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Communicating About COVID-19: Use Your Voice, Reiterate Your Value

Apr 6, 2020

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On a webinar with PRNews, we discussed the importance of communicators and the public being able to sift between what’s useful information, what’s misinformation, what’s well-intentioned but not factual or misleading in online conversations about Coronavirus. Watch it below.

When it comes to COVID-19 — more so than any conversation we’ve seen in recent history — agenda-driven groups are driving the narrative. Normally we see less than one percent of that conversation being driven by groups operating with an agenda. In the case of Coronavirus, it’s five percent.

These agenda-driven groups are factions that propagate ideas online. Because they’re so focused on telling their story and are hyper-active and engaged, we seem them heavily influence conversations that eventually become mainstream narratives.

Our analysis found that the factions in the Coronavirus narrative are pushing political agendas. This makes it challenging for brands trying to have credible, straightforward conversations with audiences.

There is also fabricated information, including health advice from non-experts and conspiracy theories, about the nature of the virus — 2% of the conversation is driven by conspiracy theorists who say the virus is a bioweapon, or that it’s caused by 5G.

Yonder can detect when a narrative is artificial or manipulated by monitoring faction tactics and behavior like creation of new social media accounts or abnormal post distribution.

Advice from Communications Strategists and Practitioners.

Overall, the webinar panel seemed to agree that, while we are physically distanced, people are more socially connected than ever before. As such, leaders might realize they are not just running businesses right now, but virtual communities.

Advice from these experts encouraged brands to speak authentically and honor the trust they’ve earned with their audiences by focusing on what people need to know, not what you want them to know.

Carreen Winters, Chairman of Reputation and Chief Strategy Officer, MWWPR: What’s appropriate at this time depends on who you are. Is your company filling an urgent need right now or not? You have to put everything through the lens of: who are we serving and why now? If there is an urgent need for what you have to offer, by all means continue to communicate about those services.

Gil Bashe, Managing Partner, Global Health at Finn Partners: We’re approaching information anxiety with so much coming at us and people will begin to emotionally filter things out and interpret them in terms of what it means to them, personally. We have to understand how our message translates at the individual level.

Audrey Huang, Associate Vice President, Communications & Public Affairs, UT Southwestern Medical Center: We communicate about the biology of the virus but, given the situation, we are having to figure out how to use an empathetic and understanding voice in our communications unlike ever before. Our focus first and foremost; however, is on the science and facts the public needs to know.

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