Communicating Through a Pandemic: A Chronicle of Experiences, Lessons Learned, and a Vision for the Future
Now available for pre-order from Routledge!
Outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics are nothing new and over the course of the last several decades, we have been through numerous ones—Zika, Ebola, H1N1.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has challenged us like never before.
During this time, we have struggled to work remotely, to balance work and children’s school schedules, and to manage finances in the face of lost or furloughed jobs. We have worried about our loved ones getting sick and being able to support themselves, and we have faced the loneliness of social distancing.
It has affected us individually and globally—but we have not all experienced this pandemic in exactly the same way. Some communities have been hit harder in terms of sickness and death rates from COVID. Many have felt the economic pressures of the pandemic more acutely. Still others have struggled disproportionately with the mental health impacts.
Context has mattered in this pandemic.
There is one common thread that runs through all we have experienced though: the role that communication has played in managing this pandemic. Whether we are talking about communication about the virus and mitigation strategies, communication with friends and family, the urgent crisis that is mis- and dis-information, our complex and diffuse media environment, or new workplace communication strategies, communication has been front and center in this pandemic.
The role of communication has been integral to the success and failure of our ability to respond, adapt, and begin to recover—as individuals, communities, and countries, all co-exiting in an interconnected global ecosystem. Issues such as preparedness, misinformation, literacy and comprehension of virus and vaccine science, health equity, and mental health have all gained increased awareness during this time.
After living through these past couple of years, and seeing both personally and professionally how important communication has been to the success—and failure—of responding to this pandemic, I see the need for an easy-to-read guide about this period of time that can help public health professionals, marketers and health communicators, and policy makers alike understand the COVID-19 pandemic, learn from it, and plan for future emergencies that may require similar skill sets and response approaches.
Unpacking the many and varied roles that communication has played over the course of this pandemic can help us understand what we have been through, what has worked well, what we have struggled with, and what we need to do better personally in our lives and collectively in our communities in order to be able to address more successfully pandemics that we face in the future.
As we all grapple with what we have gone through (and continue to go through), examining how we have communicated during this time in order to understand where we were successful and where we failed is crucial in order to learn from this experience and get better at communicating through pandemics in the future.