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Educate, Don’t Scare

June 3, 2016
Educate Don't Scare

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden speak at the National Press Club about the dangers and implications of the Zika virus. As members of the Press Club, Laura Van Eperen and I also had the honor of attending a private VIP reception prior to the luncheon where we spoke with Dr. Frieden, who was incredibly personable.

Much like the Ebola crisis of 2014 or the Swine Flu epidemic of 2009, Zika, as we have all heard, is a serious and growing concern. In today’s global society not only have we seen information spread faster than ever before but now, too, so do diseases.

For PR professionals, especially those of us specializing in health, communicating the seriousness about viruses such as Zika is challenging.  While the goal is to encourage consumers to take necessary precautions, there is a delicate balance between being informative and compelling and not scaring people.

In today’s fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle, getting a message heard – and remembered – is difficult, so we as health communicators must use all the channels available to us. An integrated approach that is attention-grabbing and substantive requires the right balance between social, earned, paid and owned media.

The bottom line: scare tactics never work. Instead, educate consumers with the facts and bring those facts to life through storytelling, so hopefully, in the end, our messages are heard and acted upon so lives are saved.

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