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CORONAVIRUS COMMUNICATIONS: WHY FIRMER GOVERNMENT MESSAGING WAS NEEDED

Anyone can get it.

Anyone can spread it.

Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.

This is the new messaging that the government released last night, after previous attempts of strong Coronavirus communications messaging to the public arguably failed.

Coronavirus Communications – How Important Is Getting The Message Right?

Throughout the unfolding of this pandemic, the government has been met with the challenge of keeping the public well informed and engaged; essentially, they hold the key to successfully containing the virus. The challenge, however, is to share key information, without causing panic or underplaying the issue.

Initially, this begun with the government trying to assure people that the virus would be able to be contained, in multiple press confrences it was downplayed. Now, several weeks on, the Coronavirus communications tactics have changed.

Learning from their mistakes, we believe that the government has noted that their earlier tactics were not successful, and have now moved to more open, transparent, and if you like – firmer – comms.

The announcement of the lockdown was unlike anything this generation has ever seen. The messaging from the government was clear and concise: you must not leave your home.

Before this, using words such as ‘we advise’ and ‘we suggest’ meant that many did not feel inclined to follow the rules, which could potentially be to blame for the increase outbreak of Covid-19 that the UK is now experiencing.

Now, they have gone one step further: explicitly stating that anyone can get Coronavirus, and consequently, anybody can spread it. You must stay home if you want to protect the NHS and save lives.

Coronavirus Communications - New Government Messaging

The best Coronavirus communications ads are those that are clear, but also relatable. They need to hit home and feel personal. The handwashing ad message put out by the government, for example, was effective – giving people a clear message and a simple way of ensuring the right amount of time is taken by twice singing one of the UK’s best-known songs – ‘Happy Birthday’.

This kind of message sticks in the mind, and is something that we don’t doubt the public would have taken on board, as the message was strong and no-nonsense.

Again, the ‘catch it, bin it and kill it’ advert that we’ve all come to know shows a simple way for people to take basic protective measures with clear illustrations and a simple message.

There are no suggestions, there is a firm ‘you must do this’ tone in the messaging, and this is why it works.

Why Did The Government Change Their Message?

The more generic advice to ‘stay off work and self-isolate for 14 days’ if feeling unwell, argugably lead to exploitation.

It’s a simple message but one that required more detail considering the potential impact on the economy. In situations like this, a rigid Coronavirus communications message is required and though trying not to cause hysteria, it would have been a better idea for the government to give the public all the information they had available. Perhaps then, the population may have understood the implications and repercussions of continuing to socialise and ignore social distancing guidelines for as long as they did.

They say a picture paints a thousand words, this comparison image of the Kaaba in Saudia Arabia shows the impact that the right messaging can have:

Coronavirus Communications - New Government Messaging Coronavirus Communications - New Government Messaging

The shift in the outward communication from the government now has seen more definitive messaging in place: “you must stay at home”, “you must not see friends”.

Following this, a large proportion of the working population is now doing so remotely, people are following guidelines to only leave the house once daily, and shops are now practicing prolific social distancing measures. The change in communication is in no doubt responsible for this, and it goes to show the importance of putting across the right message.

Communication works.

In all cases though, the government must also refrain from getting drawn into ‘Armageddon scenarios’ by speculating on figures for potential rises in deaths or NHS capabilities.

We’ve already seen incredible panic food buying in shops and it is likely to detract from the messages around how best to manage the impending epidemic. Your message needs to be clear and strong, and needs to ensure no room is left for speculation.”

Getting your communications right isn’t easy, if it was, everybody would be experts!

 

If you or your business is in need of professional, quality and, if needs be, confidential Coronavirus Communications advice, please email louis@sourcepr.co.uk or call 01829 720 789.

Louis, Managing Director of The Source, recently gave the press his advice around the Government’s updated Coronavirus messaging as the updated campaigns were announced; his comments can be found in the Metro, ITV, Yahoo, Daily Mail and more.

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