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Philadelphia Aligns COVID19 Delta Communications with Citizen Concerns

How the City of Philadelphia Aligned Its Communication Around the Covid-19 Delta Variant Based on Citizen Concerns
How the City of Philadelphia Aligned Its Communication Around the Covid-19 Delta Variant Based on Citizen Concerns


With the Covid-19 Delta variant sweeping through the United States and the world, the City of Philadelphia needed to find a way to understand the extent of, and mitigate, resident concerns and ensure that any progress that had been made in controlling the virus wasn’t suddenly undermined as the new variant spread. 

The Challenge: Pandemic-Weary Residents Seem Skeptical of the Delta Variant

As the variant began to spread in the United States, the City of Philadelphia saw a sudden uptick in conversations online around Delta. Not only were residents commenting more on Delta in Philadelphia, but they were doing so almost twice as much as in similar-sized cities (comprising 3% of Covid-related conversations, as compared to 1.5% in other similar-sized cities). Furthermore, these conversations were largely happening on unofficial, non City-run channels, making it harder for the City to align its messaging with citizen concerns. The City needed to understand how exactly Philadelphia residents felt about the Delta variant in order to know what needed to be communicated.

The Zencity Solution: Identifying Citizen Concerns for Improved Official Communications

Using the Zencity dashboard and tailored insights, the City of Philadelphia was able to determine that the most prevalent conversations regarding the Delta variant were ones that expressed doubt in the seriousness of the new strain, as well as conversations that doubted the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine against the new variant. Particularly troubling was the theme of fear mongering that emerged, with residents expressing their belief that the City was amplifying cause for concern. In general, conversations around Delta were 8x more negative than positive, leading City officials to realize that any progress that had been made with regards to Covid-19 could be easily wiped away by pandemic-weary residents. Philadelphia Delta Variant

The Impact: A Change in Messaging Means Better Alignment with Resident Concerns

Following the insights revealed by Zencity, the City of Philadelphia began to strengthen its information campaign regarding Delta, sharing more statewide information showing how serious the variant is and the significant increase in cases across Pennsylvania. Additionally, with 68% of discourse and 99% of negative sentiment occurring on unofficial channels such as news outlets, the City realized it could be a larger driver in messaging. It ramped up its official communication with two new toolkits that included information on cases and vaccination rates, and as a city are discussing how to address mistrust in government among residents. 


The ever-changing pandemic has forced us to find new ways to hear the community’s concerns. With Zencity’s insight, we learned that there was a significant knowledge gap that wasn’t being addressed by our current communications strategy. As a result, we were able to make needed changes to our messaging and help address those concerns. Without that insight, our messaging would have missed a critical detail and could have undercut our overall response.

James Garrow,

Communications Director, Philadelphia Department of Public Health


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