Friday, May 1, 2009

10 Things to Learn from the CDC

Advertising Age recently published the article “In a Time of Crisis, Sexy and Flashy Doesn't Count.” With the Swine Flu - I’m sorry, the 2009 H1N1 Virus - slipping off everyone’s tongue every time someone coughs or sneezes, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has done a particularly fantastic job on communicating during a crisis. The article lists ten things marketers can learn from the CDC's response to the Swine Flu epidemic.
  1. Empower those who want to help others: The CDC website allows site visitors to subscribe to and share its content, especially the real-time information.
  2. Make search really, really simple and accessible: This search feature should be on the homepage of the website. It's not enough to simple build a search capability into your site. Repeatedly test it with important queries and make sure it works on timely topics.
  3. Syndicate the message: Everyone is talking about the Swine Flu. The CDC needs a presence, or some level of representation everywhere. The CDC has made its swine flu information easy to share and pass-on virally through social networks, such as widgets, Twitter links and embeddable mobile apps. The CDC even set up a account specific for crisis situations.
  4. Communicate in multiple languages: Everyone needs to know, period. Even though CDC is a U.S. agency, you can learn about swine flu in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese or even Tagalog.
  5. Push mobile as a service extension, and don't make it complicated: The CDC appears to be working really hard to make its data available to consumers via mobile devices, services or widgets.
  6. Be simple and selective on Twitter, don't over complicate: Share only the most essential content. Everything the @CDCEmergency account shares is important, timely and actionable.
  7. Prime the messaging: The CDC created Health eCards on topics like "Teach Hand Washing" or "Immunization." And by tweeting early, the CDC is helping to frame the public's perception of this event by providing rational and fact-based messaging.
  8. Update the scorecard 24/7: The CDC refreshes and updates the swine flu "scorecard" on the front page daily. This builds confidence and authority. It keeps people coming back. It doesn't need to be sexy or flashy; it just needs to be reliable and consistent. Timeliness boosts relevance and credibility.
  9. Exploit sight, sound and motion: The CDC provides site visitors with multiple ways and formats to consume this serious content, from video explanations to podcasts featuring health domain experts.
  10. Proactively ask for feedback: On the front page of the CDC page there's a prominent "Tell us what you think" button and the ensuing process for providing feedback is simple and obvious. Even after the podcasts, they feature a "How are we doing?" button.

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