COVID vaccine vial and syringe on blue background

How Brand Reputation Impact COVID Vaccinations in Australia

Ahmad Munawar

Jul 27, 2021

Eighteen months on, the COVID-19 virus is still plaguing the world. In a race to restore global stability and life’s simple norms, government authorities and scientists have been multiplying efforts to develop vaccines (or better, a cure) to counter the increasingly virulent strain.

The COVID-19 pandemic has become part of our lives now. The world’s economy, trade systems, international relations, business and travel have adopted new ways of operating — being COVID-normal. No country is immune to the virus’ detrimental effects and this includes Australia.

However, the discovery of vaccines has helped to boost hopes of progressing from COVID-normal to pre-pandemic days and heeding the lessons we have learnt. Vaccination is now one of the paths towards overcoming this virus and undoubtedly, a major factor for people is the brand reputation of vaccines.

Table of Contents:

Why is Brand Reputation Important to Vaccine Rollout?

Like any other brand or entity, brand reputation is an absolute necessity for pharmaceutical companies to expand and grow their business. Reputation is the trait which consumers, audience, or the general public, will start their relationship with a company. It is very common these days for people to first head to Google and search for the latest news or trend on a certain topic or particular brand.

Trends of organic searches on Google show that Australians are increasingly keen and aware of vaccines available in the country. In the past three months, Australians have been charting a higher than average number of Google searches related to the COVID-19 vaccines. It is also heartening to see that Australians are proactively querying about registering for vaccinations and getting information directing them to the appropriate channels to secure a jab for themselves.  

Google Search trend on COVID vaccines in Australia this year

Google Search trend on COVID vaccines in Australia this year

With the rising number of Google searches, this trend shows that people are reading up on vaccines and making decisions based on the information that they consume. This is critical to industries such as the medical and health sectors because brand reputation plays an integral role in subject matter expertise as well as quality service. 

In the medical and health fields, the benefit of having a good reputation is invaluable. But what makes a good reputation and how can it affect vaccine rollouts? The topic of people’s health and wellbeing is highly sensitive and the public rely on medical and scientific expertise to alleviate their worries. 

Top Google queries on COVID vaccines in Australia

Top Google queries on COVID vaccines in Australia

Recently, major publications such as The New York Times and Vanity Fair have also written extensively about COVID vaccine scaremongering - the growing trend of people rejecting vaccines due to unsubstantiated claims against it - and the need to reassure the public of the vaccines’ efficacy. 

In the eyes of the public, having a good reputation in health-related fields equates to credibility and trustworthiness. Especially in a time of a current pandemic, people ultimately are looking for these traits in vaccines and treatment. Another benefit of maintaining a good reputation in this field is that it builds long-term goodwill between the public and organizations.

According to a World Economic Forum-Ipsos report, 73% of Australians had the intent to get vaccinated against COVID. With good support, the next step for people is to find information on vaccines as well as discuss it with their family and friends. This is where the brand reputation of vaccines comes into play because the public will begin their search for information on the choices that they have.

How Social Media Conversations Affect Vaccine Rollout

There is no argument that the public is talking about vaccines and those conversations are held in the realms of social media and online forums now. The building of that trust is imperative for the public to go out and get vaccinated. That is why it is important to identify challenges within online conversations because it directly impacts sentiment on the ground.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlighted that effective communication is key in implementing successful vaccination programmes. This is vital because it builds public trust and confidence. This trust and confidence in vaccines is directly correlated with brand reputation. 

Mainstream and social media conversations trend on COVID vaccines and side effects in Australia

If negative conversations in social media and online forums are rife, this will indefinitely affect ground sentiment and the overarching attitudes towards vaccines. The last thing a vaccination drive need is a negative brand reputation from the options available. 

In Australia, there has been a stream of conversations on vaccines in mainstream and social media this year. The graph above shows the trend of conversations on vaccines in relation to reputation-at-risk topics such as blood clotting and the severity of side effects. There were a total of 108,000 mentions of this topic across the first six months of the year. These conversations are critical to brand reputation and will affect the vaccination programme in the country moving forward.

