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How do healthcare organizations communicate about COVID-19?
It’s tricky, because the principles of healthcare can be difficult to turn into effective communication. How do we reconcile the Hippocratic oath (“first, do no harm”) with the marketer’s oath (“simplify the message”)?
As a simple example, take our CoCo message “Sunshine is a disinfectant.” True, the flu virus withers under sunlight (NCBI). True, people need to get sunshine to replenish their body and spirit (NCBI). But does this mean sunshine KILLS the Coronavirus? No. (World Health Organization)
The challenge for healthcare organizations is to use the principles of good communication — short, catchy slogans, viral images and memes, and memorable hashtags — while trying to ensure the message can’t be easily misinterpreted.
In other words: Do good, and minimize harm.
For the average person, it does no good to post a twelve-page health briefing, written in medical language. We’ve got to chop it down. Make it memorable. Build campaigns. Invent hashtags. Get creative.
Our approach is taking great care to produce COVID-19 content for our clients, first by using qualified, credentialed healthcare experts. Then we act as a “translation layer” to make it memorable, and get this stuff to stick.
Just check out any page on our Coronavirus Communication (CoCo) website, which has simple messages (like #SlowTheSpread) that pack a ton of meaning into a short hashtag. #SlowTheSpread says, “Here’s what we need to do, here’s why we need to do it, and here’s how you can help with your everyday actions.”
All that health in a single hashtag.
Our New Healthcare Communications Webinar
Yesterday we hosted Gil Bashe, one of the leading experts on healthcare communication. He’s the Managing Partner, Global Health for the healthcare communication firm Finn Partners, and he wrote one of the best articles on pandemic communication to date — way back on March 5.
Gil is an incredible voice of clarity and calm in the midst of this Coronacrisis. A few takeaways:
> He talked about the need for all of us to become “trusted resources,” in the absence of a single credible figure in government or international affairs.
> He talked about the need for “winning people over” in the communication around Coronavirus. Convert skepticism into action.
> He pointed out that people don’t listen to facts, they listen to people. We trust the people we know. Thus, we all have a responsibility to communicate well.
There was so much more, and we’re incredibly grateful to Gil for joining us at a moment’s notice.
You may know about /r/RoastMe, the Reddit group where people volunteer to be “roasted” by other amateur comedians. This is the official Roast of the Coronavirus. (Warning: NSFW.)
Our favorite Coronavirus insult: “Your Glycoprotein makes you look like a clown with mange.”
5 Business Best Practices During the Coronacrisis:
> Don’t overplan. Think fast and cheap. Get stuff out the door as best you can.
> At the same time, be careful. Most good, minimal harm.
> Think “triage.” Every day, prioritize your work into HI, MED, and LO. Is it bleeding profusely (HI)? Can it sit in the waiting room for a few hours (MED)? Or can we send it home with a couple of Tylenol (LO)?
> Spend 10% of your time helping others.
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