1mg Battles Misinformation in the Age of COVID-19

Patient consulting doctor via laptop computer at home.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in our lifetime. In times of uncertainty, people have an increased appetite for consistent, reliable and fact-based information they can trust.

When India’s COVID-19 cases began ramping up in March this year, Comscore reported a 61% increase in visits to news websites and apps compared to the previous month. Similarly, during Australia’s bushfire crisis, the national broadcaster ABC saw an 11.3% rise in traffic to its domains.

Regrettably, a spike in the number of people online causes some less reputable outlets to jostle for eyeballs, and misinformation runs rampant as a result. In the case of COVID-19, we’ve all seen stories of miracle cures and preventative measures that aim to assuage our collective anxiety, but ultimately have no basis in fact.

While journalistic integrity has always been important for building trust in our media, the current climate has shown it’s just as effective when it comes to brands.

Take, for example, 1mg; an online healthcare platform based in India. 1mg provides a raft of services which are important for health upkeep, particularly during a lockdown. Its offerings include home delivery of prescription medications, video consultations with doctors and online booking and sample collection for diagnostic services.

Prateek Verma, leader of product, design and marketing at 1mg says, “We feel a sense of responsibility to make sure our customers, family members, friends, or anyone who’s been a part of our life get only authentic and verified information.”

1mg has around 14 million active users per month and processes an average one million transactions. With a customer base of this scale, it’s not surprising the company has put a premium on its content strategy, a premium that has only strengthened during COVID-19.

“One of the strongest pillars we have at 1mg is our content, which from the outset has been crucial in building trusted relationships with our customers,” explains Verma. “Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen many of our users reach out to us in different ways seeking one assured stream of information. This has been the key motivation behind our COVID-19 strategy,” he said.

A strategy to meet demand

Public demand for reliable, current information during COVID-19 requires a content management system that can deliver both in terms of creation and dissemination. For 1mg, this involves a team of medical experts, doctors, design personnel, brand and marketing professionals working around the clock.

“Our pillars for this project were very clear. The information we provide would be expert-driven, it would be research-backed and it would be non-manipulative,” said Verma. “We built a team of medical experts, including doctors, and we told them that for two months or so, they’d have to go deep into COVID-19 and come back with all the relevant and authentic information.”

The team commissioned by 1mg connected with healthcare experts working in the field of COVID-19 to develop their own expertise on topics like diagnostics, treatment and trials. To boost the credibility and authenticity of the content, all research was gathered with input from trusted medical bodies including the World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with apex Government bodies, including Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Indian Council of Medical Research.

Verma says this approach has enabled 1mg to “create a deep, rich reservoir of medical content to address everyday concerns related to COVID-19”. In addition to written content, the company has created graphics, audio books, interviews and even TikTok videos for its audience.

Over the course of one month, 1mg created 25 articles and 20 videos, almost five times the regular content output. The team also experimented with new content delivery modes, such as eBooks. To date, 1mg has published 12 eBooks, in English, Hindi and multiple other regional languages.

But as Verma explains, “Creation is only a part of the equation. Rich, verified content is only good if it gets consumed by people and for that you need design thinking, you need product thinking, you need branding and you need marketing teams to disseminate it properly.”

Considerations around dissemination include timing, audiences, channels, mediums and tools. 1mg utilises internal blogs, social media, email, push notifications, WhatsApp instant messaging and custom-built widgets on its website to get its messages out to the world.

India is an incredibly diverse nation with multiple languages and dialects which create an additional challenge. Important information needs to be accessible to everyone, so engaging audiences across the entire country is critical to 1mg’s strategy.

“Whenever we create something it has to be replicated for a host of languages, at least eight to 10 prominent ones. To achieve that we’ve had to find experts from all different backgrounds speaking different languages to feed into the content creation,” explains Verma.

Having the right tools, and a team who can use them, is critical in delivering a content strategy of this scale. 1mg relies on Adobe Campaign and other solutions to meet demand.

Credibility pays off

For 1mg, doubling down on its commitment to content during this period has paid reputational dividends. “The credibility of our content is appreciated by many, many people and in a few instances has spread far and wide,” says Verma. “The first piece we created was read over one million times, and others have been shared by Cabinet ministers, journalists and even Bollywood personalities!” he said.

Other brands have got in on the action too. Online food delivery company, Swiggy, has partnered with 1mg to create content on the do’s and don’ts of online food ordering.

Most appreciative though are 1mg’s loyal customer base, who can rely on a healthcare brand they trust to ferry them through this period of unease and uncertainty. For brands looking to build more authentic connections with their customers, 1mg has drawn a blueprint we all can follow.