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Customized contact tracing campaign

While access to the COVID-19 vaccine starts to expand, our work to manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19 must continue. Contact tracing is a critical tool in our collective approach to ending the pandemic. By leveraging your expertise and extensive knowledge of your community, this companion was designed to support leaders, like yourselves, to create a customized contact tracing messaging campaign that is rooted in your community’s values, motivations, and realities.

We know that customized health communications that are rooted in the needs of affected communities are more effective than mass campaigns. We built this guide to help individual leaders, community-based organizations, and local health departments get the right messages out quickly. If you are looking to build effective COVID-19 messaging materials for your community, this guide is for you.

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Setting clear goals based on what your community needs will ensure this campaign is appropriate for the current state of COVID-19 contact tracing efforts in your city or county. These considerations will include: available infrastructure and resources, community awareness and knowledge, and safety measures and positivity rates.

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Determine your community’s need for this campaign

As a community leader, you likely already know what kind of campaign your community might need. These are the three most common messaging goals for COVID-19 contact tracing efforts.

  • Safety and increasing protection
    Ensure community members have workarounds to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the absence of resources or infrastructure. This might be your goal if your community doesn’t yet have robust contact tracing measures.
  • Awareness of COVID-19 contact tracing
    Build an understanding of what contact tracing is and is not, and what role it has in preventing the spread of COVID-19. This might be your goal if people in your community are unaware of what contact tracing entails.
  • Willingness to participate in contact tracing
    Instill trust and confidence that drive individuals to action and opting in to participate. This might be your goal if folks in your community understand what contact tracing is, but are skeptical.

Self Assessment Tool

Follow this Decision Tree to help you land on the right goal for your community!

Keep in mind that a messaging campaign might not be best-positioned to address and change structural barriers in the short term. While acknowledging any structural barriers your health system faces, consider which goal would best serve your community.

Identify your corresponding call-to-action

Calls-to-action are concise key messages that inspire people to take an action or change a behavior. Here are the corresponding calls-to-action for each goal:

Safety and increasing protection:

  • “Reduce your interactions with people as much as possible until test results come back”
  • “Wear a mask/use your own utensils/keep a distance as much as possible if you’re unable to self-isolate”
  • “If you test positive, send a message to notify those you’ve been in close proximity with”

Awareness of COVID-19 contact tracing:

  • “Contact tracing is a way to know who else might need to be tested so we can stop the spread of COVID-19”
  • “Contact tracing is anonymously notifying contacts you’ve been in close proximity with if you test positive”
  • “Contact tracing is anonymous. Your identity is not shared”

Willingness to participate in contact tracing

  • “If you’re sick, disclose your symptoms to [workplace/health department/etc] and get tested.”
  • “If you test positive, isolate for 7-10 days”
  • “If you test positive, and have been in close contact with others, allow your health department to anonymously notify them.”

Confirm your campaign's goal

In this step, make sure the goal feels appropriate for your community by talking to your community representatives.

How to get feedback:

  • Talk to some of your community representatives (by phone, text, internet, or from a safe distance) and share your goal with them for feedback.
  • Use the Gut Check Worksheet to support your conversations
  • Once you have completed your discussions, reflect on your conversation. You might have found new information that you weren't aware of. Ask yourself whether that changes the goal you've chosen. Redo the Self Assessment Tool if necessary and come back to this step.


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In this step, we’ll first test and choose a lens that feels appropriate for your community, ultimately selecting a message that works broadly. Then, we’ll identify some more specific audiences and aspirations, in order to better customize messages for your community.

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Choose a lens to focus your message

Choosing a lens should be driven by the values of your community, and should remain consistent across campaign touchpoints to reinforce the campaign goals. Here are two lenses you might use when developing your messages in the Mash-Up Worksheet

Collective Wellbeing
The collective accountability to take care of each other because the community is stronger when people work as a whole. Examples:

  • “Our collective wellbeing is in our hands.”
  • "Contact tracing can protect our community.”
  • “It’s our collective responsibility to take care of each other.”

The ability to care for someone beyond ourselves and in turn take action that might be less than ideal for ourselves in service of others. Examples:

  • “Disclosing your symptoms and notifying your contacts is an act of love.”
  • “Anyone can get COVID-19. Protect your loved ones.”
  • “A new way to love and protect your neighbor.”

Messaging principles

Before diving into creating a message, review the following principles to any successful messaging campaign, and keep them in mind at all times.

  • Clear and concise
    Use plain language that is simple and straight to the point. Main messages should be 40-50 characters long.
  • Cross-Cutting
    Ensure the language is inclusive of all societal groups (low-income or other marginalized groups).
  • Culturally-Relevant
    Incorporate local dialects, idiomatic expressions, and cultural references and motifs.
  • Consecutive
    Create a series of messages that build on one another; especially if there's more than one call to action.
  • Current
    Make sure your message is up to date with CDC guidelines or state/local health departments.

Mash Up Worksheet

Using this Mash-Up you can quickly brainstorm many different messages to test while keeping variables constant, in this case your call-to-action. 

Test your messages with your community representatives

You've now created a few messages that are rooted in your goal and call-to-action. Let's find out from your community which message resonates!

How to get feedback:

  1. Call back your community representatives. These could be the same people whom you interviewed in Step 1.
  2. Lay out or verbally share all the messaging options you've created. 
  3. Each person gets two votes. Have them mark which messages they like best. 
  4. Write down the feedback you hear and use this opportunity to ask more questions and push your ideas further.

Questions you can ask:

  • What do you think this message is about?
  • What would you do next if you saw this message?
  • Where might you imagine seeing or hearing something like this?
  • What would you change to make it better?


  • Which lens are people gravitating towards? Collective wellbeing or love?
  • What do you notice about the most popular messages? Length? Clarity?

Explore your audience and choose a tone

Communities are nuanced, especially if you work across refugee. immigrant or migrant populations. This is an opportunity to tailor your winning message to different audiences within the community.

Your tone of voice is not only what your message says, but "how" it says it.

For instance, if you want specifically want to target youth within your community you might choose a tone that resonates with that group, such as a funny or pop culture tone. Use the following Fill-in the-Blank and Tone Application sheets to explore different audiences' aspirations and tones.

Why this is important
Successful messaging will resonate with an audience's unique desires and aspirations.


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This section allows you to figure out how to best get your messages out into the world to reach your community.

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Pick appropriate channels for your message

Pick 1-3 channels that are most aligned with what your community is regularly exposed to and how they normally receive information. Your available resources should also help in narrowing to the right set of channels for your campaign.

You likely already have a hunch around what this channel is - start with your gut!


  • Trust: Which channels already have the trust of the community?
  • Reach: How many people will be able to see or hear this channel?
  • Accessibility: Which channels are most inclusive for your community?
  • Cost: How much money or time will you need?
  • Synergy: Which channels might work well together?

Channel Selection Tool

Use the Channel Selection Tool to review the options that are available to you. This will help you prioritize where you start and select both primary and secondary channels.


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An optional kit that enables your community ambassador to bring your campaign to life whether your channel is visual or auditory.

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Guidelines for visual assets

This section should be used by your community ambassador.

In the Visual Toolkit, they will find access to print and digital templates that will enable them to design visual assets for your campaign. Make sure to align as a team on your goal and call to action of your campaign as there are different templates that correspond with each.

Visual toolkit

Visual Kit

With the Visual Toolkit, you will be able to:

  1. Choose the template that corresponds with your goal
  2. Select your format
  3. Type out your winning message
  4. Add a photo that matches the message
  5. Print/Save your file and circulate in the appropriate channels

Launch Visual Toolkit