PRSA Teleseminar on Pandemic Flu communications

May 12, 2009

It was my privilege today to present a teleseminar for PRSA on Pandemic Flu communications. My co-presenter was Stephen Davidow of Davidow Communications out of Chicago–an experienced professional in healthcare crisis communication.

Content for this can be found at PRSA, but I wanted to share a brief overview of the discussion:

1) This was a great dry run–not that the risk is gone, but the fact that it has not yet become overwhelming gives everyone an opportunity to learn valuable lessons in preparation for a pandemic that experts all predict is all but certain.

2) While media interest has waned, the need to communicate has not. Day by day the numbers grow, significantly. But, for most of the media, the story has run its course. For communicators, it simply means that the job goes on long after mainstream media is on to more immediate or exciting stories.

3) Make necessary connections now. There are a lot of people you need to work with in a major event such as this. Don’t wait until it hits to build your contact lists and your relationships. Get to know them now–hospitals, health dept officials, gov responders, major employers, etc., etc.

4) Address IT needs. The right technology is critical. It needs to:

– allow communicator control over web content and pushing info out to audiences–not a multistep webmaster process

– facilitate push, pull and interactive communication management–managing multiple inquiries is increasingly critical

– provide means of pushing info out via multiple modes–text, voice, websites, RSS, email, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube–all and more are now important

– provide for work collaboration to enable social distancing–your team may have to stay at home to protect themselves and others. Technology is now readily available to allow full communicator collaboration. In a pandemic, it becomes essential.

5) Constant info push–the best way to control the influx of questions is to keep a constant stream of updates going out. Not only that, in this age of Twitter and instant social media, it is expected. Press releases are out of date and largely unnecessary. Short, continuous information releases are now required.

6) Your people are the critical path–plans matter, technology matters, but you need to train, select, prepare and staff deep enough to sustain a long event and one in which it is likely that some if not many of your key players will not be available.

There was more that was covered, but you’ll have to do the download at PRSA. Thanks to Judy Voss of PRSA and Stephen Davidow for the opportunity to work on this.

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