Public health messaging needs to be sharper for COVID-19 second wave

Social media study has lessons for handling COVID-19 second wave

Government press conference podium
2nd November 2020 about a 2 minute read

Public health messaging needs to improve if we are to overcome the second wave of COVID-19. And that means learning lessons from the first wave.

This was one of the key messages from a Future Care Capital (FCC) webinar on Monday focusing on insights from research the organisation carried out earlier this year. 

FCC commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct the research which looked at more than 3.6million social media posts about health and social care.

Steven Ginnis, Research Director at Ipsos MORI, said there were a number of stark findings from the Communicating Public Health study.  

Stay home versus stay alert

One was how effective the early message of “stay home” was compared to how confused people were by the call to “stay alert”.

He added that people were also clearer about messaging around hand washing compared to puzzlement among many about the messaging on wearing facemarks.

Annemarie Naylor MBE, FCC Director of Policy and Strategy, told the webinar an important finding was that if a public health message is not mentioned at the government press conference, it rarely finds traction on social media.

COVID battle

She also noted that the government liked to emphasise the “battle” against COVID-19.

“The prime minister described COVID as an ‘invisible mugger’ and suggested we were virtually on a war footing”. 

“We should consider how we treat our veterans and why we treat our health staff differently” Annemarie Naylor
Annemarie Naylor

She added that the study showed how enthusiasm on social media for ‘clapping for the NHS’ and supporting the workforce waned over the course of the first wave.

This meant there needed to be a new message about the NHS workforce this autumn, particularly in the light of emerging research showing some had suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the pandemic’s first wave.

“We should consider how we treat our veterans and why we treat our health staff differently,” she said.