The COVID-19 Infodemic: 3 Ways to Combat Misinformation

False information in the time of coronavirus often travels as fast as the virus itself. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the deluge of information – often misinformation – an “infodemic.” The spread of false information has become so prolific that the WHO set up webpages to raise awareness of common myths about the virus and to educate the public on how to sift through information to avoid falling victim to potentially dangerous and false information.

With so much information available – true or not – how can you make sure your audience continues to trust and value your brand’s message? Here are three tips for marketers to keep in mind to avoid misinformation and help your message stand out from the crowd.

  1. Do your homework. According to a study on misinformation by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 59% of false information they analyzed wasn’t completely fabricated; it blended factual and manipulated content. This kind of misinformation is particularly dangerous because it makes separating fact from fiction difficult – especially for the uniformed or casual reader.To bring your message to the forefront and maintain credibility, be sure to consistently deliver accurate information. Always fact check and use information only from reputable sources; whenever possible, include links to trusted educational resources to help validate your content. Be careful about the information and sources your organization likes, shares or reposts. And think hard before spreading information that is “inconclusive” or “preliminary.” One reason the infodemic is spreading is because of the rush to be first to share new developments without going the extra mile to verify them.
  2. Be straightforward. Your message should be easy to understand so there is no room for it to be misinterpreted, especially when relaying information about important health care issues like the coronavirus. Hiding behind jargon and complicated terms isn’t helpful to your consumer. If they can’t interpret your message, they can’t value it and they won’t turn to your brand when they need information. People are looking for clear and trustworthy information.When trying to deliver concise messages, utilize social media carefully. Though its speed to delivery and size of potential audience is great, the limited amount of characters and space can force editing choices you might not make in a longer format. Once you publish information on a social platform it is out there to be seen by the world, and no matter how quickly you hit delete the impact has been made. Social media outlets have begun to take action against misinformation on their platforms to curb the infodemic. You do not want your organization’s content and brand to labeled as misleading or harmful. Twitter, Facebook and other platforms shouldn’t be expected to edit or review content. It’s our responsibility as communicators to make sure what we put out there is true and not misleading to the public.
  3. Authenticity is key. We have all heard brands come out of the woodwork in 2020 to pledge their support to their customers during these “unprecedented times.” For some, this sentiment may be genuine, but when it’s not, it is very clear to the consumer. The desire to acknowledge the unique public health crisis we are all facing is understandable, but if your brand doesn’t stand out by offering content that is authentic and valuable, it risks being just another voice saying the same thing.

Need help cutting through the noise and identifying the meaningful messages your brand can share in the crazy world of 2020? Contact us.