Communications industry tackles viral misinformation in India's fight against COVID-19

Experts discuss how they have been easing the burden of fake news during the pandemic, aiding the healthcare industry who have been at the frontline

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: May 25, 2020 8:27 AM

Subtle relaxations in lockdown 4.0 amid soaring coronavirus cases in the country is an indication for the healthcare industry that work has only begun. Healthcare industry has been at the frontline, fighting the humanitarian crisis and it has proven to be the backbone of the nation’s combat against the pandemic. Doctors, nurses and other health workers have all been fighting at the forefront of this one-of-a-kind medical emergency.

Such crises are also fertile grounds misinformation to spread through social media and other channels. It’s here that the communications industry steps in, easing some of the burden on the healthcare industry and helping it tide over these times. Communications experts have been vigilant throughout the pandemic and have been mitigating the fake information crisis.

Sushmita Bandopadhyay, Communications Leader, Becton Dickinson India (BD)- India/South Asia agreed, saying, “The emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has changed the entire healthcare setting in the world and has particularly set a stark reminder of the vital role healthcare workers, nurses and doctors play. Under the current situation, it is also very important to guarantee the dissemination of right and accurate information internally and to the public in sustaining the healthcare industry. Widespread panic often triggered by misinformation should be avoided especially when there is no vaccine available yet.”

On being asked on the important role of right and effective communication in sustaining the healthcare industry, Vikram Ahluwalia - Marketing Director, SRL Diagnostics Lab informed, “While our human instinct tempted us to pull back on messaging and hunker down, our actions were in the opposite direction. Lack of communication during a crisis only reinforces the fear and estrangement. And for us, to keep our 6000 employees and other stakeholders motivated, engaged, and informed was of paramount importance during this time of anxiety and social distance."

According to Ahluwalia, being at the forefront of this battle, it became crucial for the brand to focus on proactive, fact-based communications with all stakeholders including employees, government, doctors, and our customers.

The pandemic has also brought back the focus on public health. Segmentation of information circulated has become necessary so as to be understood by every section of the society keeping in view the larger goal of communicating about public health at large.

Aman Gupta, Managing Partner and Co-Founder SPAG stressed on the need to build an improved communication network from a behavioural perspective to put out credible messages for the people. He said, “There should be a segmentation of the audience at the geographical level. The messaging should be done in a way so that it is understood the community level”.

“We need to demystify science and make it simpler for different stakeholders to understand. Also, it is important to have a listening aspect to any false information being floated on social media, especially in times of a public health communications challenge,” Gupta concluded.

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