Exotic animal diseases communications strategy: August 2022

This communications strategy is for use in the event of a disease outbreak, whether a major outbreak with widespread disease, or a more limited incident.

7. Media strategy

Scottish Government Communications and Ministerial Support Directorate (CMSD)

Working with wider government

7.1 The CMSD will develop the media strategy for the disease response, outlining the approach to engaging with the media and responding to media enquiries. CMSD will liaise with Defra Group Communications (including Defra press office and the APHA Team) in managing media coverage; and will maintain close links to ensure that all media enquiries are channelled through CMSD.

7.2 CMSD will also work alongside the other UK administrations (through attendance at the daily GB Communications Group Meetings, Animal Disease Policy Group, daily bird table meetings) and operational partners. Frequency of operational partner meetings will be agreed between CMSD and the relevant RP Communications Group (PCG) to ensure national and local media are kept updated and that an accurate and consistent message is being projected from all agencies. The relationship with the media is a reciprocal one. The Scottish Government can expect to receive requests for interviews and information, whilst in turn will also want to use a range of media outlets to help disseminate information.

Working with journalists

7.3 The CMSD will ensure journalists are kept informed of developments and that information is imparted as widely as possible to the relevant people. Regular updates and specialist briefings will help convey the Scottish Government's message to the public, including matters relating to human health, where disease has any zoonotic potential.

7.4 Jargon-free information on the disease and its implications to animals and the general population will be made available through a range of digital and social media channels. This information will be crucial in ensuring the wider news media have an understanding of the situation, and should help prevent misleading information reaching the public.

7.5 Social media and online media will be used proactively to get information to the public on fast changing issues. Consideration will also be given to videos and messages on the Scottish Government's own website as well as the Scottish Government's Rural and Environment blog.

Strategic feedback on the developing media story

7.6 CMSD will provide strategic feedback to the DSG, NDCC, CDCC and other key disease response structures on what direction the media story is taking, and will highlight potential opportunities and threats. This will facilitate informed discussion for the development of the media strategy.

Local level media coordination

7.7 In the early phase of the disease, following confirmation, CMSD will consider deploying a Communications Officer to the APHA Forward Operating Base (FOB) to manage local media coverage at the IP. If a Defra Group Communications (APHA Team) is requested to fulfil this role, or to maintain a presence at an additional IP, then CMSD will liaise with Defra Group Communications and APHA Team as necessary. The Communications Officer will brief both, FOB and CDCC staff from the outset, so that any approach from journalists is referred to CMSD. A key means of engagement with operational partners will be through attendance at the CDCC Management Control Team meetings. All media queries in relation to disease control MUST still be routed through CMSD, even if a Communications Officer is on site locally.


7.8 The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands and CVO Scotland are likely to play a central role in speaking to the media. Officials involved in wider consequence management, such as the Chief Medical Officer Scotland (CMO), may also be called upon to act as spokespeople. Where an outbreak affects other parts of GB, as well as Scotland, Defra Communications Group will coordinate the response to national (UK) media bids; liaising with the CMSD and Communications officers from the other UK Administrations.

7.9 There may also be scope for the APHA Outbreak Director for Scotland to become involved in media briefings at the CDCC, supported by the Local Communications Officer. However, this is only likely to occur after at least 72 hours into the disease response. In the early stages, the Outbreak Director and other CDCC staff will be fully occupied with disease control duties and CVO Scotland should have covered all the salient points as national spokesperson.

7.10 Operational partners are also likely to receive media bids. CMSD will keep in contact with operational partners to share bids, key lines and messaging through established contacts within SG Communications and key operational partners' representatives within the CDCC Management Control Team.

Social Media

7.11 People use social media during emergencies to find up-to-date information and to share information on the developing situation. Social media channels complement existing communication channels and can be used to inform people about risks in their area, together with additional information on the possible impacts and precautions to take.

7.12 Rumours and misinformation can spread rapidly during a disease outbreaks, so it is important to counteract inaccurate or misleading information at the earliest opportunity using official comms.

7.13 During a large-scale outbreak, it is not expected that the Scottish Government will be able to monitor or deal with the volume of social media traffic in isolation. Working with Defra, the Welsh Government, DAERA, APHA, PHS National Incident Management Team (where an outbreak has zoonotic potential) and relevant RP Public Communication Groups, the CMSD will determine the arrangements for effective partnership working, and will coordinate the drafting, clearing and release of information via social media channels.

7.14 Scottish Government will use their most relevant social media accounts, this is likely to include (but not be limited to):





ScotGov Rural – the official Scottish Government account with news and information on agriculture, the food industry, rural areas and Islands.


Email: Animal.Health@gov.scot

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