Pam Turos | Managing Editor
Yes, we are in crisis.
We are also collectively very anxious and completely overwhelmed with information.
It might surprise you to hear this from someone whose livelihood comes from writing and editing, but now is not the time to publish every detail about what you are doing to respond to the coronavirus and COVID-19.
Before I was a business owner, writer and editor, I was a social worker for over 15 years in healthcare settings, including stints in pediatric hospice, critical care and emergency medicine at Cleveland Clinic hospitals.
Right now, like many of you, I am deeply concerned about my former colleagues and friends on the frontlines. One of the ways we can help keep them safe is to limit the amount of information in our overburdened news-cycle.
That’s right. I want you to stop communicating so much.
The human brain and nervous system are not equipped to process unlimited information, and we’ve reached a surge – just like the one they are trying to prepare for in our healthcare system. In order to let our clients, team members, and supporters process the most important lifesaving information, we need to leave out all of the projections, reflections, opinions and anecdotes that we might normally send out into the universe.
I know it feels like everything is an emergency. But in the emergency department and the ICU, I would never have walked into a patient’s room every time a new test result came across my computer screen “just to keep them up to date.” We waited until all the relevant information had been collected so we had a full picture of the situation. And when we did go in to talk to patients, we projected a calm reassuring tone, keeping our explanations as brief and concise as possible so as not to overwhelm people who were already upset and scared.
It’s time to start using the same approach as leaders and communicators.
Sean Gibbons, CEO of The Communications Network, a nationwide collaborative of nonprofit communications leaders, offers the 5 principles below as a framework for crisis communications, and their full Coronavirus Crisis Comms Triage Kit is available via this link.
Instead of creating your own content right now, please focus on offering emotional support directly to people in your life and amplifying the messages that are coming out from verified experts at the CDC, NIH and state health departments. They need your help to increase the reach of their messaging, and you should send it verbatim to your audiences.
Also, consider what your audience is most afraid of right now. Are they looking for homeschool resources, financial support, or meal programs? You will best serve your community and the greater good by acting as a megaphone for the expert resources that are already in place in these fields.
This is not to say you should avoid sharing critical information such as changes in hours or procedures that will inform your community and reassure them about connecting with you. That’s necessary information. But please don’t go to the trouble of sending an email newsletter just because you have sent one every Monday for the past five years.
It’s ok to be quiet. It’s ok to do less – unless of course you are a manufacturer of COVID-19 testing kits, vaccines, or personal protective equipment. If so, then please keep doing more.
And the rest of us will try our best to sit here quietly, out of the way, cheering you on.