South Florida Hospital News
Sunday January 24, 2021
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December 2020 - Volume 17 - Issue 6
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Communicating in the Face of COVID

There is no question that today’s healthcare environment hasn’t been the same since March of this year. However, what has become even more important during that time is communication.

Communicating in the face of a pandemic takes patience, precision and protocol. What you say, how you say it and the channels you use to communicate to your stakeholders should be a priority.
 
Your concern for the health and safety of staff, patients and caregivers is, of course, your number on message. But don’t stop there. All of your communications should and must focus on the how: what are you specifically doing to keep your stakeholders healthy and safe. Then go beyond that. We are hearing about those who refuse to go to the emergency room for what could be life-threatening cases as well as those who are neglecting routine tests, screenings and procedures that could identify health issues before they become urgent.
 
Then there’s the future – the what, when, where and how of a vaccine.
 
You have several tools at your disposal to deliver your messages. We all have short memories, so you cannot communicate the same message too much or too often:
 
Website: Your home page should have a pop-up box reminding visitors to the website what you want them to do. Even if it’s a short message: “Wear a mask. Wash hands frequently. Stay socially distance. Your health and safety are important to us. Our office adheres to the CDC health and safety protocols.” Once on your site, make sure your messages are easy to find and understand.
 
Content: Populate your website with content, reinforcing your messaging with key search words that will help drive traffic to your website. You can optimize content for search engines. Add photos and video. If you have a YouTube channel, post it there, then share it on social media. A blog series is another way to increase search engine optimization, build inbound links and establish search engine trust. Share blog content on your social media.
 
Social media: Make sure to share your key messages on your social channels. Social media are platforms for consumer interaction and relationship building so listen, engage and act.
 
Webinars/Panels: Business and civic groups, chambers, universities and industry-related organizations are among those hosting webinars and panel discussions. Do your research and identify one or two that you might want to be involved with. Or be entrepreneurial and host your own webinar. Typically the most successful are those that have a built in group of followers that will and want to log on to hear what you have to say. 
 
Community: Hospitals are working with organizations, such as entertainment venues, to create and implement policies and procedures that ensure a safe return for patrons. As a physician group or individual healthcare professional, can you identify a group that you can donate your time to in order to help them through a re-opening? Maybe it’s a board you sit on or the school your children attend.
 
Publicity: Take advantage of experts in your organization who can discuss healthcare topics. Due to COVID, there is not a day that healthcare is not in the news. Promote your participation in webinars and in the community.
 
Marketing/Promotional Materials: Investing in printed materials that you can also use digitally with certainly be a plus for older patients. Banners and signage along walkways, in waiting and exam rooms and at the front desk reinforces your messaging.
 
While no one saw this pandemic coming, we do see a vaccine on the horizon. Start thinking now about how the availability of a vaccine will shape your communications. You’ll be successful if you are prepared.

Maria Pierson is CEO of Pierson Grant Public Relations and oversees the agency’s healthcare division. She can be reached at (954) 776-1999 ext. 222 or mpierson@piersongrant.com.

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