I’m a copywriter, so it’s my job to obsess over words. And, ever since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been obsessed with the words and phrases we as health care marketers are using surrounding COVID-19. I’ve been carefully thinking about their meanings, their impact, how they can capture an audience’s attention, motivate action and—if we’re really good and doing our job correctly—provide hope and inspire people.

What people are feeling 

COVID-19 has upended our home and work life—and it’s brought an economic slowdown that is extremely worrisome along with it. 

What our audiences are going through right now has triggered some very strong emotions, including feelings of being:

  • angry
  • burned out
  • numb
  • out of control 
  • anxious 
  • fearful
  • depressed
  • lonely
  • hopeless

People are hungry for information that can help

A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 44% of U.S. adults said they discussed the coronavirus outbreak with other people most or almost all the time, whether online, in person or over the phone.

93% of the people Hailey Sault polled recently said that regular information from their hospital, health system or physician about COVID would be of value to them.

People want to feel:

  • confident
  • in control
  • cared for
  • safe
  • hopeful
See what's working

What to say (what not to say) 

Right now, empathy and compassion are critical. 

Our audiences want us to:

  • offer support that doesn’t minimize their experience
  • let them know we’re here for them
  • be calm and reassuring
  • inspire hope 
  • be forward thinking and solution oriented
  • show our human side 

Our audiences don’t want us to:

  • add to their panic
  • be overdramatic
  • overpromise

They want to hear words like:

  • navigate
  • cope
  • respond
  • support
  • understand
  • protect
  • safe

More research findings

One of the questions we asked in our Hailey Sault COVID research was: What would you ask your hospital about COVID-19? Verbatim answers included:

  • How can I get tested?
  • How do I know when to be tested?
  • How do I treat it if I get it?
  • What is the current local status?
  • How clean is the hospital?

Out of 800 responses:

Where + How + Tested were mentioned 407 times 

How + Treat were mentioned 345 times

Medical provider in PPE

Woman running during sunrise

My advice:

Come from a place of service. Make sure your audiences know that you are committed to answering their questions, educating them and serving them the best way you can.

Child bundled up in cozy jacket

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that what we knew yesterday may not be true tomorrow. 

Be nimble with your messaging. Reflect the ever-changing situation and your audiences’ state of mind. Be humble, be honest, be true to your brand promise. And above all else, keep providing the information the communities you serve are craving from you right now.

Mankato Recovery Campaign info