Dr Verena Wottrich
Communication and Dissemination Specialist
Dr Verena Wottrich is Communication and Dissemination Specialist at Martel and involved in community building, communication and dissemination activities for various H2020 projects. Prior to joining Martel, Verena worked as Head of Communication and Spokesperson for the Media Authority of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany, which is the coordinator of the EU-funded German Safer Internet Centre. There, she was also involved in the two EU-funded digital literacy projects klicksafe and SELMA. Verena holds a PhD in Social and Behavioural Science from the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam. In her dissertation, she investigated consumers’ privacy decisions in the context of mobile apps.
“Please, not another blog on COVID-19…. I am so done with this topic; I don’t wanna hear it anymore.” Admit it or not, I bet many of you thought this during the past weeks: Throughout March 2020, when the COVID-19 emergency gained momentum, we watched and surfed ceaselessly, having troubles believing that what we see in front of us is not part of a reissued Armageddon movie.
This behaviour is reflected in the record audience shares major news portals reported during the past weeks: As a recent study conducted by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) among 18 Public Media Service (PMS) organisations in Europe shows, during peak days of the COVID-19 crisis, the reach of PSM evening news went up x2 the average. For PSM online news content, the increase is even higher: The daily reach of online news websites of PSM went up x2.7.
Now, more than one month on, the curve of COVID-19 infections has flattened and so has the traffic curve of news sites. Lockdown measures are slowly being released and interest in COVID-19 content is waning. The latter is at least what recent figures of NiemanLab, the primary journalism institution at Harvard University, show. It seems some of us have developed a severe case of COVID-19 news fatigue.
News fatigue is not a new phenomenon. As demonstrated in the 2017 edition of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, a third of respondents often or sometimes actively avoid news. The most commonly named reasons for avoiding the news are because it negatively affects respondents’ mood (48%), respondents feel they cannot rely on the news to be true (37%) and that they cannot do anything about the things they see in the news (28%).
The reason for my case of COVID-19 news fatigue is definitely reason number 1: it negatively affects my mood. Nevertheless, I am still a Communication and Dissemination Specialist and the COVID-19 pandemic, probably one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime (the other being climate change), is not over yet. Hence, not communicating about COVID-19 is not an option. So let’s think together about how we can meaningfully communicate during and after the COVID-19 emergency and break through coronavirus fatigue.
Even in times of COVID-19, Lasswell’s five W’s of Communication should always be the starting point of every communication activity: WHO, says WHAT, in WHICH channel, to WHOM, with WHAT effect. So far, so good, but this does not cure COVID-19 fatigue yet. Maybe we should have a look at the time of publishing communications?
With many of us working remotely, media usage patterns have changed. Sprout Social has recently reviewed data from 20.000+ customers and recommends the following time slots for posting most effectively on social media during COVID-19:
- Facebook: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10-11 am
- Instagram: Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 11 am and Tuesday at 2 pm
- Twitter: Friday 7-9 am
- LinkedIn: Wednesday 3 pm, Thursday at 9–10 am, and Friday from 11 am-noon
Well, ok…It is certainly important to think of the right timing to communicate, but that still does not wake me up out of my coronavirus content fatigue.
Martel supports you in your Marketing and Communication Outreach. Have a look at how we communicate to support our community in times of COVID-19
What would certainly attract my attention during my restricted COVID-19 media diet is this: optimistic and effective action in times of crisis. Yes, the current situation is horrible, and it has disastrous effects on our lives, economy, society, etc. Yes, it is very easy to get frustrated and desperate because even though we follow the social distancing rules, there is little we can do to help balance out the negative effects the crisis has on others. Still, we can always act within our own surroundings and find ways to alter some little segment of the future, so that we do not drown in the overwhelming present.
Against this backdrop, for your communication activities to be valuable in times of COVID-19 maybe ask yourself: What action can you take now to help people deal with the current crisis? How can you use the things you are already good at to improve your community’s ability to handle the current storm? You won’t be the superhero who saves the world from the next hurricane. But you can do your one thing. And you can talk about that thing!