New Communications Guide Offers Clarity on Ebola Messaging
To provide consistent, accurate messaging about Ebola should another case be diagnosed in the United States, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials created a guide to help health authorities and policymakers answer common questions about the virus.
The recent Ebola crisis incited a deluge of public and media attention.
The number of media inquiries at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, for example, escalated from four to five a month to almost eight to 10 a day, said Scott Briscoe, director of communications and marketing at ASTHO. The number of calls to ASTHO members, state health agencies, also increased exponentially.
To help get ahead of another possible U.S. case and the ensuing media coverage, ASTHO recently released a communications guide for health officials and policymakers to help set the record straight on what exactly Ebola is and how it spreads.
“If there’s another case diagnosed in the United States, I would expect there to be another round of media inquiries,” Briscoe said. “Probably not as intense because it won’t be quite as new; some of the early stuff has already been asked and answered. This is in anticipation of any further escalation.”
Top Questions on Ebola: Simple Answers [PDF] provides more than 60 messages, each consisting of about three to five short sentences, and media interview tips.
“It’s designed to be simple answers to basic questions so that everybody can have it and refer to it and have a basis or a starting point,” Briscoe said. “If everybody kind of has that starting point, then it can give in to a more nuanced discussion about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done and things of that nature.”
This isn’t the first messaging document ASTHO has created for members, but it is the most extensive, and it’s the first to be shared publicly.
“When we put it together, that’s when we realized there was nothing in here that is really proprietary, nothing that we would want to keep out of the public eye,” Briscoe said. “In fact, we thought it would be better to have it in front of the public. So that’s when we decided to distribute it publicly so that anybody could access it themselves.”