5 Takeaways: COVID Communications Panel


“A candid look at COVID communications from the lens of those in the trenches”

Our panelists – Lauren Debick, APR, who worked for a major healthcare system in Marion County; Ashley Jeffrey, senior manager of media communications at AdventHealth; and Christy Jergens, APR, the community health director for the Florida Department of Health in Marion County – shared a transparent and transformative view of what it is like to deal with a pandemic that is constantly evolving as well as public policy and government guidance that seemingly shift on a daily basis.

  1. Know that your No. 1 stakeholder is your staff; provide consistent information and messaging. Tactics used include daily in-house newscasts, use of a Facebook group to communicate with staff in real-time, daily Facebook Live updates, quick turnaround website updates and 24-hour call center.
  2. Regardless of the tactic, consistency, clarity and brevity are key. Examples: Facebook Live and internal newscast drop at the same time every day; don’t inundate employees with myriad emails from different sources; and consolidate to leadership briefings and daily safety huddles with directors, who can disseminate the information down the chain.
  3. While technology is critical, it is important to bridge the gap for stakeholders who may not have social media accounts or be digitally savvy. Know your audience, i.e., a senior who only has a landline or an employee without a Facebook account. Be ready to use traditional and non-tradition platforms. 
  4. Unlike most events, such as a hurricane, the pandemic never seems to end. What proved most challenging with COVID is dealing with the length and extent of the crisis, as well as keeping up with the media and ensuring the information is consistent.
  5. Burnout is real. Take time to rest and renew – and to simply breathe (even when it seems there’s never a calm moment to catch your breath).