How to Respond to COVID-19: Mobilizing Millions from Their Windows

April 6, 2020

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How can you mobilize millions when people are staying inside? In the campaign to confront the lack of COVID-19 testing in Brazil, the Purpose Brazil team learned many lessons on how to get the public to pressure the government whilst in the midst of a pandemic.

Brazil has one of the world’s slowest response rates when testing for COVID-19. Initially, the Ministry of Health announced that it planned to offer 1 million tests. The number then rose to 2.3 million, then to 10 million, and now it will be 22.9 million. In practice, people keep waiting. Without knowing the depth of the problem, the government will not be able to face this crisis and guarantee the bare minimum dignity and quality of life for people.

In this time of social distancing and staying at home to stop the spread of the virus around the world, the usual tactics that campaigners deploy are just not available to us. Pivoting campaigns can prove very difficult, between the current chaos and the uncertainty of the future. 

After taking into account all of the realities of the time, the Purpose Brazil team developed “Janela da Pressão” (translated to “Windows for Pressure”) and the campaign “Mais Testes Já” (translated to “more tests now!”). The campaign’s objective is to mobilize the Brazilian population to pressure government officials and political representatives to guarantee more COVID-19 tests nationwide, and in particular, to ensure that they reach vulnerable populations on the outskirts of the cities.

When developing a way to deliver the campaign to millions of Brazilians living in a new lifestyle and staying home, the team had to get creative. They delivered the message in a way that couldn’t be ignored: by projecting it on the side of buildings. 

photo of a projection on a building

The campaign has launched in five cities in Brazil delivering the message that Brazilians want more testing now. The campaign has received press coverage and is being widely shared. The team created a microsite (janeladapressao.com.br) with a petition addressed to the Minister of Health and the Director of Anvisa, as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts to spread the message.

As this campaign launched in Brazil this week and continues to build, some key lessons came to light that have been important to the growing effectiveness of the campaign. 

Our team has compiled key learnings for campaigning in the time of COVID-19 to share: 

1. Empower people.

Creating a message that people can adopt gives participants agency.

Actions like the “Windows of Pressure” rely on our expertise to qualify the message and ensure a high level of design and language, which makes people immerse themselves in the message and share it. In addition, people can take ownership of the format and do something similar with simpler equipment, but guaranteeing a higher degree of participation.

2. Get creative. Be nimble.

In the times of COVID-19, reality is changing daily and there is great uncertainty about the future. This means that campaign plans are shifting daily – and when there is a window of opportunity to act, it must be taken. In order to be nimble, your team must be aligned on messaging. 

In Brazil, our team could not use traditional campaign tactics, like a march or event. Thinking quickly, they identified the strategy for projections on highly visible buildings as a safe way to ensure the message was heard without putting the public at risk. With their offline campaigning experience, they were able to pull together resources to make the projections happen, all at once, and coordinated photography of each of the projections.

3. Be visible & make your message difficult to ignore.

Make your voices heard- whether that’s online or offline. With widespread panic about COVID-19, we are all being inundated with information (and in many cases, misinformation.) When people are most concerned about their immediate human needs, the best way to make your message heard is to be difficult to ignore. A digital campaign that you can’t miss in your social media feed is one way to do this- one that is easily adaptable and shared by influential people while your audience is bored in isolation. Making an offline campaign impossible to ignore may involve campaigning in unexpected places that your audience sees everyday, like in a city center or on the side of a building.

The Janela da Pressão campaign is easy for Brazilian people to access, just by looking out their window or on the news, and difficult for government officials to ignore, with the messages placed prominently in their cities.

4. Ensure the voices of the most vulnerable populations are being heard.

While everyone is being affected by COVID-19 in some way, it can be easy to forget that vulnerable populations are disproportionately at risk. Without addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in a pandemic, we all continue to be at risk and society cannot move forward.

In Brazil, one of the key points that our team is driving is that the tests will need to be distributed in a democratic way, not just in the city centers. Without access to basic sanitation, clean water, and a quality health structure, it is the populations in areas of social vulnerability that are most at risk with COVID-19. The messaging of the campaign has continued to demand that tests are available to vulnerable populations in the outskirts of the cities.

5. Make your ask clear and concise.

In a time when there is so much communication, it would be easy for messages to be drowned out. The attention span of your audience is shortened, and they must see immediately how important your ask is, how it directly affects them, and how they can take action.

In the Janela da Pressão campaign, the messages on the side of the buildings couldn’t be clearer- more tests now. When going to the campaign website, the audience is met with additional clear information about why this is a critical issue:

MASS TESTING Our population helps to produce the data necessary to understand how the disease progresses in the country. With this, the responsible authorities can adopt more effective measures and guidelines to contain the spread of the virus, avoiding an overload on our health system. 

COUNTRIES LIKE GERMANY AND SOUTH KOREA have managed to better control the pandemic by conducting mass tests on the population. In Brazil, it is also necessary to increase the number of diagnostic tests and go beyond tests in more severe cases, in order to stop the spread of the virus in the country.
THE GREAT INEQUALITY in Brazil aggravates this scenario. A large part of our population is isolated in areas of social vulnerability, without basic sanitation, with little access to clean water or a quality medical structure. The government has a duty to mobilize efforts aimed at the peripheries, ensuring mass testing for these populations.

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Widespread testing for coronavirus has proven to lower the death rate and slow the spread of infection. However, some governments are better at implementing this than others. Brazil has been one of the slowest countries to respond to this crisis – promising hundreds of thousands of tests, but delivery a fraction of that. Our team in Brazil have launched @janeladapressao to pressure the government to follow through with its promise for MAIS TESTES JÁ (more tests already!) before it's too late. Brazil needs to guarantee more tests, and they need to be accessible especially to the most vulnerable populations. The campaign launched yesterday with simultaneous projections on building gables in 5 different cities. If you are in Brazil, or if you simply want to know more, then you can find the Janela da Pressão website in our bio or follow them at @janeladapressao.

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When operating in our current reality, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can apply the campaigning skills and lessons you have to react quickly and adapt to the situation. Using these tips as a guide can strengthen your campaign tactics – whether that is a digital campaign, or projecting your message for all to see.

In this global societal climate, the priority is urgency.

 


 

You can learn more about Janela da Pressão on their website, social media channels (Twitter and Instagram) and their coverage in UOL ; A Crítica ; Em TempoManaus Alerta ; Jornal do Comércio/PE  ; Divulga Recife & more: