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A Leader's Guide to Crisis Communication: Lessons from Ebola for COVID-19

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Journal Article - Open Access

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Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Gaithersburg United States

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A crisis is defined as a critical turning point, a time of intense difficulty, or danger when an associated important decision is made to protect individuals from harm and save lives. Indeed, in their book Theorizing Crisis Communication, professors Timothy Sellnow and Matthew Seeger outline over 2 dozen typologies of crisis. They assert that a crisis poses a significant threat to high priority goals such as life, property, security, health, and psychological stability.2 Collectively, the threats to high priority goals create anxiety and stress, and often require some immediate action by leaders in response to the crisis to limit and contain harm. Clear communication by leaders during a crisis is essential to limit harm and ultimately resolve the crisis. General axioms of crisis communication include preparation, communication plan development, and coordination of message through designatedpersonnel.3 However, even in the best cases, critical information can be lost in communication and consequently place lives at risk. The consideration of what to communicate and how to communicate during a crisis using lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak as well as lessons now emerging from the Coronavirus Disease 2019 COVID-19 pandemic is the focus of this perspective. This perspective offers practical guidelines for leaders identified here as the 3 Ws and 4Csof crisis communication. These factors offer a checklist to be readily applied in a crisis, as well as in training for crisis response.

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  • Medicine and Medical Research
  • Administration and Management

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