December 2020

Every word has power

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With the promise of COVID-19 vaccines arriving shortly, our government is faced with the task of convincing Americans to roll up their sleeves and actually get a shot or, in many cases, two shots. To do this effectively they need to take the politics out of the message as much as possible.

To this end, research has been undertaken to better understand what words will work better to encourage vaccination participation. The findings are something any business or organization may want to consider when referencing the pandemic in marketing materials, public relations outreach and even talking with their own employees.

A few examples of words that work better during the pandemic include:

Pandemic versus coronavirus – The research found that the word pandemic humanizes and personalizes the event. Coronavirus was found to be taken less seriously and made the disease seem less significant.

Protocols versus mandates – The study found that words like “mandate” caused people to react defensively and feel controlled. “Protocol” was seen as practical advice.

Fact-based versus science – All the derisive talk about what science is and is not has made the word “science” suspect to many. The research participants felt that “fact-based” was more effective at portraying something true.

While it may seem that worrying about which individual words are used during a crisis is inconsequential, the reality is that the right words may be what helps us put this tragic event behind us.  

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