Should you change how you engage your audience post-pandemic?

By Antonia Kanczula, Managing Editor

According to The Policy Institute at King’s College, London, over 60% of Brits think our post-pandemic world will be a very different place. And although we’re yet to fully emerge, already predicators and analysts are noticing stark – and potentially enduring – new trends and behaviours. Our collective Covid-19 experience has left an indelible mark. And it’s important that we as health content producers respond and adjust to the new normal. Both in terms of how we interact with our target audiences and also, at a time when there are so many issues vying for attention, what our core public health priorities are.

Be empathetic and authentic

After a period of taking stock and considering what really matters in life, audiences want honesty and integrity. For example, consumers are thinking more carefully about how and where they spend their money – nine in 10 people surveyed by IBM indicate sustainability is a bigger factor in their shopping choices because of the pandemic.  So, what does this mean for health content producers? That it’s vital to be user-focused, to listen and draw on empathy skills to truly walk in your audience’s shoes.

Promote mental health awareness

According to a survey by the charity Mind, over half of adults (51%) and young people (55%) who had not experienced mental health problems before said their mental health worsened during lockdown. Meanwhile, people with previous experience said their poor mental health was exacerbated. And certain groups have been disproportionately affected, including low-income families, people with disabilities and front-line workers. Content producers must continue to break down the stigma around mental health and signpost practical advice at every turn.

Build on behaviour change

With regular handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing, we’ve all changed our behaviour to minimise risk of Covid-19 transmission. The pandemic means we’re naturally paying closer attention to our health. Behaviour change research shows that people are more receptive to new behaviours in times of flux and uncertainty. This might explain why more than one million people have given up smoking since the pandemic hit, according to the charity Action on Smoking and Health. So, while acknowledging the negative impacts of Covid-19, it’s possible that our audiences are more pliable and receptive – and that we’ve also been handed an opportunity to inspire healthy new behaviours.

Support self-care and early diagnosis

The NHS is dealing with huge backlogs due to the pandemic burden. And studies show that people are reluctant to seek help for worrying symptoms, potentially influenced by the ‘Protect the NHS’ mantra. For example, according to joint research from Cardiff University and Cancer Research UK, almost half of people experiencing a potential symptom of cancer during the first wave of Covid-19 did not see a GP. As encapsulated by the ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign from NHS England and Public Health England, health content must reinforce the importance of early diagnosis in a supportive and reassuring way.

Be aware of financial challenges

Before coronavirus, 14.5 million people in the UK were caught up in poverty – that’s one in five people. And, according to research, the pandemic has edged 700,000 more into dire financial straits.  It’s vitally important that health content reflects our turbulent times. First in terms of highlighting the key impact of poverty on wellbeing: people in the bottom 40% of the income distribution are almost twice as likely to report poor health as those in the top 20%. And second, in terms of providing advice and support that’s tailored to people’s challenging financial circumstances. For example, signposting to budget-friendly healthy recipes, free fitness activities and health costs that people can get help with, including dental treatment and sight tests.

Boost digital transformation and access

The pandemic has had a huge impact on our online behaviours. From exercise classes on Zoom to online GP and therapist consultations, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity and its potential to boost wellbeing and access to healthcare. As our white paper Digital opportunities for women’s wellbeing highlights, digital platforms like health apps can also potentially bridge the UK’s sizeable gender health gap.

But returning to the issue of poverty, millions of people in the poorest households are digitally excluded. If you’re disadvantaged, you are less likely to be online and to have digital skills. So, at the same time as realising digital’s potential to transform health post-Covid, we should acknowledge that some audiences are better served via offline channels like SMS messages or print assets until access is widened.

Antonia is the Managing Editor at Thrive. She is responsible for overseeing our team of editors and delivering engaging health content.

Download our free white paper on the link below to learn how femtech and other digital platforms can overcome barriers to health access for women:

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