How the American Lung Association is addressing COVID-19

The organization is engaging audiences through email, webinars, videos and more—and it says engagement on its website has grown as consumers look for information around the crisis.

Health care communicators have a lot to accomplish these days.

We caught up with Julia Fitzgerald, the chief marketing officer for the American Lung Association. She shared some of the tactics and strategies that have been working for their efforts to engage important audiences during this crisis.

Here are her takeaways:

PR Daily: How are you responding to the COVID-19 crisis with your messaging as an organization?

Fitzgerald: As the American Lung Association, we are responding with information on lung health, staying well and minimizing the spread of the disease.  We are especially targeting specific information to our lung disease patients, whether that’s asthma, lung cancer, COPD or another lung disease, as they are especially at risk for complications.  We are also providing them with encouragement and tips during these times of social distancing and isolation.  Our patient engagement staff makes calls and our online support communities are very active.

PR Daily: What tactics have you found successful/worthwhile during this crisis?

Fitzgerald: Being nimble and using our incredible network of healthcare providers.

Regarding nimble—remember the first week of March?  We were publishing a great video about alternatives to the handshake.  The second week of March, we were taking that down and replacing it with social distancing information.

Regarding our healthcare providers volunteers—they are nothing short of heroes.  They have written blogs, hosted webinars, made videos describing the “front line” and what everyone can do to help and be safe.

PR Daily: How are you trying to reach low-information/less-accessible audiences?

Fitzgerald: Using multiple digital channels allows us the broadest reach, especially since most people are staying at home.  Our website traffic is up 84% year-over-year, driven by the surge in information seekers.  Providing emails, social and web information makes science based, credible information available to millions.

PR Daily: What are the key messages that should be shared?

Fitzgerald: Hygiene—effectively washing your hands, social distancing, the factors that increase the risks of complications from COVID-19 (challenged immune system, smoking, vaping), and what to do if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19.

PR Daily: Are you measuring your efforts? What metrics are meaningful for your work?

Fitzgerald: The easiest measures are web traffic, email open rates, lung hot line calls, webinar attendance.

PR Daily: What lessons are you taking away from this crisis for your org?

Fitzgerald: One lesson is our own organizational capabilities.  We quickly adapted to a 100% WFH operating system.  We learned how to convert live events to virtual events, we came up with internal and external communication strategies.   One a bigger scale, we have committed as the leading not for profit lung health organization to lead efforts with research that ensure future preparedness for respiratory viruses.

PR Daily: What gives you hope during this tough time?

Fitzgerald: American Lung is the trusted champion of lung health.  We have been through times like this before.  Our organization was founded in 1904 to eradicate the epidemic of the day – TB.  We pioneered the model of using education, advocacy, and research to defeat that disease and other lung diseases since.  We know this works and we will use it to help eliminate COVID-19 and other lung viruses they may emerge in the future.


How are you engaging audiences around COVID-19? Share your stories in the comments.

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