It is just two months before Christmas will be upon us. We are all coming to accept that this festive season will be very different to any we have previously experienced. The dawning realisation of a Christmas on Zoom can quickly affected people’s wellbeing. So what does this mean for communicators?
The first challenge will be whether it is acceptable to have fun in any way while the pandemic is still impacting on people and affecting their lives. There is no easy answer to this and it is likely to change on a daily or even hourly basis. But a bit of festive cheer in the right way, at the right time may be just what people need to keep their spirits up. It will be a balancing act between escapism and reality.
With the economy under substantial pressure there will be little sympathy with cash being spent in anything but critical areas. For public sector communicators they need to keep a tight hold of the purse strings. It is easy to get caught up in trying to spread Christmas cheer and we all know it is really needed this year. But try and look at what you are doing from the perspective of those who have been struggling with Covid-19 throughout 2020.
I say this a lot when talking about crisis communication. I urge people to look at the event or incident from the outside of the organisation in. Try to put yourself in the position of those who have been most adversely affected by what has happened. It will, and it should, change the way you develop communication. Avoid becoming introvert and narrowly focused on your own circumstances at the expense of others.
This is also going to be a festive season where the usual quiet moments where people can take time off and recover are not going to happen. When you are living with a crisis you are not able to take time off in the same way. It is something I know communicators have come to realise as the holidays have mounted up and been unused throughout the year. The key is to start planning now to put some cover in place and also ensure that teams do get some time to relax and switch off. Covid-19 is not going to disappear and stop being an issue just because it is Christmas.
Finally, there has been a lot of commentary about getting 2020 out of the way with the impression that 2021 will arrive without a pandemic. We all hope that would be the case but we need to be realistic. The end of 2020 will not mean the end of Covid-19. We want to give people hope for the future but we also need to be honest and accurate with whatever we say. I would urge all communicators to remember that when they are developing end of year, start of new year activities.
This Christmas season is going to be different just like the rest of 2020. What we need to do is recognise that, face up to it and continue to take things a day at a time.