Unfortunately, misleading information about COVID-19 continues to rapidly circulate through texts, emails, and social media.
It’s time to address the coronavirus infodemic. Healthcare organizations can use their social media channels to educate their communities and deliver accurate and credible information available.
According to a Statista,77% of the population has at least one social networking profile. Here’s a breakdown of who is on social media:
- 68% of all women use social media, compared to 62% of men.
- 35% of those 65 and older report using social media.
- 56% of people living in low-income households now use social media.
- 58% of rural residents, 68% of suburban residents, and 64% of urban residents all use social media.
Why Is Social Media Great for Crisis Communications?
As the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolves, delivering up-to-date and accurate news around COVID-19 is critical. Social media is an essential communication tool in 2020 and delivers urgent and breaking news in real-time. Even journalists use social media as a source for breaking news. 77% of journalists say social media is essential in hearing about and reporting potential stories more quickly.
One of the key reasons social media is so active during an emergency is because of the significant amount of social media use that regularly takes place on mobile devices. According to a Digital 2020 report, roughly half of the 3.7 hours people send on their mobile phones each day is spent using social and communications apps.
And social media isn’t just for educating patients. Healthcare organizations were shocked to learn that Dr. Kurt Kloss, an emergency room physician in New York, used Facebook to reach out to 20,000 of his colleagues seeking advice during the pandemic.
When used during an emergency, social media can expand the reach of your message due to social sharing and the vast number of people who actively use social platforms.
Crisis Communication Best Practices
Posting critical information to your social channels not only provides an additional communication channel for patients, but it enables them to share your message with their followers. The reach of your message is extended even more throughout the community. Here are a few things to consider in a social media crisis communications plan:
- Create social media guidelines, policies, and protocols for all staff members assisting with communications.
- Appoint one or two staff members to handle crisis communications posts, answer patient questions, fact check, and correct any rumors circulating on your feeds.
- Familiarize designated communications staff with social platforms, social listening tools, and multi-communication tools so your organization is prepared and can act quickly.
- Create pre-written communication messages or use a mass notification solution that offers on-demand broadcast messaging.
- Information in an emergency is continually changing and evolving. Make sure staff can easily craft and send messages from a mobile device.
- When the crisis and immediate recovery period has ended, take time to assess and learn what went well and where you can improve to prepare for future events.
Crafting the Message
The most important thing you can do is release accurate information from reliable sources. Even if it means a short delay. Make sure information is validated and contains no errors or inconsistencies. Here’s what else to keep in mind when creating crisis communications messaging:
- Keep messages short and actionable. Give patients feedback such as steps to take in case of exposure or actions to take for testing.
- Make sure the tone of all communications is calm and informative.
- Provide links to more detailed content such as a map to triage tents, shelter lists, etc.
- Include relevant hashtags to amplify the reach of your message such as #CoronavirusPrevention
- Share and repost updates from trusted healthcare partners.
- Turn off already scheduled posts that are out of sync with the current crisis. For instance, promoting an employee appreciation event may not be appropriate at this time.
- Send updates frequently as developments unfold or information comes available.
- Make sure you use relevant social media channels to mitigate the risk.
- Consistently monitor social media feeds to stay in contact with impacted patients and maintain awareness of developing issues or needs.
- Continue to share updates well after the crisis has ended. Your community will be just as interested to learn about how your organization’s day-to-day routines are going back to normal.
To learn more about developing messages related to COVID-19, check out “Using Proactive Patient Outreach to Minimize Coronavirus Risk”. To learn more about creating a communications strategy, click on our infographic: COVID-19 Communication Strategies.