Communicating about coronavirus is not just for the experts

Given the unprecedented and rapidly evolving issues around coronavirus (also known as Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19), the public has a real and practical need for information about the pandemic, and about what they can do about it. The major news media responds to that public interest by interviewing all kinds of experts in public health, medicine, and government about what you should do to deal with it. The problem with the major news media, and even with alternative sources like social media, is that they may not get you the information you, or the people in your life, need right now.

The media can’t do it all, you have to do your part

No media organization, and no combination of media organizations, will be able to answer everyone’s questions or satisfy everyone’s information needs. Given the potential consequences of becoming infected with coronavirus, anyone who is in a position to provide useful information, as well as those who have any level of responsibility to deal with this issue, should take appropriate actions.

Are you a person who should step up?

In a major public health or safety situation, persons in authority like a senior manager in a company or an elected official is probably already busy making plans and decisions, and they likely have several people helping them make things happen. Medical professionals and first responders are either already aware of what needs to be done and are actively helping others.

As for everyone else, sometimes they have other people looking up to them for help in understanding what is going on and what to do. If one or more of the following descriptions sound like you, then you are exactly the kind of person I’m talking about:

  • You are a parent, manager, small business owner, caregiver, or anyone else responsible for care, education, livelihood, or well-being of other people,
  • You are in a situation where people are doing things that are increasing their risk of being infected, or
  • You are the person people in your family, at work, or in the community come to for advice or help with their computer problem, the cable company, or their personal finances.

What you should do

In a situation such as the current coronavirus pandemic, two of the most important things you can do are to find useful information and to communicate that information to those who need it.

Useful information, in this case, is the kind of medical and safety information that is being published and broadcast from national and international public health organizations like CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), WHO (World Health Organization), and national, regional, state, and local governments.

News media organizations, and other information sources such as social media, may rely on these same organizations, but they may not be providing the best information for you. If that is the case, take the time and energy to find that information on your own.

Suggested resource you can use

Based in part on my work with, I’ve put together a guide for public health experts to use when dealing with the media, but much of what is in there is useful for anyone who needs to understand what is going on with coronavirus, and who also needs to explain it to other people.

The guide has two parts, a collection of links to resources from CDC, WHO, and other organizations, as well as a how-to guide for clearly explaining information to someone else. It does not matter if you are talking to an audience of one million, one thousand, or even one, the same process applies, and it goes something like this:

  • Have a mission or a purpose (for example, understanding what to do to reduce your risk)
  • Find the best information on the topic
  • Take some time to understand it well enough to explain it to someone else clearly and without too many words
  • Take action

Download it now!

If you want to take the next step, please download the following document and check it out:

Engaging with the media in the face of the coronavirus pandemic



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Todd Curtis (airsafe)

Todd Curtis (airsafe)

Former USAF and Boeing engineer and creator of aviation safety and security site