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Insights To Support Post Pandemic Heath Communications

By Anita Nahal

The COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on everyone’s life has made many of us and many businesses change our approach to communications.

With a sharpened constant focus on public health, healthcare brands in particular have had to rethink the way they connect and talk with their key audiences. Campaigns now more than ever have had to strike the right tone, and above all demonstrate a brand’s value and trustworthiness to customers, stakeholders and the general public.

But set against this constantly evolving landscape, what do healthcare brands need to consider to communicate their health messages effectively?

To develop these insights, Kaizo conducted research to explore how attitudes to health news and information have changed throughout the course of the pandemic. We commissioned a UK consumer poll, to understand which sources people are most likely to turn to for trusted health information, as well as the factors that impact their trust in these sources.

Additionally, we conducted a number of qualitative interviews with healthcare professionals and healthcare communicators to understand the challenges they face when trying to communicate health messages to patients and other audiences.

Here's what we found…

Significantly increased public appetite for any immediacy

The pandemic has driven an increase in time spent online and with it people’s appetite for health-related advice and stories. A brand’s consumers are now more captive, more informed and more demanding than ever before. They want immediate access to health information, and more HCPs want them to be empowered to do this.

In our research, when asked where patients are now most likely to turn for general health advice, NHS GP, Dr Sonal Shah, explained that “more and more patients turn immediately to Dr Google, or social media for answers.” For healthcare brands, this presents an audience that is more willing and receptive than ever before. But with the rising appetite for health information (and the well-known threat of health misinformation), they need to trust the health content that they’re consuming.

Revitalised growth in trust of health experts

Encouragingly, public trust in scientists and health experts has grown during the pandemic. Of the HCPs we spoke with, nearly all felt that patients trusted them more now than pre-pandemic, with only one commenting that trust levels were the same as before the crisis.

Additionally, when asked what would make them most likely to lose trust in a source of health information, 70% of our survey respondents said they would do so if it didn’t come from a qualified HCP. Similarly, when asked which sources they would rely on most for trustworthy health information in the event of a second national lockdown, respondents overwhelmingly indicated they would turn to HCPs or official health organisations, such as the NHS.

The Rise of the Relatable Expert

While trust in HCPs was visibly high, a third (36%) of our respondents said they wouldn’t trust health information if it didn’t come from someone with personal experience of a particular health issue. Close to a fifth (17%) also said they would lose trust in a source of health information if it didn’t come from someone they could personally relate to. Consumers are increasingly seeking out content from familiar, trusted faces who have expertise and specialist knowledge.

Broadcast cuts through and age matters!

Most sources agree, however, that trust in broadcast media has increased even if it has waned in some other traditional media during the last year.

Our consumer survey also suggests that trust in and the use of channels (particularly social media) varies notably depending on audience age. Around a quarter of 16-17 year olds (27%) and 18-20 year olds (24%) we surveyed, indicated that social media would be their main source of trustworthy health information if the UK experiences a second national lockdown – compared with just 16% of respondents overall. So brands must continue to use of media channels carefully – particularly when catering to a marginalised or hard to reach demographic.

Time to fill the information gap

One of the HCPs we spoke with highlighted that, in some cases, when patients do not trust the information and advice provided by their HCP, this is often because they aren’t provided with enough information to meet their expectations - this is a gap that healthcare brands could perhaps help to fill. Clarity is critical; over a third of the respondents (37%) in our survey indicated they would lose trust in a source if the health information they provided was too confusing or vague.

Key outtakes

With this in mind, here are our tips for healthcare brands and communicators:

  • Choose the experts you work with carefully – we are back in love with experts but we have also become more selective about which ones we trust
  • Partner with HCPs in a way that encourages mutual support – the right HCP can be a major asset in any communications strategy, but brands can also support the work of HCPs by ensuring their campaigns promote accurate and relatable health information
  • Aim to empower patients and consumers with knowledge through easily accessible and reliable information
  • Deliver messages clearly, consistently and simply to appeal to people’s ‘gut’ as well as their head – over-complicated messages won’t have the desired reaction
  • Remember the media is as important as the message – avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to the channels used to amplify health messages

To find out more about our recommendations and the strategic insights, PR support and consultancy Kaizo offers, visit our healthcare communications services page or contact Anita Nahal: info@kaizo.co.uk.

Please click here to access the full report.

In association with

30th November 2020

From: Marketing

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