The coronavirus outbreak is upending the daily operations and programs of our clients in unprecedented ways. COVID-19 is causing widespread havoc, particularly for our clients who hold in-person fundraising events, but health organizations have a chance amid this crisis to serve their communities like never before.
People with chronic conditions or weakened immune systems are especially anxious about COVID-19 and are searching for ways to protect themselves. They are turning to the Internet to find information, resources and a sense of community. Following is a straightforward approach to enable your patient organization to meet your community’s needs, build deeper relationships, increase loyalty, showcase its capabilities and grow its influence.
Step 1: Designate A COVID-19 Response Team
News develops about the coronavirus almost by the minute. With the media and governments continually releasing new information and guidelines, it is important for your organization to designate a team responsible for all coronavirus-related content that reaches your community. You want to avoid having your advocacy team and research team send repetitive or conflicting emails. Someone (or a small team) should “own” the process to provide the end-user with a seamless experience.
Your COVID-19 response team also should assess and prioritize opportunities. Is it more important to interview coronavirus experts or to organize virtual events? Organizations have limited resources and key decision-makers should determine how those resources are used.
Step 2: Produce Content Addressing Your Community’s Health Condition and COVID-19
Create a minimum of one piece of content that directly addresses your community’s primary health condition relating to the coronavirus. Not doing this can harm your reputation: You might be seen as tone-deaf or, worse, your community might seek a competitor to find the information and support they expected from your organization. While this may seem like a minor issue, especially during a crisis, it can affect their loyalty and have a lasting impact on your fundraising, advocacy and other program goals.
Here are examples of editorial content produced by Media Cause’s health clients:
- CreakyJoints: Coronavirus Facts: What You Need to Know If You Have Chronic Illness or Are Immune-Compromised. (See CreakyJoints’ extensive coronavirus coverage on this simple landing page we developed quickly for them.)
- diaTribe: Coronavirus Preparation Strategies for People with Diabetes
- Overcoming MS: Update on MS and Coronavirus
Another key reason to produce at least one piece of coronavirus content: Your community is searching for it on Google. Keyword-research tools such as Google Keyword Planner and Moz are not reporting volume on coronavirus-related keyword searches. We have seen first-hand with our clients and based on our own research on Google, however, that there is a sizable search volume for chronic health conditions and the coronavirus.
Try it yourself: Do a Google search for your organization’s focus disease + coronavirus. Are your competitors showing up on the first page of the Google search results? If so, it’s time to get up there next to them.
Step 3: Seek Out Your Community’s Concerns
Once you publish your essential information, identify your community’s additional concerns about the coronavirus. Here are a few ways:
- Leverage a third-party social media listening tool. Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Crimson Hexagon all allow you to see what patients are talking about in relation to the coronavirus.
- Search natively on Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t have a third-party tool, use Twitter Search and the search bar on Facebook to see public posts about your focus disease and the coronavirus.
- Join Facebook Groups. We’ve seen Facebook Groups for a lot of different health conditions, and patients are very open in these closed groups. It’s important that you respect the group’s rules and are honest about who you are when you join.
- Reach out directly to your community. There is no better way to understand your community’s concerns than to ask them directly. Send a short survey via email and/or pose questions and polls on Facebook and Instagram Stories.
- Set up Google Alerts for your focus disease + coronavirus. This can be a great way to identify important news even before the community knows about it.
Step 4: Apply Your Organization’s Specialty to Your Community’s Needs
It can be overwhelming to hear about the experiences of your constituents. Some may be facing poverty; some could have lost their jobs; some could be rationing their medication. Your organization won’t be able to address all of their challenges. It’s important to recognize what you can do (and do well). Once you know your capabilities, then comes planning, executing and communicating it with your community.
Here are some ideas:
- Produce New Programming Tailored to Your Audience
Our client CreakyJoints (part of the Global Healthy Living Foundation), for example, is an agile team with robust editorial, email and tech capabilities. Working with their editorial and tech teams, we created a content-driven patient support program from ideation to launch within three days. Claire’s Place Foundation, which supports people living with cystic fibrosis, developed a program to offer emergency funds that will cover costs of food insecurity, extensive medical and prescription drug co-pays. Not all organizations can launch a whole new program in a matter of days or can offer money to patients. The approach, however, is the same: Identify your organization’s strengths and leverage them during this outbreak.
- Create Additional Content That Address Your Community’s Concerns
You know your community’s top concerns. Build out your content to address their anxieties. CreakyJoints produced a wide range of editorial content around the coronavirus, for example, including expert advice, patient stories, and coronavirus prevention. National Infusion Center Association put together a toolkit PDF to provide guidance to infusion centers on how to keep their staff and their patients safe. American Heart Association created a 1-minute video on how to keep yourself and others safe.
- Tap Into Your Organization’s Experts
Most patient organizations work closely with scientific advisers, health care professionals, and/or researchers. Patients don’t often encounter these experts, so it’s important that your organization understands they are an important asset. Leveraging them to meet your community’s needs can be accomplished several ways. Beyond Celiac, for example, hosted a Facebook Live with Ken Kilgore, their Chief Scientific Investment Officer. Parkinson’s Foundation also hosted a Facebook Live with their Medical Director and an infectious disease expert and even solicited questions from their community in advance using a Facebook Event.
Another option is to interview your experts. Not every expert wants to be on camera. CreakyJoints was able to work with many of their expert partners to answer patients’ most pressing questions in an article. National Eczema Association encourages its community to “Ask the Ecz-perts” in a recurring feature.
- Prepare Responses for Inbound Questions
Many of our recommendations require a fair amount of work. If your organization doesn’t have the capacity to carry them out, however, a smaller task is to ensure you have resources your community is seeking.
Identify your community’s most common questions and provide links to websites where they can get the answer. That can be as simple as preparing a Google doc of prepared responses for reference when your constituents write in on Facebook or by email. By being responsive and pointing them to resources, your organization can still be seen as relevant and reliable, which are important attributes during a crisis.
This approach to coronavirus response is the same approach we take on all of our work and clients: Identify the audience, understand their needs, and produce something that effectively addresses those needs. If you have questions or feedback, or would like to see how Media Cause can help your health organization, please contact us.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP.
These are unprecedented times and Media Cause is offering free office hours to any nonprofit that would like to brainstorm ways to create a positive impact during the coronavirus. If your health organization is interested in the approach above, or would like to brainstorm other creative ways to support your community, please sign up for office hours with us.