Digital, Non-Social Media: 'Healthy Conversations'

Verywell Healthy Conversations campaign
The campaign's "Conversation Coach" app sets up an imaginary back-and-forth with a friend or loved one who resists science-backed vaccine recommendations. (Getty Images)

Category: Digital (Non-Social Media)
Winning campaign: “Healthy Conversations”
Publisher: Verywell

Medical accuracy meets empathy in Verywell’s campaign to foster productive discussions about vaccines. Dubbed “Healthy Conversations,” this digital winner not only promoted those conversations but also taught people how to make their points in an effective way.

The campaign grew out of a Verywell research project focusing on measles outbreaks, which included an original survey into perceptions about vaccines. The survey found that 43% of respondents delayed difficult conversations about vaccines for more than six months, and 80% of those who did talk to family or friends felt the conversation didn’t have much of an impact.

Hoping to change that, Verywell went on to develop "Healthy Conversations" and its centerpiece app, the “Conversation Coach." The app sets up an imaginary back-and-forth with a friend or loved one who resists science-backed vaccine recommendations.

Using on-screen conversation bubbles, the coach mimics a text exchange, offering up suggested responses along the way.

For instance, the coach begins with a vaccine skeptic who says, “I’m not sure I want to vaccinate my child. I don’t want to put them at risk for autism or any other potential side effects.” It then suggests three potential responses: “That’s completely crazy!” or “But what about the benefits?” or “OK, why would you think that?”

When a user picks the third option, the app offers up kudos for choosing the correct conversational path. After that, the skeptic appears open to a discussion. At the end of a conversation, users can download full transcripts or choose a discussion guide to use when talking to a doctor.

The app's conversations were written by editors and reviewed by psychologists and physicians for appropriateness and scientific veracity. Verywell launched a social media campaign to drive interest.

“If you’re actually trying to get someone to have an open conversation about a sensitive topic, you don’t really want to hit them over the head with facts and data, so what we were trying to do is create a conversation that wasn’t going to put the person who was a vaccine skeptic on the defensive,” said Rob Parisi, Verywell’s general manager.

Engagement with the tool was high. From its launch in April through August, 50% of the people who entered the chat page engaged with it, and 48% completed the chat. Average time spent with the tool was almost five minutes (4:39).

In fact, it’s been so successful that Verywell has adapted the tool to other health-related conversations, including one focused on talking to aging parents about moving to an assisted living facility, Parisi said. Another is designed to teach users how to convince someone who doesn’t have health insurance that it’s a good idea to get coverage.

Digital, Non-Social Media: 'Healthy Conversations'