Fraser Communications recently conducted “pandemic” Zoom focus groups to test ideas and images for a campaign that would alert and inform lower income California workers that they have an earned income tax credit waiting for them from the California tax board.
This vital program puts money in the pockets of those that need it most. The audience for these groups were grocery workers, janitors, receptionists, delivery drivers, hospitals workers, nurses in assisted living homes, and more; what society and government is now calling “essential workers.” Indeed, they are, and unfortunately, as essential as we understood their roles to be during the pandemic, their wages remain critically low. The earned income tax credit begins to remedy that, but the bigger picture is that wages must increase, for these and others working full time for less than a living wage.
We presented headlines, “Getting the reward for the hard work you do,” and “You’ve earned it, now take advantage of the credit,” and more. We presented images of the jobs mentioned above to discover what was authentic to them.
What we found: The more honest the photo, the better the response. With language, “reward’ was considered as compensation above and beyond and should come from the boss, not the government. The messages that were about having earned this money, worked for it, were accepted, and lead to conversations about the "pride of working" and the pride of "playing by the rules."
And the less “sell,” the better. This is government. Government is not a product to be consumed. There is a distrust of government. Government communications need to express an authentic, trustworthy voice if they are going to be successful in getting audiences to participate in this, and other, governmental programs. In short, don’t make the communications look and sound too much like ‘ads.’
The conversations then lead to something poignant and sad: Over and over, even though they work hard, are exposed to greater risks, do their taxes, live by the rules, they feel invisible. Though they pack your bags at the market, deliver packages to your door, prepare your food, or take care of your children, they feel unseen and unappreciated. This is what they wanted most of all. To not be invisible. To be considered essential in more than just a media label. That would be the reward, in addition to the earned income tax credit. This shouldn’t be that hard. It’s an attitude society needs to evolve to, quickly.
As the pandemic reveals the inadequacies of government, society, capitalism and economies, we must become more empathetic and respectful towards our fellow citizens, no matter their occupation, income, or education. It’s “essential” we make the “invisible” visible.
That can begin with paying these vital workers what the importance of their jobs command. And then saying, "Thanks for your help."