Hackney Council: Used resident focus groups to test vaccine hesitancy messaging

Hackney Council organised three focus groups with vaccine hesitant residents, to get a better insight into what messages resonated most with them.


This is part of a series of case-studies published on 22 February 2021

  • Organised three focus groups with vaccine hesitant residents
  • Recruited residents via a survey published on the Council’s Consultation Hub
  • Continuing to design and test prototypes using rapid-cycle experiments’

Evaluating what works takes time which has been exceptionally scarce throughout the pandemic. One way to evaluate quickly is to conduct a quick scan of click-throughs and reactions to council messages spread on social networks. However, please note that this method can only provide superficial information without answering why the specific message did or did not work.

Approach: To get a better insight into what messages will most resonate with residents, Hackney Council organised three focus groups with vaccine hesitant residents. The residents were recruited via a survey published on the Council’s Consultation Hub.

The focus groups were designed using materials in the Keep London Safe guides which were developed in part by Hackney. The focus groups enabled the council to test different prototypes of posters on vaccination and get a deeper insight into the “why” these particular messages are well or poorly received.

Outcome: One of the key insights was that vaccine hesitant residents preferred getting the facts on the how(e.g.how to get it; how it was developed so quickly) and not only the why(e.g.vaccines protect you and others) to help them make an informed decision. They were less interested in posters that attempted to be persuasive. Instead, the key themes were transparent presentation of risks associated with clear information about the vaccine.

Key learnings: Not only that focus groups can be used to understand residents’ attitudes and concerns, but also to test prototypes of future communications.

Next steps: Hackney Council will continue to design and test prototypes using ‘rapid-cycle experiments’ where they plan to expose target audiences to several communication campaigns, and then follow up a week later to understand what they remember, their intention to get vaccinated, etc. This will inform the overall direction of the campaign and what works better among different audiences, especially younger residents and minority groups who have reported to be more vaccine hesitant.