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Emergency Communications: Enhance credibility and foster trust

April 16, 2020 | Strategy
Crisis Command Center

For weeks, healthcare marketers and communication specialists have been faced with the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 responses. As the pandemic continues with no clear resolution in sight, policies, procedures and information evolve daily. Healthcare marketers and communicators have the responsibility to disseminate this information to the media and train organizational leaders on key messages and best PR practices. It is a unique moment to establish the system as a local source of truth.

If your healthcare organization has activated its emergency communications plan, include these 5 actions to enhance credibility and foster trust with local media.  

Personify your mission and values.

Most goals during this time are to inform, educate, prevent the spread and save lives. These goals might not be very different from your core mission and values. For example, if your organization’s mission and values include excellence in patient care, share messaging about what your health system is doing to keep patients and visitors safe, what it’s doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and what it’s doing to treat confirmed cases. Craft your responses to situational moments, like the Coronavirus, around the backbone of your organization’s heritage and commitment. Let your voice remain consistent and your promise resolute. 

  • Action item: Extend this messaging by communicating any long term effects COVID-19 might have on sanitation procedures or visitation policies. Also, don’t forget to promote the wins. Just as the organization might release confirmed positive cases, also release updates about recovered patients. 

Communicate clearly, early and often.

It can be tempting to sit on information because you don’t have the answers to all the questions you know are coming. Instead, be as transparent as possible. Share the information as you get it, be truthful about what you don’t know (but also explain the actions the organization is taking to learn the answers), and if relevant share the sources of your information. And remember your audience. If the communication is meant for the general public, be considerate of overly medical terms or scientific sounding protocols. Be reassuring and try not to cause confusion.

  • Action item: Use instant communication channels like social media to provide daily updates and add timestamps to information published on your website so readers know how recent the information is. Always share any new information posted to your website to your social media channels and tag local media channels or reporters.

Know when to be the expert, and when not to be.

While the WHO and CDC are the most trusted sources for COVID-19 information, updates and recommendations, local healthcare systems can step up as experts concerning the public health of their community. Depending on the type of health system you are, insert your experts where they’re the most valuable and relevant. For example, academic medical centers might pitch the Department Chair of Virology for a vaccine research piece whereas a community hospital might pitch their Chief Nursing Officer for a consumer piece about illness prevention. Invite these clinicians to appear on local news and arm them with three key messages to focus on throughout the interview. As your organization has breakthroughs, validate and share.

  • Action Item: Create a list of staff members and the relevant topics they can cover. This list should include all areas of your team: physicians, nurses, leadership, etc. These team members should be well spoken and, if you can, camera test them before you share the list with the media. 

Provide the calm.

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual report that studies consumer trust in key areas of society, feelings of fear eclipse feelings of hope. And that was before COVID-19. 

They redid the study specifically to focus on COVID-19 and found that a majority of Americans trusted hospitals and doctors to respond to outbreak “effectively and responsibly.” However, when asked which source they relied on most for information about the pandemic, the number one answer was major news organizations, national government sources was number two, social media was number three. Healthcare marketers can use earned media channels to share messages of hope and reassurance, while also leveraging owned channels, like social media, to provide a connection to healthcare experts. 

  • Action Item: Ask health system or hospital leadership to write an Op-Ed for a local newspaper and/or ask a local TV station if they could to welcome a hospital representative for a segment. Host a Facebook or Instagram Live session with a single or panelist of leadership members and team members who are on the front lines. This could be an interview style or a Q&A with followers submitting questions. 

Make your information easily accessible.

As information around COVID-19 changes quickly, content creation is a big challenge. Journalists on a tight deadline need quick access information. Make sure any call center staff or volunteers know which point of contact they should direct media to, and communicate your news line often. Previously established relationships with local reporters will pay dividends in times of crises when they know who to contact within the organization. Healthcare marketers and communicators can save themselves some time by collecting statements and resources to have quickly on hand when asked. Create situation specific fact sheets that can be updated and shared directly with reporters or through a virtual press kit or microsite to house quickly changing data, testing numbers or recovery statistics. 

  • Action Item: Build a digital media kit. Host ‘For Press’ information on the news section or the COVID-19 section of your site. Provide easily downloadable resources like new visitor policies, hotlines and point of contacts, an expert directory, FAQs, plus creative assets like logo files, photos of your hospital or clinics, headshots, and B-roll footage. 
A lot impacts a brand’s credibility especially in uncertain times. A good relationship with the media can influence the tender relationship between community and health care provider,  resulting in candid trust and, ultimately, patient preference.

Is your organization struggling with its credibility?

Whether the struggle is with public relations or your patient preference, our experienced strategists can get a clear understanding of the way your audiences perceive your brand then provide insight and actions to enhance it. Email us at brainpower@tenadams.com.

About Ten Adams

Ten Adams is a healthcare branding, marketing + advertising agency. We are strategists and creatives that transform business challenges into powerful brand experiences for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Relax. We know healthcare.

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