Maori and Pasifika have been left behind in the covid 19 vaccine rollout.
I'll leave the long-running, structural reasons for that for another time but what it comes down to is a lack of trust in the authorities and media. Trust can't be rebuilt in the next two months so what to do to get the vaccine numbers up?
The pivot on Super Saturday to a grass roots, decentralised communications approach where local providers spoke directly to their target audiences worked. The numbers proved it with over 130 000 vaccinations and targets exceeded for Maori and Pasifika jabs.
The televised Vaxathon was a hit with young, fresh faces I've never really seen (showing my age) taking control of the messaging to get out and get vaccinated. Troops on the ground were equipped with fun event ingredients, spot prizes and thank you packs to get the tail end through. So the question is why wasn't this done earlier and has the current approach been all wrong? Should we just decentralise all the communications now?
"This is your captain speaking"
The message control coming out of the government has been necessarily tight and in an emergency situation like the one in March 2020 the team got it right. The 1pm public address format with media present ensured that the Team of Five Million were all on the same page and the clear, sharp (some say kindergarten) explanations navigated the country through a challenging time.
"This your captain speaking" and fire it out as a press release has worked for certain audiences and built a good foundation to decentralise things out to grass roots channels. For example, on Super Saturday crowds of all ages were delighted by a dancing Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. He was a total unknown 18 months ago. How did he get covid comms famous and become a trusted source? The joking around of Vaxathon youth presented with 'Optimus Prime' (PM Jacinda Ardern) was adorable and powerful all at the same time.
Public health in New Zealand is notoriously bad at paid media advertising as a result of them having no budget and third party agency power. Public health have become over reliant on the traditional media to get their messaging out and the paid work often comes as an after thought. Here comes the issue for Maori and Pasifika communities-they're often not engaged in mainstream media channels and go to other sources such as social or word of mouth, relational channels. The fragmented media is harder and more expensive. You need complicated media planning, multiple languages and broad range of media-trained talking heads. It's harder and you risk losing control of your messages-especially if you are trying to pull all the levers from Wellington.
Many of the ground troops involved in Super Saturday had already been partially media trained by the 1pm announcements -whether they knew it or not. But the time has come to add more grass roots campaigns as well as the centralised messages. Equip the people on the ground and if that means Super Saturday 2, I'm here for it.