Background/Purpose: To explore perception of spokespersons' performance and characteristics in response to the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. Methods: This study was conducted from March to July, 2005, using semi-structured in-depth interviews to collect data. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. A qualitative content analysis was employed to analyze the transcribed data. Interviewees included media reporters, media supervisors, health and medical institution executives or spokespersons, and social observers. Results: Altogether, 35 interviewees were recruited for in-depth interviews, and the duration of the interview ranged from 1 hour to 2 hours. Results revealed that the most important characteristics of health/medical institutions spokespersons are professional competence and good interaction with the media. In contrast, the most important behaviors they should avoid are concealing the truth and misreporting the truth. Three major flaws of spokespersons' performance were identified: they included poor understanding of media needs and landscape; blaming the media to cover up a mistake they made in an announcement; and lack of sufficient participation in decision-making or of authorization from the head of organization. Conclusion: Spokespersons of health and medical institutions play an important role in media relations during the crisis of a newly emerging infectious disease.
- Crisis communication
- Media relations
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome
ASJC Scopus subject areas