Richard Besser recently came to Baltimore to speak at one of our grand rounds, and I was impressed by the personal insight he shared.
A pediatrician who did his residency at Johns Hopkins, Richard served as the acting head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is now the chief health and medical editor for ABC News. Thanks in part to his unconventional career trajectory, Richard has unusual insights into the role that communication plays in health care. By showcasing his revelations through storytelling—whether wryly recounting banter with President Obama or sharing visceral accounts of Ebola care in West Africa—he relays powerful ways that we can improve how we talk to each other and our patients, and how we share information with the world. Here are my top seven, quick-hit takeaways from his presentation.
- Share facts and share fast: I find this is easily lost, especially in corporate communications. Make your point accurately and quickly.
- Be lean and mean: The more layers of bureaucracy, approvals and contributors, the slower you will be.
- Use simple language and the right words to provoke the response you want: Insider industry language is almost always alienating to the general public. Think of words as tools; you need precisely the right ones to get the job done well.
- Trust is essential: When trust breaks down, your message is lost, no matter how true and accurate your reporting is.
- Know that people do not always trust the scientific data. Case in point: the increase in people who do not vaccinate their children, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of their safety and efficacy.
- Underpromise and overdeliver: This is good advice in almost any situation. The opposite, overpromising and underdelivering, obviously hurts your credibility.
- Repeat your message in as many venues as possible: Use TV, social media, print and any venues you can to ensure your message is heard by the most people. Especially in times of crisis, this helps prevent misinformation from spreading.
These are just a few of my takeaways. Watch the presentation, and let me know yours!