Health Labs Report blog header healthcare worker

Welcome to the Health and Pharma Labs Report from Zignal Labs, your monthly dive into the issues driving conversations in health today. For today’s report, we used media intelligence from the Zignal platform to explore conversations around a group that has spent a lot of time in the spotlight during the COVID-19 era: healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Keep reading as we dive into question like:

  1. What share of the conversation in Health and Pharma has been occupied by narratives around healthcare workers?
  2. What factors complicate the story around healthcare workers?
  3. How can brand and communications professionals interpret, and respond to, this data?

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Three Extra-Loud Cheers for Healthcare Workers

In a year full of controversies, regarding healthcare workers as the heroes of the pandemic is one thing few people will object to. Indeed, recent news in the Health and Pharma world is full of stories of companies, organizations, and individuals making a point of showing their appreciation for the sacrifices healthcare workers have made to fight the virus and keep us safe. 

Many of these stories were local – there was one about a local musician in New Mexico writing a song in tribute to healthcare workers, and another about a group of people showing up outside of a medical center in Maryland to show their appreciation in person. Others were a little more high-profile, with some even connected to the biggest US sporting event of the year: The NFL announced plans to give thousands of vaccinated healthcare workers tickets to the Super Bowl, where Miley Cyrus is even planning a performance for them.

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Did Someone Say CSR?

Health brands might see stories like these as signs that the time is right for a corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign. CSR is the practice of companies publicly demonstrating their values as it pertains to key social issues – and in the past year, there has been increasing public pressure for them to do so. With a strong public consensus on healthcare workers, it may seem like a no-brainer for brands in the health space to take a public stance expressing solidarity, gratitude, and appreciation.

Learn more about CSR during the COVID-19 pandemic in our recorded Virtual Town Hall.

Indeed, since the onset of the pandemic, a cursory look at the Health and Pharma conversation through the lens of media intelligence shows the topic of healthcare workers getting a good deal of attention, ranking 4th in the top 10 topics related to Healthcare and Pharma.

Wheel chart showing prevalence of healthcare workers topic

Mentions of healthcare workers within the Health and Pharma conversation, March 2020 – Jan. 2021.

CSR, at the end of the day, is about signalling your company’s position on the issues the public cares about the most. With a prominent place in the broader conversation, and widespread positive sentiment, the topic of healthcare workers seems to offer a golden opportunity to do so.

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Key Media Intelligence Findings Complicate the Story

When using media intelligence to analyze a narrative, a snapshot of the top conversation topics of the day isn’t quite enough to inform meaningful branding or communications decisions. Instead, to see how conversational winds shift and how trends coincide with other major events, brand and communications professionals need to take a historical view.

In this case, after an initial peak early in the pandemic, the historical view shows mentions of healthcare workers most recently spiked in the last two months of 2020, right around the time COVID-19 vaccine efficacy data was released, the vaccines were approved, and the inoculation campaign began.

Total mentions of healthcare workers over time

Mentions of healthcare workers within the Health and Pharma conversation saw an enormous spike at the start of the pandemic, and a smaller surge late in 2020.

That inoculation campaign rolled out according to specific guidelines as to who receives vaccinations when. And the group at the very top of the list was – you guessed it – healthcare workers.

This raises the question: Was the surge in mentions of healthcare workers in late 2020 driven by widespread appreciation for their sacrifice, as it had been throughout the pandemic? Or were healthcare workers mentioned incidentally, in conjunction with broader discussions of vaccine priority groups?

A quick scan of the social media landscape around this issue suggests that the answer is a little of both. Many posts praised healthcare workers for their hard work, much like we’ve seen throughout the year:

Tweet about healthcare workers

Others mentioned healthcare workers in the context of their priority status in the vaccine rollout without expressing particularly strong sentiment about the work they do.

Tweet about healthcare workers

Tweet about healthcare workers

Learn more about media intelligence for health companies on our Health & Pharma Industry Page.

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Key Takeaways

Here are some key points and clarifications:

  • Similar results, different causes. While healthcare workers have been a prominent topic for the last year thanks to their revered status as hardworking frontline workers, media intelligence shows that, over the last few months, there are likely new factors partly accounting for that prominence – and for their recent surge in mentions.
  • Test your assumptions. Don’t make your decisions based on a superficial reading of the conversational landscape. Use the media intelligence resources at your disposal to dig deeper. How would this discovery about the healthcare worker conversation impact the way you engage with the topic in your branding and communications?
  • The CSR case remains. None of this should be interpreted as casting aspersions on the wisdom of a CSR campaign built around healthcare workers. It’s simply an example of the ways media intelligence can show you that, when it comes to the online conversational landscape, things aren’t always what they seem.

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This analysis contains topical data taken from mentions in the context of Health and Pharma,  which pulls in content from news sites, social posts, and other sources. Within the Health and Pharma conversation, Zignal Labs actively tracks dozens of major issues related to the industry.