Friday, August 14, 2009

The Quarterback's 10 Commandments of H1N1 Crisis Communication

I've been blogging a lot recently about H1N1 and how various agencies and the media communicate about it. Most of my posts have been on the critical side, picking apart an incident or document or briefing and saying what is wrong with it and, usually, unless I'm in an especially bad mood, making suggestions for improvement. But, as an educator, I firmly believe that in order for students to have a fair shot at success you have to make your expectations clear ahead of time, and so I offer here something of a rubric for communication about H1N1.

The Quarterback's 10 Commandments of H1N1 Crisis Communication
  1. Thou shalt communicate in multiple media at once, for thy public gets their information from various sources and is confused by thy out-of-date or inconsistent messages.
  2. Thou shalt share all the information thou hast, for failure to be thorough and attempts to cover things up maketh thou seem unreliable, and thy public will not believeth thy word.
  3. Thou shalt empower thy underlings to share thy information, for attempting to centralize thy message maketh thy people not trust thee. Thou shalt make sure thy underlings haveth the most up-to-date information at all times so they may shareth it.
  4. Thou shalt explain thy reasoning in all directives, for "I saidest so" is insufficient for most people.
  5. Thou shalt put thy information in appropriate context so that thy public may understand the dangers they face with relation to other dangers, and not overreact to thy numbers.
  6. Thou shalt recognize the fear of thy public and acknowledge it as a natural response, for thy public will otherwise believe that thou do not gettest it, and ignore you.
  7. Thou shalt not say "don't panic" without explaining why not.
  8. Thou shalt debunk all rumors with relevant facts. "That's not true" doth not, by itself, constitute a relevant fact.
  9. Thou shalt plan for the contingency that thy public will not follow thy directions, for they act out of fear and thou art not as convincing as thou thinkest.
  10. Thou shalt not separate thy discussion of the current status of the pandemic from thy discussion of the emotional reaction to it. So mayest thy people know that thou understandeth them, and trusteth thee. So, too , may thou be constantly reminded that thy words have impact, and consider them, and not be led astray like Joe Biden of old.
Now, if only I could get this into as wide circulation as those original commandments . . .


Abraham Fisher said...

As far as getting this into wide circulation, just remember, it took a couple of thousand years for Moses.

And the second person possessive is "thine," not "thy."

Naomi Zikmund-Fisher said...

Actually, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, "thy" means "your," as in "honor thy father and thy mother," whereas "thine" means "yours," as in "I'll honor my mother and you honor thine."

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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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