This week’s New Yorker magazine had a riveting article about how coronavirus outcomes varied because of the way doctors communicate in a public health crisis.

One sentence jumps out: One of the E.I.S.’s core principles is that a pandemic is a communications emergency as much as a medical crisis. (EIS or Epidemic Intelligence Service is CDC’s post-doctoral program in epidemiology focusing on field work.)

From the article, I took a run at the CDC website, to find what they had to say about
communications emergencies. I found a 460-page manual for a course titled Crisis Emergency and Risk Communication. Published in 2014, the social media section may seem a little dusty, but even the table of contents gives a sense of the thorough and practical guidance available for communicators. There’s something reassuring to know the course was built by people who have seen devastating emergencies and crises before and have field-tested their response.

Some of the things I am taking away can be put on a wallet card:

Four ways people process information during a crisis:
o We simplify messages.
o We hold on to current beliefs.
o We look for additional information and opinions.
o We believe the first message.

The six principles of effective crisis and risk communication:
o Be first.
o Be right.
o Be credible.
o Express empathy.
o Promote action.
o Show respect.

Yes, in many regards it’s basic stuff. But for me that’s the just ticket during these overwhelming times.

You can see for yourself. Download a copy.