Publication - Advice and guidance

Exotic diseases of animals: communications strategy

Published: 17 Oct 2017

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.

30 page PDF

770.2 kB

30 page PDF

770.2 kB

Exotic diseases of animals: communications strategy
7. Media Strategy

30 page PDF

770.2 kB

7. Media Strategy

Scottish Government Communications Directorate ( SGCD)

Working with wider government

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

7.2 Scottish Government Communications directorate ( SGCD) will also work alongside other UK administrations (through attendance at the daily GB Communications Group Meetings, Animal Disease Policy Group, daily birdtable meetings) and operational partners. Frequency of operational partner meetings will be agreed between SGCD and 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 SGCD 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 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 posting Podcasts, videos and messages on the Scottish Government’s own website.

Strategic feedback on the developing media story

7.6 SGCD will provide strategic feedback to DSG, NDCC, LDCC and other key disease response structures on what direction the media story is taking and 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, SGCD will consider deploying a Communications Officer to the 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 SGCD will liaise with Defra Group Communications ( APHA Team). The Communications Officer will brief both, FOB and LDCC staff from the outset, so that any approach from journalists is referred to SGCD. A key means of engagement with operational partners will be through attendance at the LDCC Management Control Team meetings. All media queries in relation to disease control MUST still be routed through SGCD, even if a Communications Officer is on site locally.


7.8 The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity 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 SGCD and Communications officers from the other UK Administrations.

7.9 There may also be scope for the Outbreak Director for Scotland to become involved in media briefings at the LDCC, supported by the Local Communications Officer. This, however, is only likely to occur after least 72 hours into the disease response. In the early stages the Outbreak Director and other LDCC 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. SGCD 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 LDCC Management Control Team.

Social Media

7.11 People use social media during emergencies for up-to-date information and to and 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 outbreak so it is important to counteract inaccurate or misleading information at the earliest opportunity.

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, Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs ( DAERA), APHA, HPS National Incident Management Team (where an outbreak has zoonotic potential) and relevant RP Public Communication Groups, the SGCD will determine the arrangements for effective partnership working and coordinate the drafting, clearing and release of information via social media channels.

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






’Rural Matters’ (Facebook page of Rural Payments and Inspections Division ( RPID))


Email: Frances Hepburn Frances Hepburn

Telephone: Central Enquiries Unit 0300 244 4000