In a time of crisis, people need to receive the right information in the most appropriate medium. And that poses an interesting marketing challenge for public health organisations — how do you get the right message out there?

During the Great Depression and World War 2, American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt regularly addressed the nation through a series of ‘fireside chats’ that were broadcasted over the radio. Their goal was to clearly explain his policies in a turbulent time and reassure the country. Ultimately, the reason you send out any message — whether as a politician, a business, or a charity — is to influence thought and inspire action.

But fireside chats would not work today.

Former US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt hosting a Fireside Chat

Fast forward to 2020 — how does modern media inspire action? Through mixing entertainment and education. For younger generations who don’t take themselves too seriously, it’s all about the challenges, dances, and memes on Tik Tok, Instagram and Twitter.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently launched their own Tik Tok account to share information on the coronavirus.

This is a really great initiative, but where they need to take advantage of Tik Tok isn’t just through posting regular videos of people talking but by embracing best practices like interactive challenges.

In another video, the WHO has Alisson Becker (Liverpool FC’s goalkeeper) doing a #safehandschallenge, where he washes his hands correctly with a song playing in the background.

Why stop there? The WHO could get Allison Becker to challenge every one of his teammates on Liverpool, and other football players around the world. The WHO could actively crowdsource user-generated content on TikTok, Instagram, and other channels.

Some Tik Tok influencers have tried spreading information about the Coronavirus in a more Tik-Tok-y way. Mikirai (@mikiraiofficial) is a registered nurse from California who creates Tik Tok videos teaching people about the Coronavirus through dance. The WHO’s marketing strategy should include both famous celebrities and smaller, more relatable influencers like Mikirai in order to reach a larger audience.

Other public sector organisations around the world seem to understand this. A group of policemen in the Indian state of Kerala broadcasted the proper technique for washing your hands with a hand washing dance and song playing in the background.

Vietnam’s health ministry worked with local singers to create a lighthearted and catchy music video to educate people about the Coronavirus.

After this video was released, Vietnamese dancer Quang Đăng created his own hand washing dance #GhenCovyChallenge that went viral across Tik Tok and other social platforms.

In the Philippines, the Department of Health created their own TikTok account and immediately started with their own entertaining public health message.

The Philippines Department of Health

In the UK, I found the NHS TikTok account has only one video that was posted a day ago. I hope it’s just the beginning of their social media strategy.

The official NHS TikTok account

And I couldn’t find any TikTok accounts from the US Department of Health.

Whether for cultural, political, or other reasons, it looks like Asian public health institutions are embracing how to market their message to younger people much more quickly than their Western equivalents.

Marketing requires a healthy understanding of the zeitgeist, especially if you want to reach even the most jaded Millennials/Gen-Z audiences. And marketing the topic of public health to younger generations is essentially about combining education with entertainment. This reflects our modern world of short attention spans, content consumed on mobile devices, and a healthy respect for authenticity.

During the coronavirus, our health is both directly and indirectly impacted by the actions of others. So by making people smile about public health online, we can make them act seriously offline.

By using a bit of humour to share an important message, we can save lives.

I’m always looking to meet and work with like-minded people from around the world. You can find me on Twitter and Linkedin — come say hi!

Sign up to my Substack newsletter to read more articles like this and more!

Tech, Entertainment, Media, Emerging Markets. Ex-Facebook and Singularity University.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store