Wearing Is Caring: Inspiring a National Movement to #MaskUp

December 10, 2020

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

jane weber brubakerIf marketing is about influencing people to change behaviors, then a new public service campaign launched just before the Thanksgiving holiday — #MaskUp — is marketing at its best.

The coronavirus continues its rampage throughout the country as of this writing in early December, sickening people, taking lives, devastating the economy, and overwhelming our health systems.

Even if we are not sick, COVID-19 wears down our will to keep fighting until vaccines are widely available. That includes abiding by public health guidance: avoiding large group gatherings, social distancing, handwashing, and wearing a mask.

Amid the holiday season, in spite of record-breaking infection rates, hospitalizations, and death rates, some still choose to throw caution to the wind. Flouting guidance, they put their own and others’ lives at risk.

How do we remind people of what’s at stake? Who can get the message across that this is not the time to let down our guard? Perhaps the most effective messengers are the overburdened health care providers who are overwhelmed with nonstop surges.

In November, Tomislav “Tom” Mihaljevic, MD, CEO of Cleveland Clinic, proposed an idea for a public service masking campaign that would be sponsored by a few other large health care organizations and shared across several major media outlets. Today, that campaign has gone viral, snowballing into a national movement.

Rhoda Weiss, Ph.D., president
Rhoda Weiss Consulting Group, Inc.

“There’s no question messages coming from health care workers, hospitals, physicians, nurses, and others can be significantly more impactful,” says Rhoda Weiss, Ph.D., president of Rhoda Weiss Consulting Group, who was instrumental in helping lead the campaign and propelling it to a wider audience. Making caregivers the messengers became the foundation of the masking campaign.

Leveraging the Network

For the past decade, Weiss has chaired the Health Care Executive Summit (now called Health Market Leaders Summit) of 75 chief marketing and communications officers from the nation’s largest and most iconic health systems. The goal is to share knowledge and experience, best practices, strategies, and resources, to accomplish more together.

Cleveland Clinic’s chief marketing and communications officer Paul Matsen is an active member of this group. He reached out to Weiss for suggestions on which systems to include in the public service masking campaign originally suggested by Mihaljevic.

“Paul’s original thought was maybe I could help recruit about 25, given the short timeframe,” Weiss says. “My proposal to Paul was this: Let me volunteer to help and use my national connections to recruit as many providers as possible. Let me try for 75.”

Weiss exceeded her ambitious goal. Today 123 health systems are participating in the campaign, representing over 2,000 hospitals.


Cleveland Clinic announced the campaign on November 19, when 100 health systems had signed on:

“Beginning today, a public service message will run in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times. Additionally, hospitals and health systems across the country will continue to unite to share these messages regionally.”

The message reads:

“As the top nationally ranked hospitals, we know it’s tough that we all need to do our part and keep wearing masks. But here’s what we also know: The science has not changed. Masks slow the spread of COVID-19. So, please join us as we all embrace this simple ask: Wear. Care. Share with #MaskUp. Together, wearing is caring. And together, we are saving lives.”

Cleveland Clinic’s marketing and communications team and its partners created the multi-platform campaign assets. The call to action for the campaign is one simple, unifying idea: #MaskUp.

“From an ad with powerful visuals to heart-stopping videos, digital, and social in English and Spanish, news releases, and much more, it’s a campaign for the ages,” Weiss says.

This video features powerful black and white images of health care workers struggling with the pandemic. The text overlay reads, “We put our lives on the line daily to keep you safe. So, do something for us. Wear. A. Mask.”

The coalition supporting the campaign has a website, EveryMaskUp.com where safety messages are reinforced for site visitors, with links to further information on the CDC website.

From the initial five national publications, the campaign has spread to national, regional, and local print, TV, radio, online, social, digital, and outdoor. “It continues to generate an incredible number of news stories,” says Weiss.

Campaign Stresses Continued Need for Vigilance

“The public service campaign is critical to the health and well-being of all Americans,” Weiss says. “It is a plea from health care professionals everywhere: Wear a mask and follow other precautions to save lives and help get our country back on its feet.”

Weiss stresses that the next several months are critical, as widespread distribution of vaccines among the general public is still months away. “Everyone must remain vigilant, take precautions, and follow public health guidance. The country has reached a tipping point. The power to do what is right is in the hands of everyone everywhere.”

Rhoda Weiss, Ph.D. is a member of the Strategic Health Care Marketing Editorial Advisory Board.

Jane Weber Brubaker is executive editor of Plain-English Health Care, a division of Plain-English Media. She directs editorial content for eHealthcare Strategy & Trends and Strategic Health Care Marketing, and serves as chair of the eHealthcare Leadership Awards. Email her at: jane@plainenglishmedia.com.