I wrote in a recent blog post about the creative minds behind ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ – and the power of that public relations effort has stayed with me for inspiration as we head into this next challenging phase of defeating COVID-19. Can we find ways to motivate even the most resistant-to-public-health-guidance among us to don a mask if it creates a chance to ‘say’ what is on their minds? In terms that don’t cross the lines of public decency, of course.

We know the power of words: signaling our passions to others has fueled causes as disparate as ‘School Strike for Climate,’ ‘Make America Great Again,’ ‘AIDS: don’t die of ignorance,’ “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” or “Guns Don’t Kill, People Do.” More recently, “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe.” Words can capture our dreams, our hopes – and connecting to others with shared ideas creates energy and power.

So what do myriad people need to be saying about this pandemic and the months ahead? No single public health campaign can capture the full range of messages needed in this moment. And research tells us that Americans are much more likely to resist a prescriptive message (“Do this.”) than to take advantage of an opportunity to express themselves. So let’s express ourselves, people!

For the next three weeks, we will be accepting suggested mask slogans – and we are looking for messages to appeal to the full range of American opinions on the topic. But all with the intention to motivate their use. So “I’m being forced by my family to wear this” might be submitted (though we hope with a bit more creativity). Or “I’m doing this for my grandkids.” Or “I need dental work, so this came in handy.” You get the idea.

The contest ends  on Dec. 8  and we will announce winners in a number of categories. Prizes will include production of masks with the winning slogans and an offer to assist in the distribution of those masks to like-minded citizens.

Let’s DO this, America!!

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