It’s not just the COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping the globe.
This second pandemic is equally as insidious and just as contagious, albeit, in a different way: there’s an infodemic, and it’s happening on our social media feeds right now.
Infodemic was first coined in 2003 as another coronavirus was taking hold. Journalist and political scientist David Rothkopf used the word in a Washington Post column about the SARS pandemic, writing that the story of SARS was “not one epidemic, but two.” The second being an “information epidemic…[that] has made the public health crisis harder to control and contain.”
Rothkopf defined the infodemic as “a few facts,” mixed together with fear, speculation, and rumor, then relayed and amplified by our modern communication technologies. In the two decades since the infodemic entered the lexicon, the modern communication technologies that Rothkopf referenced have grown; today, the list includes much more than a handful of social media sites, newsletters, and news sites—all of which are contributing to the current infodemic in their own ways.
Public Trust at an All-Time Low
Public trust in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries has waxed and waned over the years. In 2017, Edelman’s yearly Trust Barometer report showed declines in public trust in the healthcare, HealthTech, and pharmaceutical sectors, fueled by a combination of cybersecurity concerns, the misuse of patient data, and the proliferation of fake HealthTech apps.
In 2019, the healthcare-specific Trust Barometer showed an “alarming and widening gap” in public trust in the industry. And the results of this year’s Trust Barometer showed that although improvements in healthcare are at the top of a long list of social priorities, public trust in healthcare subsectors—including hospitals, biotech, the pharmaceutical industry, and public health professionals—is in a global decline.
So, what’s behind this lack of trust?
It’s safe to say that social media—and its access to an unprecedented amount of information—has a lot to do with it.
Both misinformation and disinformation spread like wildfire on social media platforms, and the sheer volume of content means that much of this information goes unchecked. On TikTok, influencers share bite-sized videos rife with misinformation on everything from intermittent fasting to reproductive health. On Instagram, anti-vaxxers run rampant. And on Facebook, both misinformation and disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic is the rule, not the exception.
The problem is bad enough that multiple medical journals, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to the Journal of the American Medical Association to the Journal of Medical Internet Research, have covered the topic. These numerous studies all drew similar conclusions: something needs to be done.
How PR Can Help HealthTech and Beyond
For HealthTech and MedTech companies, in particular, the spread of misinformation and disinformation on social platforms makes the use of social media a risky proposition. However, as an industry, HealthTech is popular: investors are excited, and many consumers have embraced the wearable devices and mobile apps that HealthTech has developed. As innovation in the industry continues, companies need to communicate with investors and consumers. But how?
It would be shortsighted for a communications plan in this day and age to exclude social media from its strategy. Social media provides a direct line to the public, fosters conversation, and can—when conditions are right—create a viral sensation out of a product or device.
At times, social media can be unpredictable, and while TikTok can be valuable, not every product is best represented through a viral dance trend—and doing so can hurt a company’s image with the public. Twitter is extremely popular—the site boasted 186 million users in 2020—but the short-form nature of Tweets is an easy way for a company to misspeak or for a short statement to be taken wildly out of context. And on Reddit, popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) events can easily spiral out of control and off-message.
Partnering with a seasoned public relations professional and a firm that specializes in social media communications for the HealthTech industry can remove some volatility from the equation. Today, many PR pros live and breathe social media: they know what’s trending, what’s not, and what organizations should stay away from. These pros can also help navigate the regulatory side of social media communications, penning posts that are both engaging and within regulatory guidelines.
There’s a pervasive misconception that public relations professionals are nothing more than spin doctors. This myth—its own form of misinformation—might lead to wariness among clients in partnering with a public relations firm. After all, the point of using a PR firm is to improve your communications tactics.
The good news for HealthTech firms looking to engage with public relations is that PR and spin are two different things. Engaging in spin-doctoring is directly in conflict with the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) code of ethics. PRSA members are obligated to adhere to “the highest standards” of both accuracy and truth and have a responsibility to communicate with integrity. Partnering with a responsible PR firm then means that HealthTech companies can—and should—rest easy.
TMG360 Media brings over three decades of high-quality public relations experience to the table, led by a team with over 100 years of MedTech and HealthTech experience. And our team knows social media: in fact, we believe it’s one of the most important communication avenues that companies can take advantage of. With some strategy and polish, social media can create significant opportunities for HealthTech businesses everywhere.
Are you ready to learn more about how social media can help your business? Reach out and schedule a 30-minute complimentary session with a dedicated TMG360 Media HealthTech social media expert today.
About the Author
A digital marketing executive with two decades of experience in a variety of industries, and a connoisseur at using his creative and analytical skills to adapt to the rapidly evolving digital space, Jamie Hurley, CEO, manages the overall operations and resources at TMG360 Media.
With all of the many changes in the digital media realm, Jamie prides himself on always being able to quickly adapt to ensure his clients are always at the forefront of digital developments.
Having a natural instinct to become a mogul in the business world, while in high school, he began his first business: a dry-cleaning delivery service. By the age of 19, he was already a partner in a first-generation digital marketing firm, finding that he was a natural at seeing business and market needs.
Bringing that same dedication and big-picture-vision to every project, today, he uses his rich, hands-on business experience and depth of digital marketing knowledge to design elevated campaigns and successful growth strategies for clients of all stripes.
“Success is no accident. It takes hard work, perseverance, learning, sacrifice, and most of all, loving what you do. Every aspect of the operation excites me about being an executive in the digital space from developing strategic partnerships and visualizing new market opportunities to dissecting analytics across platforms and the challenges of scaling up operations,” he says.