It is just day two of 2021 but there is so much that is happening it is mind blowing. As the Christmas decorations come down, the tinsel is packed away and the glitter disappears things become clearer. The festive glow is making way for the dawning realisation that we are facing a serious stage in this pandemic.
Back at the end of March 2020 it was scary but had a novelty. Now almost 10 months later it is stark, and if you have watched any of the recent news reports it is becoming critical. This is not a blog about decisions that have been made or challenging the road being taken. Those who are leading the response have to make the best decisions based on the specialist advice they have. But I am left wondering about the way communication is being approached.
As a crisis communication consultant I spend my days advising about steps to take, words to use and things to consider. I know there are people working hard to do their best but announcements, gaps in information, and open conflict are damaging. I have spoken to people today who were supportive of the vaccine but are now changing their minds based on the media debates today.
Fundamental to effective crisis communication is building trust and confidence, and this comes through open and honest communication that happens at every stage of the emergency. I read a Twitter thread from the eminent Ella Minty who made some key points about putting people before the politics of the situation. If you haven’t seen it I would recommend finding it.
In the past few days I have seen doctors and nurses talk about the desperate situation, have seen the figures for infection rates and deaths increasing, have seen teachers considering legal action and have witnessed people openly flouting the tier rules. This may sound like a very depressing blog for the New Year but I would say it is realistic and positive. Why is it positive?
I believe and am convinced that we can still turn this around. If there is a different approach to the communication, if we listen to people and explain things honestly, if we give local public services the freedom to do what they need to, and if we plan ahead for the scenarios we may face we can build back the confidence that is disappearing.
I may be a lone voice on this but I will be continuing to share thoughts, comment, and hopefully advise where I can. In 2020 I made effective crisis communication my life and work, I have not looked back. There is a lot to do and I am determined to help where I can in 2021.
Happy New Year.