A lot of the work we do in healthcare marketing and communications is predictable. Brand-building, patient acquisition, and organizational support are long-haul types of activities that you sustain throughout the year. But when a new health threat emerges, brand communicators have to respond quickly to help people minimize their risk of infection and to keep fear from spreading unnecessarily.
That continues to be the case with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), which emerged from the city of Wuhan and Hubei province in China. Authorities suppressed news of the initial cases, so when it finally hit the news cycle, it seemed to appear menacingly overnight. From that point on, the media coverage was almost breathless in its reporting on the quarantine of millions and disturbing visuals of jammed hospitals turning people away. Some of the images circulated online were haunting.
Fear Spreads Faster Than Facts
Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) worked quickly to understand how COVID-19 spreads and its mortality rate, people thousands of miles away from the epicenter began to fear for their safety.
At times like these, brand communicators must find facts from trusted sources, like the CDC, and disseminate it across multiple touchpoints. The information has to be pushed out assertively, because fear raises cognitive barriers that make it even harder to absorb information and assess risk within an appropriate context. For example, at the same time that COVID-19 was making headlines, millions in the U.S. had the flu, more than 100,000 hospitalizations would occur, and more than 12,000 would die from its complications. Yet we are so accustomed to the flu that we perceive its risk as less than the risk of something new.
If you work in healthcare, you are part of a crisis response team with a responsibility to share evidence-based facts to combat fear and misinformation. The outbreak continues and our thoughts are with those who are impacted.
But with an ongoing dose of information, we can help reduce the spread of unnecessary fear and the spread of the virus. Learn more about COVID-19 from the CDC.