Breaking through the pandemic
This was supposed to be the year of the comprehensive eye exam. The AOA had big plans for media advocacy. BIG plans.
Then the COVID-19 crisis happened in a big way, and when life hands it a pandemic, the AOA pivots. The 2020 media advocacy reset means redirecting the AOA’s social, digital and media content strategy to further position doctors of optometry and the AOA as reliable, go-to sources for patients during the public health crisis. Through the AOA's 24/7 efforts, optometry's patient safety and eye health messages are reaching millions of Americans through increasingly diverse channels.
“It goes without saying that COVID-19 has changed everything, but the AOA took the opportunity to adapt, not halt, our plans to elevate the essential eye health and vision care doctors of optometry deliver,” says AOA President William T. Reynolds, O.D. “We harnessed the opportunity to reinforce to the public that doctors of optometry are ready to deliver the care patients count on safely through and after this health crisis.”
Educating the public
With the pandemic preoccupying the minds of Americans, the AOA reminded the public about how doctors of optometry were still open to provide them with eye and vision care. Through social and digital media, the AOA connected with the public on COVID-19—and delivered advisement on the safe use and wear of contact lenses and glasses, and the impact the pandemic was having on eyesight due to prolonged use of digital devices.
Read one of the posts: “AOA doctors of optometry are available to assess and treat digital eyestrain, dry eye, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and more.”
Another post—on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—encouraged the public to reach out to a “doctor near you” for eye care and sent them to AOA’s COVID-19 patient hub with the message that it was OK to resume scheduling their eye care appointments, after the period when practices were only scheduling urgent/emergency care.
The AOA also spoke to the public via a carousel of posts about safety protocols their doctors of optometry were taking to safeguard them against coronavirus. AOA members worked with the AOA media advocacy team on which assets to showcase in posts for patients in the doctors’ own social media channels. A video series focused on eye health tips ( view video on summer eye care) and directed patients to the AOA Doctor Locator.
Another innovative campaign, “Reimagining Your Workspace,” laid out a blueprint of an “Eye-Friendly Workspace,” which discusses such topics as the proper distance for viewing a device and the 20-20-20 Rule. And for the back to school season, AOA promotion included posts on reducing digital eyestrain for students working virtually and tips on preventing transmission for those returning to classrooms.
AOA affiliates also successfully pivoted amid the pandemic to promote comprehensive eye exams.
For instance, the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association (OOPA) collaborated with the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association on a 30-second video promoting eye care and vision health among the state’s law enforcement agencies. View the video.
“From Astoria to Brookings and all points east, OSSA and OOPA serve the entire state,” said Nicole Rush, O.D., president, OOPA Board of Directors. “We’re very excited to join OSSA in this important health public awareness campaign and feel that the partnership is a win/win effort.”
In the media
The AOA’s media advocacy extended to partner articles—in USA Today—to educate the public on eye care and the care doctors of optometry provide. A partnership between the AOA and media giant, the articles, “How doctors of optometry are answering the call during the pandemic” and “Surprising things an optometrist sees during an eye exam” generated more than 100,000 page views combined and more than 2 million social media impressions on Facebook and Twitter.
AOA President William T. Reynolds, O.D., noted in one of the USA Today articles: “The need for comprehensive eye care is still as important as ever.”
Once practices across the country reopened, the AOA alerted patients and the public to restored access to doctors of optometry who deliver expert care through in-person exams and educated them on the safety measures being taken to ensure the health of patients and employees. The release resulted in more than 1,000 local media stories (both print and online) across the country, including Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and more.
And it didn’t stop there. Through a second release, the AOA highlighted the FTC’s flawed final contact lens ruling and what it meant for contact lens patients. Both releases reached more than 500 million people nationwide, getting AOA’s priority messages out far and wide.
AOA’s home base
Backed by the involvement and support of affiliates and member doctors, the AOA remains steadfast in its mission to advance and protect the profession while elevating doctors of optometry as America's primary eye health care providers.
The AOA continues to connect with national media, including ABC News, CNN and People magazine, about the value of optometry and the essential benefits of in-person eye exams. The AOA has vigorously fought back against the many threats to the care that doctors of optometry provide, including exposing the dangers of illegal contact lens sales in national venues such as the Doctors, the New York Times and Business Insider.
Member doctors also showcase their clinical expertise to consumer health and news outlets on taking precautionary measures while working from home during the pandemic. The AOA also received mentions in USA Today, Forbes, Yahoo!, Good Housekeeping and Engadget. As the world and media outlets started to slowly look beyond COVID-related topics, we saw more articles on how people can take care of their digital eyestrain and blue/UV lighting in the summer.
Doctors can take an active role in supporting the AOA’s contact lens advocacy by reporting illegal sales or adverse events related to contact lenses.
With the COVID-19 crisis, the AOA had to change its plans for a profession- and nationwide campaign proclaiming 2020 the year of the comprehensive eye exam. The essentialness of eye exams remains but the public awareness campaign changed. And perseveres. See how AOA adjusted.
In a major development, the Veterans Health Affairs eliminated a recent directive on laser procedures and made significant changes to its eye care policy.