Key elements of outbreak communication 1.Trust 2.Announcing early 3.Transparency 4.The public 5.Planning Show these guidelines to the press officer in your institute!
1. Trust Communicate in ways that build, maintain or restore trust Trust is hard to win and easy to lose No trust fear and lack of compliance Trust the public's ability to tolerate incomplete and sometimes alarming information Accountability, involvement and transparency are key factors to build trust
A trust triangle in your institute Build the trianlge before it is needed Policy makers Technical staff (epidemiologists…) Communicators
2. Announcing early The first announcement is critical! Outbreaks cannot be hidden Announce as early as possible –Avoid rumours and misinformation –Avoid loss of trust when someone else reveals the situation (”Governement cover-up”) The longer you wait, the more frightening the information will seem when it is revealed –And the media will ask: ”What do you know, and when did you know it?” You do not decide what the media will be interested in
But be careful Make sure to inform your partners first –Establish contact with them in advance Make reservations for incomplete information –State clearly: ”This is what we know at the moment. Information may change the investigation continues.”
3. Transparency Transparency = candid, easily understood, complete and factually accurate information Let the public "view" the information- gathering, risk-assessing and decision- making processes Explain the limits, for instance patient privacy
Barriers to transparency Fear of economic loss –Tourists will be afraid –Trade may stop Bad planning and preparation –Forgot to prepare a message –Forgot to prepare answers to likely questions No training in delivering bad news or discussing uncertainty Fear of revealing weaknesses in infrastructure Seek culture change in outbreak preparation!
4. The public Understand the public’s beliefs, opinions and knowledge –”Communications surveillance” –Include representatives of the public in the planning Explicitly address pre-existing beliefs Take the publicly held view seriously –Acknowledge and correct –Do not ignore, patronise or ridicule Always tell the public what they can do to reduce risk The mass media ”represent” the public
5. Planning Everything you do is communication! –Sometimes actions speak louder than words Include risk communication in plans Include communicators in the team from the start
Daily press briefing At the same time (almost) every day –Announce the next briefing Press officer + spokesperson Programme –Welcome (by press officer) –Number of cases, deaths –Status of investigation –Message to the public –Questions? –Individual interviews Give also in writing + other material
Internet outbreak site Dedicated page for the outbreak Updated daily immediately after press briefing –Number of cases, deaths –Status of investigation –Message to the public –Facts on the disease (microbe, statistics etc) –Questions and answers
Appoint one spokesperson ”The face of the outbreak” –A person the journalists and public will recognise An epidemiologist in the outbreak control team –The outbreak team leader or the leader’s ”shadow” –An epidemiologist Not a press officer –Because the journalists wants someone who knows the subject matter and is close to the investigation
The tasks of the spokesperson Make the message of the day together with outbreak control team and press officer Meet the mass media in (daily) briefings Take part in TV or radio programmes Be available for other contact with mass media –But only following filtering by press officer
The tasks of the press officers Discuss the message Assist in making texts for press releases and your Internet site Filter the access to the spokesperson Arrange press briefings Monitor the media coverage (communication surveillance) Ask the public