Australia’s first campaign to mandate the COVID vaccine in the workplace
Thrive recently led the country's first non-government PR campaign last August to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for SPC staff.
11,000+ media hits and two months later, the idea of mandating vaccination for employees today is not new or disruptive but a concept that is becoming a “prerequisite” of Australia’s COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery, with many companies from Medibank to Qantas following SPC’s lead.
A Winning Formula: Preparation and Trust
On 5 August 2021, The Australian and ABC News Breakfast announced that SPC - the iconic Australian manufacturer - would mandate that all of its staff must be fully vaccinated by the end of November to gain entry to any of the company’s locations.
As COVID-19 cases across NSW and VIC continued to rise, SPC decided to act fast. This was not a marketing position, it was a genuine belief from the leadership team that it was the right thing to do to minimise risk and protect the people they care about - their workforce.
In the months leading up to the big announcement, Thrive had been working with SPC on corporate communications changes and brand repositioning. Unbeknownst to us at the time, this would be the foundation of the campaign that made history when we announced the mandate. This combined with support from the senior leadership team, including Chairman Hussein Rifai and CEO Robert Giles, meant we were prepared to align the announcement around SPC’s positioning: “Better Food For The Future.”
A Quick Turnaround: To Create Maximum Impact
Above everything else, the brief was to move quickly. The mandate was unvalidated and untested in the courts but we understood that SPC was willing to take a stand and be the test case because of their commitment to vaccinations as a pathway out of lockdown. All SPC workers would be notified that they must be booked in for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by September 15, 2021 and have their first dose administered by October 2021.
Position SPC as the Australian business leader mandating vaccines to assist Australia’s economic recovery;
Drive stakeholder and public engagement;
Drive media talkability and stakeholder engagement about SPC’s vaccination mandate announcement as a condition of working for, or visiting, any SPC site;
Like any issues strategy, we needed a strong statement that could be adapted for the media and SPC employees.
Owning the narrative
With buy-in from the SPC Chairman and CEO, every word had to be carefully considered:
Recognition that the significant threat the COVID-19 Delta variant posed to both the business and the broader Australian community;
Address that a fully vaccinated workforce is the only way to ensure that SPC can continue to deliver an essential service while helping Australia return to an open economy in-line with the Prime Minister’s four-point plan out of COVID;
Acknowledge lockdowns are not a sustainable solution when the Australian economy needs to open up again;
To date the announcement has reached 400 million, generated 11,000+ pieces of coverage and positioned SPC as the vaccine mandate leader, as called out by Australian media.
Iconic Australian companies have approached SPC to show their support or have followed SPC by announcing similar policies like Qantas and Telstra;
Politicians have endorsed SPC’s narrative with a local Federal MP releasing a dedicated statement supporting SPC’s decision;
The day following the announcement the Prime Minister and Attorney General addressed mandatory vaccinations in the workplace following the national cabinet; a significant action in response to the impact the announcement was having
SPC’s actions in combination with Thrive’s counsel has resulted in businesses and government revising their policies, requirements and recommendations towards vaccination - and put Australia on a path to reopening.
SPC has made history and Thrive is proud to have been part of it.
By Natanael Bloch, Thrive Group Account Director (Melbourne)
Contact Thrive Business Purpose and Brand Reputation Team:
Rachel White - Head of Business, Purpose and Brand Reputation
Natanael Bloch - Group Account Director