After almost eight weeks of the ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ it appears we now know what the latest slogan is going to be. ‘Stay alert, control the virus, save lives’ is widely being reported as the next phase of the efforts to communicate around the pandemic. A small peek at social media will reveal a wave of concern about the confusion this new message could cause.
The problem is it doesn’t mean anything. Stay alert could mean anything anyone wants it to from being alert by wearing a mask but returning to normal life through to being alert to neighbours that are acting irresponsibly. Any message that creates so much confusion at a time of a national and international emergency is a huge concern.
I blogged a few days ago about the complexity of the move towards recovery. It is a huge challenge to have the ‘tapestry of messages’ that are required to ensure that there is the right message meaning the right people in the right community. (https://amandacomms1.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/a-tapestry-of-messages/) Here in the North West of England we still have high rates and the ‘stay home’ message is still needed and yet we are now waking up to another message. Now is not the time for slogans it is time for a clear approach to communication that recognises the many differences.
If the message itself was not a problem then so is the way that it has been communicated so far. We started a few days ago with a message that we were past the peak and some people felt the ‘stay home’ message was no longer required. Then we had VE Day celebrations where it appeared to be acceptable to abandon social distancing measures. Sunday morning arrived with a new slogan in the media but no context to what it really means.
It is only at 7pm tonight that we will hear from the Prime Minister and perhaps learn a bit more. But for days people have been developing their own interpretations of what the situation is and they have had time to firmly plant that in their minds. It means Boris Johnson can speak but people may not be listening.
At a time of crisis we want to pull together and work towards supporting a national effort. But if we don’t know what we are supposed to be doing we are all going to be pulling in different directions. It is no time for that to happen as we are risking people’s lives.