Credibility and the collective good


Feels like our eyes are glued to our screens as real-time field tests of mask-up campaigns continue to unfold.

Though it’s too early for definitive proof of which messaging strategies are working, we’re gleaning early lessons from the state of New York.

New York received 600 entries in its contest for the best 30-second ad to encourage masking. 186,000 people voted. Quite the turnout!

The top two spots appeal to the collective good – “We Love NY” and “You Can Still Smile” – a promising strategy that is in line with a July 2020 report from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). The state is airing both. We’ll be watching for results as we continue strategizing locally.

The NAS study also reminds us that the credibility of the messenger increases persuasiveness. This strategy makes another top-five finisher in the NY contest featuring New Yorkers especially appealing. This approach is supported by the Edelman Trust Barometer, which again this year found that “a person like yourself” is among the most credible of information sources.

We haven’t found much support for campaign strategies that directly debunk misinformation. Such an approach is tricky and can backfire, according to the NAS report.

We were reminded as we watched some NY video contest entries to set aside our own biases and tastes. It’s important that we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of those who may not be sold on wearing a mask. While research is helping, our search for perspective continues.

In the meantime, we’re masking up.