Sentiment breakdown on COVID vaccine conversations on mainstream and social media

Sentiment breakdown on COVID vaccine conversations on mainstream and social media

Sentiment within social media has been rather skeptical of vaccination. With almost 17% of social media mentions being negative, there is an immediate need to address this issue so that people are able to build trust with COVID vaccines in Australia. If brand reputation continues to suffer, ultimately the vaccination programme will be impacted.

The Role of Media Outlets for COVID Vaccine Programmes

Reputable media outlets, in this instance, have the responsibility of dispelling skepticism among the public to ensure that vaccination campaigns are not hindered by these challenges and increase efforts to educate the public. And in this case, it is beneficial that officials in charge of brand reputation quickly move to address issues with the public and act upon any rising risks to vaccination programmes in their areas.

To do this more effectively and efficiently, brand reputation needs to be tracked and monitored by using online tools. Functions such as media monitoring, social listening, and checking on demographic influence are important to brand reputation. Maintaining a good reputation will help impact COVID vaccine programmes positively in the long run.

Animated image of news on an iPad

In Singapore, the current outbreaks in two clusters have brought microscopic attention to the vaccination rate there. In a Channel News Asia report, those in serious condition or admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) were not fully vaccinated. The country’s Health Ministry also said “there is continuing evidence that vaccination helps to prevent serious disease when one gets infected.” 

Another interesting related statistic is that in a country of 5.8 million people, more than four million have received the first dose of COVID vaccines while almost half have completed the full regimen. This reflects a brilliant synchronization of trust and reputation of COVID vaccines in the island nation. 

According to data by John Hopkins University, 11% of Australians have been fully vaccinated (as of 21 Jul 2021). This BBC report highlighted several challenges facing COVID vaccines — from supply delays, the higher sense of complacency due to low infection rates, and widespread concerns about the vaccines themselves. These reasons were highlighted as the main reasons slowing down the vaccine take-up rate here in Australia.

Strong Communication Linked to Brand Reputation of COVID Vaccines

In an OECD study on how public communications can help protect brand reputation as well as boost vaccination rate, it recommended four responses. These initiatives were designed to tackle the growing “info-demic” or the spread of unreliable information. 

Clear information through established media outlets

Working with reputable media outlets to disseminate clear and definitive information will ensure brand reputation remains protected. Collaborating with renowned journalists can also help in delivering better public communication efforts.

Consistent messaging

A singular source of messaging is critical because it will build trust with the people. Brand reputation relies heavily on consistent messaging and any conflicting information will only make people more skeptical of vaccines.

Transparency of critical information 

Negative information stems from worrying conversations within the realms of the public. Nowadays with social media and online forums, unverified information can only help to spur those worries online. Transparent lines of communication will help to alleviate those fears and also reinforce a positive brand reputation.

Forewarning of disinformation

Deep-dive into social media and online forums to find topics of myths and debunk them. This communication strategy requires data agility and heightened media intelligence to sieve through social media conversations. Once identified, quickly disseminate reliable information to counter that disinformation and restore brand reputation.

Animated image of a person getting a COVID vaccine

In an entirely connected world online, brand reputation is vulnerable to a multitude of biased opinions and unreliable information. These online conversations may spread uncertainty and worry among the public and this is how it can affect vaccination campaigns in Australia and across the world. 

By taking proactive steps in their communication strategies, organisations can work with authorities to mitigate these challenges. Organisations need to take control of their communications and support the collaborative efforts of fighting misinformation as well as implementing a successful COVID vaccination rollout.

For a better grasp of conversations online, and what you need to do to protect your brand reputation, do fill out . Our team at Meltwater will work with you to design the best media intelligence methodologies - from social media listening to audience demographic knowledge to public relations measurement - to help your organisation’s brand reputation.