CONSTRUCTING THE MESSAGE: A CHECKLIST
1. Don't over-reassure.
When giving reassuring information to frightened or ambivalent people, it is helpful to de-emphasize the fact that it is reassuring.
2. Put reassuring information in subordinate clauses.
"Even though we haven't seen a new case in 18 days, it is too soon to say we're out of the woods yet."
3. Acknowledge your uncertainty
W.H.O.'s David Heymann said "It is not clear what is going on and it is not clear what the
extent of the spread will be. It is a very difficult disease to figure out"
4. Don't overdiagnose for panic.
5. Don't ridicule the public's emotions.
6. Establish your own humanity.
7. Tell people what to expect
"we will learn things in the coming weeks that everyone will wish we had known when we started";
8. Offer worried people things to do
9. Acknowledge errors, deficiencies, and misbehaviors
10. Be explicit about "anchoring frames."
•"One might think we are over-reacting to the cases, but when you don't know the cause, when it
strikes hospital staff, and it is certainly moving at the speed of a jet, we are taking this very seriously"
11. Don't lie, and don't tell half-truths
12. Be careful with risk comparisons
13. Err on the alarming side.
14. Share dilemmas.
•15. Acknowledge opinion diversity.
16. Do not aim for zero fear.
17. Legitimize people's fears.
"Certainly a disease like SARS, so new, so frightening, should instill fear; fear is an appropriate
response, for me as a physician, for everyone in the community; [but] we need to transfer fear
into positive energy" Engel, State Epi, N Carolina
18. Tolerate early over-reactions
19. Let people choose their own actions
20. Ask more of people
21. Apologize often for errors, deficiencies, and misbehaviors
22. Be explicit about changes in official opinion, prediction, or policy
23. Aim for total candor and transparency