I’ve had many conversations about COVID-19 this week. How the crisis is evolving, what the impacts will be and how Spectrum Science should respond as a leader in health and science communications.
However, one such conversation took a different angle. My colleague and friend Jonathan Wilson and I were talking about how the current situation and Dr. Anthony Fauci's role as a truthteller has important lessons for us, both as an industry and as communications counselors to our clients. In this age where lack of trust reigns—propagated by fake news, unknown agendas and sensationalized information—authenticity has become the barometer for good communications.
This feels like it has relevance to our work in a few ways:
Think before you share.
We all know the expression “you are what you eat,” but in today’s landscape of rapid-fire information sharing, you are what you share. The credibility of our personal and corporate brands is dependent on our ensuring that the information we share is reliable, not simply a confirmation of our own fears and biases or a misplaced attempt to protect what we hold dear—in the case of COVID-19, our freedom to live and work as we typically do. As healthcare communicators, we at Spectrum believe we have a unique obligation to educate and act on behalf of the greater good.
In this age where lack of trust reigns—propagated by fake news, unknown agendas and sensationalized information—authenticity has become the barometer for good communications.
Know what authenticity looks like.
As we share information and look to engage with any audience, we need a keen understanding of what comprises authenticity—the most important component of trust. As exemplified by Dr. Fauci, those things are:
- Authority: expertise that is relevant to the situation (and the restraint to keep rapidly evolving circumstances from pushing you off message or outside your area of expertise)
- Transparency: willingness to represent data-driven truth come good news or bad news
- Responsibility: truth-telling without finger-pointing
Base counsel and decisions on data and unvarnished truth.
As advisors to clients who are often under intense pressure to deliver, we need to ensure that we stay outside the echo chamber and reflect counsel back to our clients (internal or external) that reflects the truth, based on data and analytics, rather than versions of what we know they want to hear. Communicators have always been well-positioned to reflect truths from the outside environment back into our organizations and this is now more important than ever.
We all know that authenticity is a key component of trust and never have we needed to infuse more trust into our communications than we do today, particularly in times of crisis. As the situation around coronavirus continues to evolve, I hope this stays top of mind for leaders and communicators involved at every level, allowing us to keep our heads and build sound strategies based on data, evidence and truth.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Michelle Strier, Chief Strategy Officer.