The message from the Government up to this point has been very clear – stay home, protect the NHS, save lives. Three things but a very simple meaning that lockdown was here because the focus has to be on tackling the virus and reducing the numbers of people dying. But now things are going to get much more complicated.
It is clear that whatever comes after the lockdown it will take some very careful messaging to ensure people understand what it means and how it will change their lives. Remember just six weeks ago people were living ‘normal’ lives and that is still their reference point. What we have been going through is seen by many as a blip rather than a fundamental change.
Getting the messaging and communication right in the days and weeks ahead is going to get even more challenging. This is often the case. Dealing with the initial crisis is tough but it gets tougher when you are working through into the next phase and on towards recovery. Communicators have been working round the clock to support their organisations and businesses but now it is about skill rather than speed.
There is no easy answer to this situation. One thing is very clear, the use of slogans and branded recovery campaigns is not the answer. It is a time when rebuilding communities should be part of a discussion with the people living in them. Simply telling people what the future will look like is not going to work. The start of this crisis has necessitated broadcast and directive messaging and for the main it achieved what it set out to. Now we must shift to having a conversation based on the honest facts of the situations we face, and this may be different if you live in a rural community, a city, in the South or in the North. As communicators we must weave a tapestry of messaging that will shape the picture for people.
There is no simple slogan that can work for all those diverse communities. It may help those leading organisations, and PR and communication professionals who are often preparing campaigns with a clear message. This is different. This is a crisis situation beyond any we have seen before and that needs new ways of working, thinking and communicating.
I know none of this is easy. But this is a tremendous opportunity for communicators to help organisations and communities to move forward.