Learning for the future: our communication duty

An unbelievable milestone was reached this week when the number of Covid-19 related deaths rose above 100,000. Back in March 2020 no-one would have expected that we would get to this point. It is a sobering thought how many people will be grieving the loss of a loved one. They are also having to try and grieve in a different way, often alone or with limited contact with others.

The long term impact of Covid-19 is becoming clear. Many people are talking now about the mental health crisis that is going to be with us for many years as is the economic crisis. There is a lot of work still to do and we all can play a part in helping people get through.

Reviewing, debriefing and learning from what has happened and from the response is one of the most critical things going forward. Once the impact is starting to wane we may want to move on and not have to think back to what we have lived through. But making sure we have captured the learning and are actively using it to improve what we do is essential to successful long term recovery.

Many will have missed a report that came out recently from Nottingham Trent University and the C19 National Foresight Group. The report called Managing the First 230 days considered the findings of three interim operational reviews, and has some key points for local resilience forums, the responders and to communicators. I was struck by one quote:

“Politics have become far to present in the management of this emergency at every layer and we are yet to be convinced that it has helped at either a local or national level.”

There was a query about the lack of strategy and of shared planning and the impact that this may have on trust and developing effective communication. Having the right plans in place that have been tested and shared with key agencies, employees and hopefully the public is critical to being prepared.

I have written before about the challenge of the complex messaging that the pandemic has required but that has been absent. Dates when things will change have come and gone, messages have given false hope, and there has been a reliance on broadcasting messages alone. Being realistic and sticking to the facts that are know at the time are key principles of crisis communication. A key recommendation for any crisis communication whether short term or over an extended period of time is made:

“We also recommend that communications sharing realistic view of the immediate, mid and longer-term future are used.”

Other recommendations including havina clear communication strategy, more transparency which will help to build trust, to focus on improving communication between agencies. Alongside this is a recognition that the wellbeing of responders needs to be factored in to the planned response. I would always go further than this and say that wellbeing has to be a consideration for all who are affected by a crisis.

These are difficult and challenging times for us all. As communicators we have a frontline role in crisis response and the responsibility is a heavy weight to carry. However, it also gives us the ability to make changes that mean the significant impact of a crisis on people may be lessened in the future. There is so much learning from what we are going through we have a duty to make sure we capture it.

This entry was posted in challenge, communication, Covid-19, crisis communication, learning, PR and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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