Strategies to Build Trust in COVID Communications

USDR recently conducted nationwide, primary, qualitative research to explore how at-risk and vulnerable* communities receive critical COVID information and how community influencers or translators* can help amplify and extend the reach of government messaging. The goal of this research is to inform thinking and decision making for creators of COVID communications strategies, provide a framework to think about and prioritize key information, and share what people have to say about navigating COVID information.


Download the Research

>>> COVID Information: Reaching At-Risk and Vulnerable Communities
>>> COVID Information: Partnering with Trusted Community Influencers and Translators


Free access to recent, primary, qualitative research

Government teams and NGOs creating communications for their communities need more research to guide their project implementations. USDR interviewed 80+ individuals from throughout the U.S. and surveyed 1,500+ more to help understand sentiments, habits, and gaps for how people may think through choices and information. The research also reveals how government and organizations can best support trusted community leaders (“translators”) who act as critical nodes of communication amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The shared findings from this research can help guide your thinking as you develop and execute your communications strategy.

Action steps to build trust in government COVID communications

Public trust has eroded with governments because information is not transparent and open. This work provides a communication trust diagram to show how information flows from and to key sources. We’ve also provided tangible to-dos for trustworthy communications, including implementing best practices for design, partnership and outreach recommendations, and tips for making communications more accessible. 

Strategies to reach at-risk and vulnerable communities

Grounding communications work with the views and experiences of at-risk and vulnerable* communities helps make the work more accessible for all. We’ve provided strategies that  focus on leveraging trusted community leaders (teachers, church ministers, restaurant owners, etc.) to share information, re-examining tech and language barriers, contextualizing information, and considering the tonality of the info.

*Vulnerable populations by the World Health Organization: “People whose situations or contexts make them especially vulnerable, or who experience inequality, prejudice, marginalization and limits on their social, economic, cultural and other rights.”

At-Risk populations by US Health and Human Services: “People with access and functional needs that may interfere with their ability to access or receive medical care before, during, or after a disaster or emergency. Irrespective of specific diagnosis, status, or label, the terms “access and functional needs” are defined as follows:

Access-based needs:  All people must have access to certain resources, such as social services, accommodations, information, transportation, medications to maintain health, and so on.

Function-based needs:  Function-based needs refer to restrictions or limitations an individual may have that requires assistance before, during, and/or after a disaster or public health emergency.

Tips to effectively distribute information through “translator” networks

Trusted community leaders, also known as influencers or “translators,” act as critical nodes of communication amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Our recommendations help you identify your community’s influencers and deliver clear, customized and shareable messaging with them to better reach the broader community. 

Get Started

USDR is available to provide pro bono assistance to help guide your COVID communications efforts beyond the recommendations provided in the resources above. This communications-focused work is only one part of USDR’s dedicated health program to help state and local governments meet the urgency of the COVID-19 crisis. Using our existing rapid response model to deliver fast and free support, USDR’s health program assists with COVID-19 testing, exposure notifications apps, public health communications strategies, vaccine distribution, and more. See here for a full menu of USDR’s health-focused offerings.

To date, USDR has partnered with governments in 36 states and territories. Tap the button below to connect with USDR’s team, and we will respond within hours.

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