With the COVID-19 news cycle being refreshed by the hour, healthcare marketers are rising to the challenge to communicate quickly and accurately with employees, patients and community members — to ensure all bases are covered as news breaks and consumers move from education to action, here are the five types of content your communication plan needs during this unprecedented crisis.
Every screen, inbox and social feed is filled with content and communication about the coronavirus crisis, with much of the information coming from hospitals and healthcare systems. We’re partnering with clients to create content on the symptoms of the disease, how it’s spread, the organization’s updated policies and other critical topics weighing on the minds of consumers.
To ensure your content has the greatest impact on employee and patient safety during a crisis, public health and your healthcare brand’s reputation as a trusted resource, here are five types to include in your crisis communication plan.
Searches for specific topics like COVID-19 spike during a crisis. In fact, Google reports that interest in coronavirus grew more than 260% globally from the first week of February to early March. Delivering timely, relevant and accurate content to anxious consumers is critical—and the first step is understanding which questions they are asking. For example, one of the main queries is “How is COVID-19 different from flu?” and by incorporating these keywords where they make sense in headlines, meta descriptions and body copy, your brand will show up when consumers are searching for information.
Based on our research, here are some of the more common coronavirus-related searches that are relevant for healthcare providers:
Geographic Searches—Users are interested in, and often worried about, local results right now. When you are building search terms, add your specific geography to this list so your content shows up for people who are searching for the topic.
News/Updates Searches—The media is creating a demand for updates about COVID-19, and that is reflected in frequent search results based on these keywords:
- Coronavirus update
- Coronavirus news
- Coronavirus latest news
“Spread”-Focused Searches—Even more important than symptoms right now is information about how the coronavirus spreads. There is a demand to know how to prevent and avoid the spread of the virus. These keywords are driving the majority of related traffic and should be incorporated into your digital content:
- What causes coronavirus?
- How does coronavirus spread?
- What to avoid to stop coronavirus
This is the baseline content type for crisis content and communication, and journalistic tenets like the inverted pyramid are best when conveying information on what COVID-19 is, why it is a threat, who is most susceptible, how it’s spread and where to get updates.
The most effective format for conveying COVID-focused information is a dedicated landing page with links to resources.
Here are a few examples:
- Atrium Health
- Beaufort Memorial
- Encompass Health
- OSF Healthcare
- Scripps Health
- St. Bernards Healthcare
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Along with the basics on COVID-19, the page can also feature tips for hand-washing, definitions of terms like “social distancing” and ideas for successfully transitioning to a remote work and school environment.
Also, make sure you’re promoting the page and driving traffic through your email newsletter, social media pages, custom publication and other channels.
As a pillar of the community, your brand’s voice is among the most trusted—and this is especially true during a crisis. The timing, accuracy and authenticity of your messaging will reinforce your brand’s position as a respected source of healthcare information.
Effective crisis communication starts at home, and healthcare organizations are featuring fellow associates to address their team’s frequently asked questions. This video series from CHRISTUS Health covers topics ranging from “Who should be wearing masks?” to “Should pregnant women be working?” and other relevant issues.
To educate the community on critical topics and clarify misinformation, feature your subject matter experts as illustrated by this COVID-19 and Children video from St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
With both internal and external audiences, it’s important to communicate early and often to help build trust and ease anxiety—despite not having all the answers. “Even if you’re still trying to understand the extent of the problem, be honest and open to maintain credibility,” writes Paul A. Argenti in Communicating Through the Coronavirus Crisis (HBR).
The topics you address and tone of your content can be as impactful as the information itself. By considering the whole person and their needs—physical, emotional, spiritual—and communicating clearly and with compassion, you can further position your brand as the community’s trusted resource for health care.
Use plain language to talk about the coronavirus, with links to reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO).
Also, it’s important to maintain a professional look and feel to all communications. Even when you’re moving fast, it’s important to adhere to brand standards. There are some free resources online with icons that you can use as you create content to maintain a professional tone that will be reassuring to your audience. And be sure to take the time to proofread your content and review before posting.
Lastly, the question on everyone’s mind when searching for information regarding the coronavirus is, “What should I do?” Make sure your content answers this question with current guidelines based on the CDC, WHO and other reputable sources.
This page from Novant Health is an excellent example of actionable content with a coronavirus self-assessment, directions for accessing virtual care, a map of local screening centers and other resources.
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