How Government Can Combat Misinformation in a Crisis

When social media exploded recently with reports about swans and dolphins returning to Venice canals and elephants moseying around Yunnan, China, it seemed to provide the feel-good relief that we needed amid devasting news about the coronavirus.

We wanted to believe it. We needed to believe it. But it wasn’t true.

In fact, National Geographic did an entire writeup about fake animal news going viral amid the COVID-19 pandemic. No big deal, right? Actually, quite the opposite.

“False information across any medium can be designed to make you feel good, to reinforce your beliefs, but may, in fact, be false information,” John Duckwitz, Director of Customer Success at Granicus, said during GovLoop’s COVID-19 virtual summit. Granicus specializes in empowering modern digital government through a platform of cloud-based communications and tools.

The team has been at the forefront of assisting federal, state and local government agencies that need to cut through the noise and deliver accurate and timely information about COVID-19 to millions of people. Governments are seeing huge surges in email and website traffic, and audiences are engaging with the content.

But with so much misinformation floating around, how can agencies position themselves as the source of truth? Duckwitz shared three steps agencies can take now.

  1. Make information easily accessible

Think about who your audience is and what they need, especially during this time. Are you elevating the voice of public health officials? Are you providing links to credible websites and sources of information on your platforms? In the case of COVID-19, have you considered the placement of timely and relevant information that visitors can easily access on your website?

  1. Use every available channel

How might you use email, social media, text messages and your website to communicate factual information with your audience? Every day, people are bombarded with false information, ranging from unproven home remedies to cure COVID-19 to bogus claims and conspiracy theories about the virus. The key is ensuring that you are maximizing opportunities to get trusted information into the hands of your audience and to ensure that messaging is consistent across all channels.

  1. Speak directly to your audience on the platforms that they trust

When using various mediums, think through which is the most appropriate avenue for the message that you want to communicate. For example, email and text messaging are effective tools for communicating one-on-one to combat misinformation. Also, be mindful of your tone. You want to reduce panic and keep people safe, and messaging matters.

So where do governments go from here?

If you are a government communicator, focus on relationship building with your audience. Don’t let all of your subscribers and new relationships go cold, Duckwitz said. Find ways to connect and personalize future messaging, whether that’s by asking for a user’s first name, ZIP code or another identifier.

Don’t forget to highlight additional offerings, based on preferences that people signed up to receive. You won’t be sending COVID-19 email blasts forever, so consider how communications will evolve as the situation normalizes.

Lastly, make data-driven decisions. Think through what worked and what didn’t, what subject lines resonated with readers and what content drove them to your website.

Don’t miss out on other virtual learning opportunities. Pre-register for GovLoop’s remaining 2020 virtual summits today.

This online training was brought to you by:

Photo Credit: CDC.gov

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply