A Communications Perspective on a Global Health Crisis

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Over the past month, the world has been on edge with the shocking outbreak of the Coronavirus, a highly contagious, incurable respiratory illness that was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. So far, there has been 24,557 confirmed cases and 492 deaths, with many people taking drastic measures to avoid risk of contamination. As a result of the virus’ severity, the World Health Organisation has declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), making the virus a highly relevant global news topic. As PR professionals, our job is to make use of the current news cycle to help our clients reach their publics. So, what can coronavirus teach us about this?

Remember your Brand’s Values

Firstly, it’s important to remember your brand’s values and identity when responding to any crisis. Doing this can help your brand respond to the crisis in a way that prioritises the business, its stakeholders and publics. If addressing the crisis at hand is either not relevant or could potentially harm the reputation of your brand, it’s a good idea to refrain from taking any action and to instead wait and see if the situation gains any relevance to the brand. On the other hand, if the health crisis is impacting your business such as disrupting supply chain or affecting business partners, it is wise to remain transparent and realistic with your stakeholders.

Consider Tone of Voice

When it comes to PR, tone of voice is incredibly important in order to get across the right message, even when all of your information is correct. In the event of a crisis, brands should aim to have an empathetic, yet educational tone of voice that expresses the severity of the situation while refraining from scaring their publics. Using this neutral, yet slightly optimistic tone of voice avoids sensationalism and allows your publics to associate their feelings of safety with your brand’s response to the crisis.   

Corporate Social Responsibility

Regardless of whether there is a crisis, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should be a consideration to show their commitment to improving social and environmental issues internally and externally. If your brand is yet to take on a CSR initiative, it may be suitable to use a timely event, such as Coronavirus to take advantage of the news cycle and cleverly place your brand in the spotlight. There are a number of brands who have committed to sharing funds to help China fight the virus and in turn, they have received some positive recognition. 

Check your Facts

While it may seem obvious, it’s always highly important to fact check any information you’re putting in a media release, blog or fact sheet to ensure you’re delivering the correct information to publics. Spreading false information could potentially lead to loss of trust, panic among publics and negative speculation. With so many articles circulating about a topic as notable as Coronavirus, it can be very easy to find false figures and facts that sensationalise the story. To avoid this happening, brands should only reference information sourced from Government or health organisations.  

At KDPR, we specialise in issues and crisis management, as well as general PR services. To learn more about how we can assist you or your brand, contact us on 3136 2555

Words by Alex Lucey

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