NYC hospitals adopt influencer strategy to promote COVID testing, complete with Misty Copeland and dogs
The coronavirus pandemic can wreak havoc on every American, no matter the age, so efforts to reach every generation need to be strong. As COVID cases continue to spike during the winter months, New York City’s hospital network is supporting its ongoing Test and Trace COVID campaign with an influencer strategy to get more young Americans tested and following regulations.
Seven New York City-based social media influencers are involved in the initiative, including professional ballet dancer Misty Copeland, former Miss USA and "Extra" correspondent Cheslie Kryst, lifestyle and fitness influencer Trevor Bell, pre-med student Gage Gomez and even Maltese dog influencer duo The Doogie Days.
Leaning on influencers as a marketing tactic is a first for NYC Health+Hospitals, which operates all of the 11 public hospitals and more than 70 community clinics in New York City, as well as the new Citi Field vaccination site New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week.
The new approach could not come at a better time, says Caroline Wallace, VP of New York marketing at ad agency Sherry Matthews Group, which worked with the network as well as influencer marketing platform Markerly on the new strategy.
“As the media landscape shifts, Health+Hospitals wanted to supplement traditional advertising with new channels, especially for audiences that are more difficult to reach,” says Wallace. “Young adults, who at times during the pandemic have been less diligent about COVID safety behaviors and testing, needed to hear from trusted messengers they follow actively.”
Sarah Ware, co-founder of Makerly, says the team looked for influencers who were “uniquely New York” and had a strong New York-based following. Influencers began posting content in December, with the last influencer (as yet undisclosed) still yet to post. Most recently, Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst shared a message to her 200,000 Instagram followers, encouraging them to get tested and know they have the option to stay at a hotel to quarantine. “These days I get tested once a week,” she says.
Misty Copeland, the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, shared a video of herself urging people to get tested to her 1.8 million Instagram followers and 129,000 Twitter followers. Since Copeland posted last week, the video has seen more than 37,400 views on Instagram and 1,200 views on Twitter.
The majority of the posts are being shared on TikTok.TikTok star Trevor Bell shared a post to his 3.5 million followers with the hashtag #NYCTestAndTrace, which has seen 186,000 views. The Doggie Days, Maltese dogs Dior and Obi-Wan, who have nearly 830,000 followers on TikTok, shared a post of their visit to test tested at CVS Pharmacy.
“New Yorkers love their dogs,” says Ware. “The worry of how to care for a pet while quarantining with COVID is real—and New York provides services to help people continue to safely quarantine so they do not spread COVID by offering free meal delivery and pet walking.”
NYC Health+Hospitals’ new influencer strategy comes as New York City is expanding its number of COVID testing sites. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the City would add more rapid mobile testing sites in an effort to reopen businesses like restaurants and entertainment venues.
“Testing is the key to reopening our economy before the vaccine hits critical mass. Rapid testing poses great possibilities. It can be completed in as little as 15 minutes,” said de Blasio. “Because of New York’s spirit of innovation, we have performed more COVID tests per capita than any state in the country. Now we will lead on rapid testing.”
New York City currently has more than 300 testing sites that administer 120,000 tests a day. The City just reached a milestone in testing on January 4, 5 and 6 when it saw more than 100,000 New Yorkers tested on each day. NYC is currently seeing a weekly average of around 33,000 COVID cases and nearly 2,000 weekly hospitalizations, according to NYC Health data.
So far there are no plans to expand the influencer strategy to include messaging around the COVID vaccine, but a NYC Health+Hospitals campaign spokesperson says more traditional efforts with other City departments, like the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will include messaging encouraging New Yorkers to get vaccinated.