and they’re very happy to see the direct community outreach,” he said.
The government, he said, understands that you cannot have a one-size fits all campaign.
“We have wonderful people in Connecticut who speak different languages and come from different walks of life,” Reiss said.
But the campaign also highlighted something for those who work in the government.
“It also says we need to rethink our method of communications,” Reiss said. “If we’re not speaking to these communities in their language, then we are failing.”
Added Blinder, “The campaign was impactful and effective. It came down to people feeling seen and respected.”
While the campaign is scheduled to run through the end of the month, Reiss said they are hoping to get additional funding for a new round of ads.
A new campaign would likely focus on the COVID-19 vaccine as well as influenza.
“We can’t just tell people ‘Get the vaccine,’ we need to explain what it is,’ Reiss said.
During a meeting held on Oct. 1, Binder said they discussed the impact of the campaign and its effectiveness.
“We know it’s working and it’s important to continue to ride the success of this,” Blinder said.
Publisher’s Note: CTLN is a recipient of the “Stronger than COVID” advertising sponsorship.