The role of Public Health Communication in times of COVID-19 pandemic is crucial. An empathising, accurate and well-developed health communication can facilitate people to handle uncertainty and fear during the crisis. The changing dynamics of communication during COVID-19 and the role of Traditional, New Age & Social Media to bring out effective communication are also very important. These were some of the key points discussed during the webinar organised by the HEAL Foundation — a healthcare advocacy group in association with Public Relations Society of India (Delhi Chapter).
Addressing the webinar and throwing light on the necessity & sensitivity of marketing communication during the pandemic, Dheeman Vaidya, Director, APAC Communications, Medtronic & a Leading MarCom Expert, said, “We should keep the people in the centre while communicating and give priority to emotions rather than information. ‘Emotion First, Information Second’ should be the line of our communication. We can communicate with them better by empathising and winning their trust. We need to avoid information overload as it misleads the audience. Everything is going through the process of change. Medical Education goes through a major change in 100 years! Digital platforms have received a major boost – what was being tried over the past 25 years, has happened in the past 6 months only!”
Speaking on the importance of Health Communication in times of COVID-19 — its challenges and solutions, Dr. Swadeep Srivastava, Founder, HEAL Foundation said, “Simplifying the communication with relevant, accurate, and necessary information through the easiest possible medium should be the hallmark. This will not only cut-down on misinformation and information-overload but also help people understand the message and adopt it. During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital communication has been more effective in bringing behaviour change such as short videos and crisp social media posts with relevant visuals.”
Talking on the challenges faced by CSR professionals and the beneficiaries and the communication deluge, Priti Srivastava, Sustainable Growth Mentor, Navratan Foundation said, “Balancing the budget between routine CSR and COVID-19 CSR has been one of the challenges for the corporates during the onset of COVID. Now every CSR activity is seen in the light of COVID-19. But the non-COVID CSR activities shouldn’t be the casualty. Also, we need to use personal communication, through which we can educate at least 10 persons in our closed group and vicinity such as maid, driver, and security guards — this is an easy and effective way. The NGOs, Doctors, and people from RWAs should also come forward and communicate in local languages to make the messages wide-spread.”
Deliberating on the role of the medical community in creating balanced communication, Dr. Sudhakar Gayakwad, Vice President, FCB Health India, said, “Before any communication, seeking consent is essential because it paves the way for better communication. While communicating, we should avoid opportunism to make the flow natural and convincing. In the COVID-19 scenario, communication through videos has worked wonders — short videos communicate lengthy messages easily and effectively. Likewise, identifying the relevance of communication is also essential because irrelevant communication leaves no impact on the audience. And, showing solidarity in communication engages the communicator and the audience, bringing desired impact.”
“He also summarised Communication beautifully in the acronym — COVID as follows.
C: CONSENT TO BE TAKEN
O: OPPORTUNISM AVOIDED
V: VIDEO FIRST
I: IDENTIFY RELEVANCE
D: DISPLAY SOLIDARITY”
Emphasising on the importance of public relations, Dr Jaya Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Public Relations Society of India – Delhi Chapter said, “The role of public relations in the times of a pandemic is crucial. No one thought that we would be facing such times. Now, public relation professionals have a responsibility to spread the right knowledge during the pandemic. These are the times when marketing gimmicks & brand promotion take the back seat and empathic public awareness communication becomes the centre of the communication. Many brands have already designed their communication on these lines & I would congratulate them for their revised communication strategy.”
Speaking on the challenges of media houses in news reporting, Prof. KG Suresh, Dean, School of Modern Media, UPES University, Dehradun, Former, DG Indian Institute of Mass Communication, said, “With the COVID-19 pandemic, one new epidemic has started in the form of info-epidemic. The media houses, especially the TV News channels are sensationalising the information, which ultimately misleads the viewers. There are so many factors behind it such as lack of proper knowledge of healthcare amongst the journalists. Media needs to provide relevant information useful for the masses.”
Speaking on the necessity and sensitivity of marketing communication during the pandemic, Atul Sharma, MD, Health Scape, said, “There is an overflow of information and this is challenging to differentiate credible and non-credible information. In the testing times, it’s the responsibility of everybody whether it is a marketing professional or a common man to talk to the solution rather than the problem.”