This isn't the first time humans have faced a pandemic.
Fortunately, many smart people have spent many years putting together best practices on how to communicate to the public. We've pulled together their recommendations into these quick tips that you can share with your team.
Be consistent: During times of pandemic, messages work best when they are consistent and coherent.
Go public quickly: Even if you have incomplete information. Adjust as things change. Be agile.
Don’t wait for the press release. Try to get it out as soon as you can, as best you can.
Be honest: Say what you know, what you don’t know, and what you’re doing.
No BS: Be easily understood, complete, and free from deceit.
Be clear. Eliminate jargon. Use plain, simple language. Be accessible to a non-technical audience.
Be calm. Resist the urge to say "Don't panic" or "Stay calm." Instead, BE reassuring and BE calm.
Be flexible: Explain that the information may change when you know more.
Be careful. Avoid being confident with tenuous information.
Speak to the fear: Recognize that people will be frightened. Put these fears into words, then address them openly, regardless of how unfounded or unscientific the fears may seem.
LISTEN: Talk with your target audience. Talk with their key opinion leaders about what they're hearing in the community. Keep your ear to the ground and your finger on the pulse.
Keep talking. Then communicate, again and again. Promise timely, regular updates. Then deliver.
We highly recommend reading/skimming these three documents:
Best Practices for Communicating with the Public During an Outbreak (the Bible of communication) (WHO)
National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (do a search for "Communication") (CDC)