Pinnacle Award: Best of Show Project Q&A

Tammy Sander’s boutique public relations firm, Mother of Pearls, received Best of Show Project at the Pinnacle Awards this year. Here is a more detailed look at her winning campaign and her organization.

Tammy SanderTell me more about your company Mother of Pearls.
Mother of Pearls is a boutique public relations firm. We specialize in media relations and crisis communication. We currently work with 5-6 clients at a time.

What kind of clients do you work with?
One of our largest clients is Hamilton County – which includes PR for all the county departments including the Health Department, the Highway Department, and the Elections Office to name a few. We have done a lot of work with local school districts and not for profits as well.

Tell me more about your TikTok Teen Vaccines campaign.
Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton County experienced a significant uptick in the number of positive cases due to the more contagious Delta variant. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed new COVID hospital admissions for kids had reached their highest levels since the United States started tracking pediatric cases.

Although Hamilton County consistently ranked among the most vaccinated of Indiana’s counties, many parents still expressed concern and reluctance about vaccinating their teens and tweens. With kids headed back to school, our biggest challenge would be slowing the inevitable surge that could happen if kids were not vaccinated.

To better understand vaccine reluctancy among parents, we published a survey asking them to tell us why they had not yet vaccinated their children. We were surprised to learn that many parents were allowing their teens to decide for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated. We saw this as an opportunity to educate teens about the benefits of vaccination and to encourage them to discuss it with their parents and doctors.

Why did you decide to target TikTok for your campaign?
I have teens, so I know that TikTok is their favorite social media platform. Knowing that teens get most of their information from social media and much of that information is incorrect, we aimed to deliver compelling content that dispelled common myths and countered false online information.

Our objective was to encourage at least 70-percent of children between the ages of 12-15 and 75-percent of children between the ages 16-17 to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 31, 2021. We kicked off our campaign in August posting from our mobile vaccine unit at Colts Camp in Grand Park. As the campaign progressed, we used trending sounds, filters, and duets coupled with popular hashtags to attract the attention of teens and tweens.

At Halloween we did spoofs like the “Monster Vax” instead of the Monster Mash and “The Covid Variants” with music from The Addams Family. The nurses at our mass vaccination clinic and their patients were also happy to help us create content. You can find a compilation of our most popular TikToks here:

What made this campaign challenging?
The most challenging part of the campaign was learning the medium and staying relevant. Fortunately, I have a 12-year old daughter who helped teach me how TikTok works. In fact, she created much of the earliest content on TikTok because I simply didn’t have the skill-set to do it yet. She still helps quite a bit with content as a contract employee. Things move so fast on TikTok in terms of trending sounds, filters and such – that it’s incredibly hard to keep up. I’m fortunate to have an “expert” at home who can keep me abreast of trends and teen lingo.

What made this campaign a success?
The same thing that made it a challenge, also made it a success. Having the input of an avid TikTok user as a creator was IMMENSELY helpful. At the time we were one of only a handful of health departments nationwide managing a TikTok account. I’ve started to notice many more now trying to do the same.

The Hamilton County Health Department’s TikTok account continues to pick up more followers each and every day – introducing a new audience to the issues surrounding public health and highlighting the excellent work being done by the Health Department. The challenge now is to keep the topic matter relevant to our targeted age group. We’ve done so by focusing on issues like bus safety, mental health, fireworks safety, and the importance of the HPV vaccine.