Like many communities across the country, the City of Philadelphia is struggling with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. As part of an effort to incentivize residents to get vaccinated, the City launched the Philly Vax Sweepstakes campaign, giving vaccinated Philadelphia residents the chance to win $50,000.
The Challenge: Resident Resistance to the City’s COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign
To the City’s surprise, the program attracted significant backlash, especially on unofficial channels such as news outlets. Zencity data showed that negative resident sentiment on the incentive program was at 18%, versus only 3% positive sentiment. This presented a dual challenge for the City: first they needed to understand whether that backlash was concentrated—if it was the Same Ten People (or STP) making a lot of noise, or if this negative opinion was widespread. Second, if this negative sentiment was widespread, the City of Philadelphia needed to come up with a plan to address it.
The Zencity Solution: Understanding Negative Sentiment Generated by the City’s Vaccine Incentivization Campaign
Using Zencity’s data and expert analysis of resident discourse, the City was able to dig deeper and reveal the drivers of negative sentiment, such as the perception of the incentive as a “bribe” or questions about the prize’s funding. These issues then served as the basis for talking points that were used to better understand community response.
As the city engaged on the ground with different sectors of the community, it learned that the negative resident sentiment online identified by Zencity wasn’t just a classic case of the STP, but rather a more widespread concern—especially in communities that tend to be overlooked and underserved. By proactively asking residents in typically hard-to-reach communities about the key concerns that surfaced in the data, the city discovered that the same concerns were reflected here: that these residents also felt that they were being bribed to get vaccinated, and felt that the funds allocated for the sweepstakes could be better used solving community problems on the ground.
The Impact: Turning Public Opinion Around to Support the City’s Campaign
Using this information, the City of Philadelphia decided to adapt its messaging to show the positive impact the sweepstakes had on everyday citizens, as well as to address citizen concerns on the subject. Following these changes, positive sentiment around the Philly Vax Sweepstakes rose from 3% to 21%.
Zencity’s data insights proved to be a great wakeup call that our current efforts weren’t working, and an impetus to change our messaging and better align ourselves with citizen concerns around the incredibly important issue of vaccine hesitancy.
Irene Contreras Reyes,
Deputy Communications Director, Office of the Mayor, Philadelphia, PA