The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading rapidly around the world. In times of a global health crisis like this, getting accurate information about the disease becomes ever more important.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 that began in China and affected the whole world, all eyes have turned to health experts. When going through tough times like this, it is critical for experts, especially medical doctors, media members and citizens to conduct effective communication activities and share accurate and verified information. So, What needs to be considered? You can find the answer to this question in our blog post.
In times of a health crisis affecting the society and even the whole world, such as epidemics, people need to be informed by the experts in order to protect themselves and those around them. During a health crisis, the primary and most credible source of information is medical experts, especially doctors. One of the most recent examples of this is that millions of people started to wonder what doctors will say about the course of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) that began in China in December 2019 and spread across all continents except Antarctica.
Experts should be more visible than ever to create collective consciousness and direct society during a pandemic that spikes panic and fear rapidly. It is the media that provides visibility to experts. However, for a health crisis such as an epidemic to become a communication opportunity, experts must be considered as “reliable and accurate news sources” in the media.
During an epidemic, when spreading accurate information becomes vital, experts should pay attention to focus not only on turning the crisis into an opportunity but also on health ethics while increasing their visibility in the media through communication activities. Here are the steps to follow!
Use the power of the media effectively
People tend to rely on what experts say about matters that they do not have an idea or have very limited knowledge. When it comes to health, medical doctors are the most trusted names. The fear and panic state of the society, mainly due to an epidemic disease which there is no vaccine or definitive treatment such as novel coronavirus, is strong enough to disrupt people’s ability to question. For this reason, experts should use the power of the media effectively during an epidemic when society needs them and their opinions most and should not cause any disinformation that may damage their reputation while increasing their visibility.
Do not share unverified information with the public
Insensitive times when life is at stake such as an epidemic, people pay more attention to what doctors say than ever before. At the same time, the adherence rate to precautions and doctor's recommendations increases. In a period where doctors are so effective in persuading the target audience into action, the main goal of communication activities should be to disseminate accurate information. This is because the image and reputation of a source depending on the accuracy of the information it shares through the press.
Do not ignore the risk threshold
During adverse situations and events, individuals perceive risks at various levels. Risk perception levels of individuals increase in the face of a phenomenon that can harm them outside their control, especially during an epidemic. Therefore, in such crisis periods, society needs to be guided as well as reaching the accurate information. At this point, experts who will address the society through the media should explain the severity of the crisis clearly while avoiding exaggerated statements that will increase anxiety.
Beware of fake news about the coronavirus
Following the detection of coronavirus cases all around the world, many news articles in the media had no scientific proof. This news that does not reflect the truth has been revealed with the support of platforms and organization that enable internet users to access the correct information by verifying the claims. The best sources to go to for health information about COVID-19 are your government health websites and the World Health Organization website. Primary sources are generally better than news articles. Below, you can find some examples of some myths and facts about the novel coronavirus.
World Health Organization - Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters
Johns Hopkins Medicine - Coronavirus Disease 2019: Myth vs Fact
BBC - Coronavirus: The fake health advice you should ignore
The Africa Report - Top 10 coronavirus fake news items
Carefully choose the media you will be visible
Getting visibility in the media for medical doctors is of the utmost importance for an effective communication opportunity during times when there is a critical issue on the agenda, such as an epidemic. The success of the communication activities carried out by medical doctors aiming to prove their expertise and to be beneficial to the society depends not only on giving the correct message but also where it gets published. The media channels that cover the content directly affect the image of the doctors in public, both with their publication policies and reputation. At this point, it is important to prefer trusted and reputable media channels that pay attention to share scientific advice with its audience and don’t publish misleading content.
Take advantage of the impact of online media
Distributing a newsworthy press release to the media in order to announce to the public is one of the most effective methods for medical doctors who want to conduct a communication activity. As online media has become so widespread in the digital age, online press releases play an important role in informing the public through media channels and journalists on issues that concern public health. Within the scope of the measures taken against the coronavirus pandemic, millions of people who are drawn to their homes follow online channels for rapid information flow. The fact that online news sites stand out as the primary source of information all around the world proves the power of online press releases. Moreover, press releases are also very effective in creating awareness on a broader community by being visible on online media channels and increasing the interest by taking advantage of the viral potential of social media.
Get support from professionals
Developing a strategy is critical for medical doctors who want to strengthen their communication activities when society needs them most. Misleading statements and unsubstantiated referrals only to get attention may pose irreversible risks in professional image and reputation of doctors. At this point, media relations experts provide professional consultancy services within the context of the media to be contacted, the language of communication and the content to be used. It is essential for doctors to get professional support for PR activities and to develop an effective communication strategy.