As stated under the objectives of the public relations campaign, the main message of the campaign will be that the MMR vaccine has been found to be effective and safe for use by small children therefore, parents should take their children to be vaccinated in order to forestall an impending measles epidemic. The campaign content will include support from various scientific research whose findings have discredited the Wakefield research.
It will also include an analysis of the potential dangers that a measles crisis holds for the health of individuals and the well being of the country if the parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Case studies of regions and/or countries that have been affected by the measles epidemic will be included to create a mental picture of how the situation may turn out if parents insist on not vaccinating their children. Each of these campaign messages will be accompanied by an appeal for parents to allow their children to be vaccinated and this appeal will be endorsed by a panel of experts.
The target audience The main targets of this public relations campaign will be the parents and guardians of children who are still within the vaccination age bracket and who have not yet received the MMR vaccination. It will also target young families who have not yet had children as well as those who are likely to have more children in future. The message content will be tailor made so that it best appeals to these two categories of people. However, this message will also be delivered in such a manner that it appeals to the entire public on a larger scale so that it can influence public opinion.
The opinion of the public has a major role to play in the decision that the parents will make pertaining to the immunization of their children. Communication media The main method of communication will invariably be through the mass media or the press. Since the inception of the press, it has always played a very important role in influencing public opinion and shaping their perception and attitude towards a particular prevailing issue in society (Mc Combs 2006, p. 156).
In deed it is the media who initially influenced public opinion against the MMR vaccine by widely publicising the claims from the Wakefield research without giving as much prominence to scientific research which had disputed these claims. In deed, some have gone so far as to say that the blame for the decline in vaccination rates rests squarely on the shoulders of the media (“Correspondence” 1998, p. 906). Therefore, the same measure that was used to reduce public support for the MMR vaccine is the same measure that will be employed to increase public support for the vaccine.
Some of the methods of communication using the mass media are through the use of electronic media such as radio and television networks as well as the use of print media such as journals, magazines and newspapers. The disproval of the Wakefield research can be publicized through the use of these channels; the major researches that have been carried out and which have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism will be published in all the major journals, magazines and newspapers while a panel of experts be invited on national television to publicly declare that the MMR vaccination is effective and safe for children.
The adverse consequences of failing to vaccinate the children will also be aired on national television and this exercise will involve some of the real life examples of places or countries which have been devastated by the measles epidemic, the long term effects of measles on the individual and the society including a peak into old Europe when the disease had not yet been contained and was prone to sporadic breakouts. The aim of these campaigns is to create a mental picture of what will happen if the public does not vaccinate their children and to inculcate in parents, the desire to avoid such an occurrence.
Such a method of campaign targets the entire public and is supposed to influence public opinion through the agenda setting function of the media. The agenda setting function generally means that when the media focuses its attention on a specific issue for a while, then this issue will eventually become the main topic of discussion in the public arena and the inclination of the media will also tend to be the inclination of the public. Government sponsored advertisements will also infiltrate every part of the UK through the use of both print and electronic media during prime time when parents are most likely to be watching television.
Other than these two media forms, bill boards and pamphlets scattered strategically all over the UK will also be used as a means of communicating to as many people as possible in the public sphere and keeping the pro- vaccination message constantly in the eye of the public. Press releases from the government which validate the MMR vaccine will also be released from time to time to convince the public on the effectiveness of this vaccine.
The target audience of the advertisements will mainly be the parents of not-yet-vaccinated children. Other means of communication will also include the use of public forums to educate the public, as well properly coordinated door to door efforts. It is important to use all the existing forms of media fully so as to ensure every media form is used to ensure that everyone within the target audience has been reached. The target group also has sub- divisions within them that have to be individually targeted.
For instance, there are working parent(s), and then there are stay-at-home parent(s); the stay at home parents are most likely to be watching television while the working parents will listen to the radio on their way to and from work. The door to door campaigns will cater for the stay at home parent as well as those who for some reason or other had missed the campaign on both the television and the radio. The print media and public forums will target both groups while the pamphlets will mainly be distributed in the children’s hospitals. However, it is important to use all the forms of media concurrently for the campaign to be successful.
Picture a person who has watched medical experts endorsing the MMR vaccine on television, listens to a radio show and advertisements with the same message on his way to work, is confronted with billboards on the road and while taking his or her child to the clinic, is handed a pamphlet bearing the MMR vaccination campaign. If such a person still lets refuses to have the child vaccinated and in the process the child, contracts measles, then there will only be the parent to blame, the government having done its duty if warning the citizens of the potential dangers of not vaccinating their children.