COVID-19 & Health Care Organizations: 5 Communications Strategies

Apr 14, 2020 Brendan Monahan

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, upending carefully laid PR and communications strategies. This is especially true for health care organizations. Some find themselves on the front lines, treating critically ill patients. Digital health and telemedicine innovators are facing increased demand for products and stress on servers. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies may be looking for an effective COVID-19 vaccine or treatment.

As you consider how to adjust your PR plan to stand out in the crowded and noisy health care media landscape, here are five key insights about communicating during this unprecedented time:

Look for your unique point of view: While the press focuses heavily on COVID-19, there are a lot of health care organizations hoping to be included in those articles. Instead of repeating the same story, look for unique angles where your company or organization can offer a different point of view. Examples could include the mental health implications of COVID-19, how addiction prevention and treatment are changing due to social distancing, or the privacy concerns surrounding telehealth and other digital health platforms. In fact, if you have a really compelling non COVID-19 related story, it is probably still worth pitching. Our research has indicated that 63% of healthcare trades are still looking for non COVID-19 related stories.

The best stories within your organization may even come from unexpected places. While health care workers like physicians, nurses and first responders are rightfully receiving gratitude and praise for their courageous work, there are others working to keep our communities thriving like truck drivers that bring us critical goods, line workers in factories, IT staff, housekeepers, etc. Not only is this a needed part of the conversation, it provides differentiation for your organization.

Don’t force yourself into the conversation: If you do not have a strong COVID-19 angle, do not force it. Think through alternative ideas to COVID-19 coverage or remind folks that there is still a need to keep up with other health concerns during the pandemic. Our media research found that even health care trade publications are still covering some non COVID-19 news, so be sure to fully research reporters before pitching a story. 

Intention matters: Is your health care organization donating products or services to help in the COVID-19 fight? That’s great! However, an aggressive PR push about your good deeds can make it seem like your intention is to use this crisis for publicity purposes. While considering a strategy of how to give back, it’s important to think through your intentions. If you want to do good and PR is the cherry on top, it is possible -- and many companies are doing so

Recognize that the world has changed: One cold, hard fact we must all face is that the world has changed from what it was like one month ago, and will probably stay that way moving forward. Consider what your industry and your organization will need to do differently when the pandemic subsides. This is especially true for telehealth and digital health organizations, which are facing a massive proof-of-concept test right now. Now is a good time to plan and think through how you can position your company and top spokespeople as thought leaders in preparing everyone for the new ways of life.

Find the good: At InkHouse, we believe that we should lead with hope, and not fear. Fear is a good way to get people to click on headlines, but it’s a terrible way to get people to trust you

There is a clear demand for positive news right now. People are yearning for good things to think about. Our client, Tufts Medical Center, safely allowed local media to capture an inspiring moment when a patient who was once critically ill with COVID-19 was transferred from the ICU to the step-down unit. The video was widely utilized as part of local COVID-19 news coverage. 

Thinking through inspiring stories that touch on hope is a great way to connect with audiences and bring some much needed positivity to the world right now. 

This crisis does not mean that all of your communications efforts must stop. There are still opportunities for your company to share your work and company news -- it simply requires research and a well-crafted strategy. Health care companies who are able to successfully do so will likely find themselves coming out stronger when the danger subsidies and the “new normal” sets in. 

Topics: Healthcare
Brendan Monahan

Brendan leads the health care practice at Inkhouse, serving as the strategic team lead for clients including health IT developers, hospital systems, insurers, medical device manufacturers, and innovative life science organizations.

Read more from Brendan Monahan

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