Last year, we celebrated the first International Day for Universal Access to Information. Perhaps, there is no year more appropriate than 2020 to commemorate an important milestone in humanity. The internet’s reach is vast, so vast that it can now reach the deepest recesses of the Amazon rainforest. Never has been access to information as important as last year when the coronavirus has bludgeoned economies to their knees and took so many lives that social media felt like an obituary.
It is reasonable to think that without the information about the coronavirus, people wouldn’t know how to protect themselves from it. While millions have died and millions more are suffering from the virus, imagine how catastrophic it could have been if the World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t make sure effective communication was at the core of the pandemic.
False Information Misleading Even in First-world Countries
Even in highly developed countries like the United States, false and incomplete information about the pandemic still hurts a lot of people. For a time, there were fake news spreading that the virus can spread through smartphones. There was even one tidbit that said eating certain foods can lead to COVID-19. Then, there are also different beliefs on what cures it. Some said that virgin coconut oil can treat COVID-19 while others swear that anti-parasitic drugs can be the cure the world has been waiting for.
All these claims hurt the government’s efforts to respond to the pandemic effectively. Not to mention, people who believe these rumors will put themselves and their families in harm’s way. There is still a widespread belief among some sectors that the COVID-19 was a hoax. Some said it was a mere government ploy to control and manipulate them.
That’s why many pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, government agencies, and health care facilities partnered with public relations agencies. Now more than ever, med-tech companies need PR services for healthcare startups because they have to communicate clearly with their stakeholders. Companies that manufactured med-tech devices, assays, and testing kits need to strategize for the best way to sell these products to their target market.
Since there is a lot of misunderstanding about what these test kits and devices can do amid a pandemic, it was only right for pharmaceutical companies and healthcare institutions to use the power of the internet to relay accurate information. If civilized and modern society can get fooled by fake news and rumors, how big of a problem this is in underdeveloped nations? Misinformation about COVID-19 can be deadly to such societies.
Regular Flow of Vital Information
During the height of the virus outbreak last year, society’s access to accurate information spelled the difference between life and death. Although self-serving institutions withheld information, humans did a good job digging into the crux of the matter. That was why many groups around the world advocated for the public’s access to vital information.
Last year and up until today, information is a necessity along with food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention. It wasn’t a luxury that only a few can afford. It was as critical to humans as the mechanical ventilator that kept many COVID-19 patients alive and well.
The Role of Media, PR Agencies
The spread of misinformation is a pandemic on its own. That’s why the responsibility of reporting, researching, and disseminating the correct information fell on the shoulders of media organizations. And it’s not just them. Even public relations agencies must help their respective organizations and clients. They needed to explain the intricacies of the pandemic to the stakeholders. What does social distancing mean? How does wearing a face mask prevent the spread and transmission of the coronavirus?
Access to such information has become as vital as breathing last year. It’s not enough to report about this on the news. Media organizations have to create social media cards while PR companies needed to earn the trust of the stakeholders. From press releases to marketing videos to podcasts to community radio to apps, there was an endless stream of information that became humanity’s saving grace.
Even if it was not about the coronavirus pandemic, access to information is now a right and necessity. It is not merely reserved for the privileged now. Last year, it was a matter of life or death for the information to reach its intended audience. Today and in the future, access to accurate information will hold the key to the ability of humans to survive catastrophes and crises. Similar to how the world is trying to survive the pandemic now, information and the correct interpretation of it will lead society out of the abyss.