Characteristics of COVID-19 Spokespersons
In this study, scholars studied the COVID-19 communication from 20 heads of government from around the world. Understanding the language used is important because it has been shown to affect compliance for public health recommendations. Particularly noteworthy is the ineffectiveness of fear appeals, and it was clear in this study, that men used more fear-invoking emotional appeals by making references to war than women did whose emotional appeals focused on compassion and social cohesion.
Another study addressed the effectiveness of public figures communicating about social distancing during COVID-19 in six different countries. The most effective spokesperson across countries and demographic strata was Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the least effective were celebrity spokespersons. Thus, the most effective messengers of COVID-19 information are scientific experts and governments. Carefully choosing who communicates important health information is vital for persuading individuals to enact recommended behaviors.
A different perspective, however, comes from a group of scholars in Poland who argues that both scientists and non-specialists must communicate about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination to control the pandemic. They offer the following suggestions for effective communication:
- Organize expert groups communicating science on COVID-19 vaccines
- Track and tackle fake news on COVID-19 vaccines
- Equip celebrities and politicians with scientific information on COVID-19 vaccines
- Support COVID-19 vaccination through public letters and statements
- No tolerance to false and manipulated claims on COVID-19 vaccines
Use of Social Media in Informing and Persuading about COVID-19
Many of the messages disseminated occur through social media, which is an important communication channel to use during the pandemic. In this review of 81 studies about the role of social media and COVID-19, scholars determined social media serves a crucial role in disseminating health information and tackling infodemics and misinformation. Another study found that people are turning to social media to gain knowledge about COVID-19. Users are able to differentiate between real and fake news, and they prefer to follow official sources to learn best practices.
Multiple Influences Affect People’s COVID-19 Behaviors
The importance of wearing facemasks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 cannot be underscored enough. This study, however, determined that persuading people to wear a face covering involves more than direct orders. Recognizing and acknowledging the sociopolitical and cultural practices of mask-wearing is essential for improving personal and collective compliance. Another study highlighted the complexities of mask-wearing and urges message designers to recognize and acknowledge the multi-factorial influences affecting this decision, including intrapersonal (e.g., attitudes), interpersonal (e.g., social networks), and societal (e.g., government mandates) influences.
Targeted Information Needed for Different Populations
Several studies have explored different groups of people’s attitudes and behaviors related to COVID-19. Scholars have noted how specific groups respond to different messages, and all have called for targeted communication efforts addressing each group’s specific needs. For example, researchers have focused on needs for mental health education and communication for serving military soldiers, reduced social isolation strategies for individuals with chronic disabilities, and different types of support resources for nursing staff.