How to inform without sounding the alarms

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies, agencies and organizations want to help inform the public through their most powerful voice – social media. While Public Service Announcements on social media platforms are a fantastic way to quickly and efficiently inform the public, it’s incredibly easy to aid in the spread of misinformation or contribute to the introduction of panic in communities. 

The nature of any pandemic, epidemic or disaster is its tendency to constantly change – often, health agencies are faced with several moving targets when battling easily-transmissible diseases or a catastrophe. This makes PSAs, especially those containing health care recommendations, often outdated within a short amount of time from posting. 

If you remain undaunted, the following tips should help anyone wanting to post reputable, accurate and helpful information:

  • Pull your information directly from reputable sources – agencies like FEMA, the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control or your country’s equivalent authority
  • Try to repurpose, repost or link to the agency’s original information release so your audience can view any source information 
  • If you are posting a graphic, custom infographic or other multimedia PSA, be sure you are double-checking all the information you include against multiple sources including sources in different countries to ensure your information is accurate and up-to-date
  • If you are relying on several posters, graphic designers or content managers, make sure you create a guideline for posting that each representative can reference to ensure consistency in voice, accuracy and reliability

PSAs should accomplish any or all of the following:

  • Inform the public of a new recommendation, situation or development
  • Provide guidance on a common or frequently asked question
  • Convey critical information to prevent any further damage or mitigate any emerging situations
  • Provide a link where the most up-to-date information can be found

Some things you may encounter when posting PSAs to social media:

  • Your audience is confused about newer information that contradicts what you have posted
  • Your PSAs are out of date too often and too quickly
  • Your audience directs expert-level questions to you specifically
  • Your staff may diverge from your established guidelines
  • New information is coming out faster than you can manage
  • Your staff may become overwhelmed with the response from your source agencies or from your audience

There are a few ways you can mitigate any issues along the way and the first and most basic of these is to create your guidelines for PSA posting before you start your social media campaign. Ensure that any additional staff involved in the process are aware of the guidelines and follow them exactly – or that they feel comfortable enough with the process to reach out with questions if they have any. 

Another simple mitigation technique is to make sure you always include source information and, if applicable, make sure you say that a recommendation or situation is such as of a certain date. This will help your audience understand that you were reporting information in real time and allows them to reference your source to get more up-to-date information if they want to. 

Get more information on PSAs from these sources:

How to Create the Perfect Public Service › education › news › How-to-Create…

Public Service Announcements | Newsroom | US › newsroom › public-service-announcem…

Public Service Announcements and Multimedia Resources for … › asthma › public-service-announcement…

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) | › 2019-ncov › communication › public-s…

30 Second PSA Examples – Public Service Announcement … › resources › 30-second-psa-examples

Let us know if we can help with your COVID-19 social strategy by dropping a line at [email protected]!

CM Social Team