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A more detailed look at some of the issues around vaccines and vaccinations.

Winning the middle ground – as ever – is the key to success

A successful persuasion campaign requires more than just positive literature and messaging. What is key for any successful campaign is that the position, arguments and/or materials presented are indeed persuasive. To be persuasive, that which is presented must be reasonable and appeal to the audience. At times, a successful persuasion campaign requires the use of experts, at other times (particularly where there are too many unknowns or it is a very emotive topic) the use of experts can be quite detrimental (see e.g., the 2016 EU Referendum Remain campaign). 

What a successful persuasion campaign requires is clear, consistent and concise messaging to your target audience. There is considerable art in the messaging itself, but even more in zeroing in on whom your audience is. 

Contrary to popular belief, your audience during a campaign isn’t those who will vote for you, they are already in agreement with your position. It is those undecided voters who may be amenable to voting for you that should comprise your target audience. Once you know who those people are, you need to provide your message to them in a way that elicits a response favourable to your campaign. We have found that the best way to do this is by providing a well-reasoned argument and not to overstate the benefits of a particular position. A good persuasion campaign needs to admit that it’s not all sunshine and roses, but that there are unknowns and only through conversation, questioning and research can your target audience reach a position where they are happy to make their decision based on their beliefs and values. 

One way to think of it is with the example of going to the dentist. Many people dislike going to the dentist. Yes, this could be due to odontophobia, but this is probably quite rare. With the remarkable advances in dentistry and pain management made over the last 50 years, The actual treatments are now pain-free and relatively straightforward and most people have quite good teeth following the fluoridation practices adopted after the Second World War. That discomfort begins at a more psychological level. 

It may stem from the interaction with dental professionals. The guilt one feels from not adhering to that nightly flossing, or falling down on that promise made at the last visit.to brush more thoroughly or less hard. In going to the dentist, many people feel judged and not solely for the non-adherence to past promises, but because there is clear evidence quite literally in the face of your adjudicator. Ultimately, people don’t like to feel judged in a negative way. When that judgment is positive, it can elicit beneficial actions through positive reinforcement. When that judgement has a slightly negative undertone, whether real or perceived, it can lead to other (sometimes opposite) actions.

In the dentist visit example, you can be in the chair and tell the hygienist that you have rigidly adhered to the daily flossing regime. But the hygienist certainly knows you haven’t and gently reminds you that it is beneficial in combating tooth decay and gum disease. You feel somewhat uncomfortable and decide to start pushing back those regular check-ups from every 6 months to every few years. In time you will notice slight changes and concerns, but you ignore them because they seem inconsequential. By putting off going to the dentist, you are not in fact alleviating the problem. In fact, you’re making it worse. You  are simply alleviating your guilt. This certainly is not a parable in what happens when you have poor oral hygiene, nor is it advocating that you take up home dentistry. However, it does illustrate what can happen when we feel uncomfortable or judged. 

Those who at this time are hesitant about vaccinations may well feel this way. They have simply not yet decided whether to be for or against vaccinations. They are the proverbial middle ground that you want in an electorate because they are the people you need to persuade of your case in order to have a successful campaign. 

Sometimes the message that vaccination, like flossing, is something that should be a regular part of our lives or that it is our duty and responsibility as a member of society, is not enough. Sometimes more information is needed to support an argument. We, at Community of Immunity understand that and that is why we’re working to answer those key questions so you can decide what is right for you, your family and your community.


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