Communicating in the Aftermath

by Katy Mena-Berkley, Copywriter - 10/11/17

Communicating in the Aftermath

If a traumatic event affects your community, take care to craft messaging that is meaningful.

Large-scale accidents, natural disasters, or violent crimes can occur at any time. If your community is hit by an emergency, it’s crucial for healthcare facilities to communicate quickly and clearly.  

1. Identify the emergency plan.

You may not be the one in charge of emergency protocols, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be well-versed in the systems your hospital has in place to respond to disasters.

How many backup generators do you have, and what’s their capacity? Is there a protocol for an off-site clinic in the event of a disaster? How would the hospital reach out to staff for a rapid response of personnel in the event of a massive influx of patients? What provisions have been made for shelter if people are displaced from their homes during a disaster?

If you know this upfront, and even talk to the folks who will be in the thick of it when emergencies strike your community, you can save valuable time in getting that message out. No doctor will want to be interviewed for a press release while they’re saving lives in the midst of a crisis, but if you have the important info on hand already, all you have to do is reach out to the audience. How you reach out is another question.

2. Use your platform to help.

If you’ve already established a dialogue with your audience before disaster strikes, now is a good time to shift from talking up your hospital to directly addressing you community’s needs. This could be anything from identifying safe locations, updating people on the safety status of certain areas of town, or providing content with long-term relevance, such as reminders on safety protocols around downed power lines, or tips for identifying mold in a home after a flood. Coordinate with emergency responders and put your platforms to their service, helping to get the word out to keep people safe.

Keep in mind that your messaging isn’t the only thing to change. Your platforms may need to be adjusted too. In major disasters, traditional marketing methods tend to be less effective. Hurricane Harvey, for instance, saw people turning to social media to coordinate disaster relief after the 911 call centers became bogged down.

This shift in platform can linger well after a disaster has passed—television commercials don’t have as much reach if power and cable remain out of commission, or for people who have lost their homes, so be prepared to transition back to traditional modes of communication with your audience.  

3. Avoid being clever.

Respect individuals in your community who have sustained significant loss by being clear, concise, and empathetic with your messaging. Avoid language that may sound “hard sell” unless it’s simply directing them to needed resources. Now is not the time for catchy alliteration or puns. Nobody wants to be sold to right now. Also, steer clear of anything that may be considered politically controversial. Instead, think about delivering information that is useful and inspiring.

Stay true to your facility’s mission in the coming weeks and months as you share stories about families who have found solutions thanks to your medical team. And be purposeful when sharing actionable instructions with your audience. Provide phone numbers, websites and other key details using easy-to-understand language.

You may also take this time to highlight any 24/7 emergency phone or online consultation resources to which people may turn when they have questions or need advice.

Your marketing platforms are powerful messaging tools. When you turn those tools to directly helping your community, you deliver the most important message a hospital can offer: “We’re here for you.”


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Topics: Content Strategy, Healthcare Industry Insights & Trends

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