Coronavirus Briefing: Roadblocks, Bowls That Are Super, Three Questions With W2O’s Elyse Margolis

This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,926 words and will take you eight minutes to read.

It’s too early to start handing out trophies, but I started thinking the other night about the people, organizations and institutions that have distinguished themselves during the pandemic. The exercise was kickstarted when I happened upon Tyler Perry’s half-hour BET special, during which he presented a straightforward, powerful case for vaccination to an audience that remains very much on the fence about accepting it.

The special was a true act of public service and perhaps the most effective leveraging of one’s celebrity and/or influence we’ve seen since COVID-19 entered our collective midst. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to quantify its direct impact, but I gotta think that this did quite a lot to move us forward as a population. Thank you, Mr. Perry.

So now I’m curious: Who or what else used their platform to meaningful effect during the pandemic? Send me your picks and I’ll share some of ‘em in next week’s newsletter.

This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,926 words and will take you eight minutes to read. 

The roadblocks

Not that anyone thought we’d see immediate change when a new COVID-19 response team was handed the reins, but it’s still frustrating that many of the larger obstacles remain stubbornly in place. We’ll get past them with sheer will power.

The takeaway: The difference between the roadblocks of March 2020 and those of February 2021: We can readily identify a great majority of the current ones.

Source: Getty

The games

In the wake of research that Super Bowl parties will largely be put on hold this year, what are everybody’s plans for Sunday? Here, we’ll eat until our pants cry out for mercy and get cruelly (yet fairly) maligned as a purveyor of Dad Jokes when we rehash the Super Bowl/Superb Owl bit from years past. Some things never change, nor should they.

The takeaway: Kansas City 34, Tampa Bay 20. Tyreek Hill MVP. Take the over on receiving yards for Leonard Fournette and the under on the duration of the National Anthem.

Source: Getty

The information infrastructure

At the start of the pandemic, we were flooded with information, most of it wildly speculative in nature (and, with 20/20 hindsight, wrong). We’re not distinguishing ourselves yet with communication around vaccines – read Haymarket Media’s most excellent and thorough Vaccine Project Newsletter for more on that – but we’re on the right path.

The takeaway: We’ve sounded this note before, but we’re smarter than we were and not as smart as we’ll be. Directional momentum is very much on our side. Go, team.

THREE QUESTIONS WITH… W2O president, WCG Elyse Margolis

How would you assess communications and messaging around the vaccination effort so far?

In a word, uneven. If we take anything away from the pandemic in terms of lessons learned around effective communications, it can be boiled down to three words: factual, accessible and agile. The story isn’t always an easy one to tell, but distrust is borne and thrives in an environment of confusion and backpedaling. In moments where experts were able to get ahead of questions – for example, around expected common side effects of the vaccine and rare adverse events – our messages had the benefit of context, which builds understanding and thereby trust. In areas where data informed strategy and enabled quick response to changing dynamics we’ve also seen better outcomes.

What are the areas in which those efforts could stand to improve?

We should be looking at both accessibility of the message (is it clear and simple? are we providing parallels that the majority of people will understand?) and balancing that with agility – getting ahead of issues that we know are complex and, frankly, scary for many. We’re seeing the story around variants play out in real time as the scientific body of evidence continues to expand. This is a moment where we need to challenge and pressure-test the difference between transparency and accessibility. If we can pass the accessibility test and start to see stakeholders better anticipate and get ahead of the big looming questions, we’ll be moving in the right direction.

What are the first things you plan to do after you receive the COVID vaccine? And after the pandemic lifts?

This is an easy one: Pack my bags, and travel and get back out into the world. It will be a joyous day when I can stand in a bustling town I’ve never been to, watching people doing normal, everyday things – exhaling and finally having that lasting sense of peace and levity again.

(Are you smart? Do you know someone who is? If so, please reach out to with nominations for potential “Three Questions With…” respondents)

The rest

…and some songs.

Head Over Heels, The Go-Go’s

A Mind With a Heart of Its Own, Tom Petty

Brain of J, Pearl Jam

Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While), Kim Weston

Busy Bodies, Elvis Costello & The Attractions

There are 18 inches of snow on the ground (storms only count if they happen in or around northeast media hotbeds), but the infection and mortality numbers are finally heading in the right direction. I’ll make that trade. Catch you back here next week.

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