I decided to start this Monday with a philosophical question; what is freedom? I think we will all have slightly different views about some of the details that we believe show that we are free. It may be because we have the ability to make certain choices in our lives, it may be that we can think and say certain things, or perhaps it is something else. What you think it is will really matter today?
Why? Well, today has been labelled as ‘freedom day’ in the UK as it had been the date when the decision was expected to be made that all Covid-19 restrictions would be removed. I have some major issues with calling it ‘freedom day’. To start with there are many, many people around the world who would view what we currently have as freedom. There is an sentiment from that phrase which makes it appear as if we have all be locked up which is not the case. Even when the toughest of the restrictions were in place people were allowed out for a range of activities.
The other issue I have is that putting all the emphasis on one date, even when the narrative was that decisions would be made based on data, has given people false hope and create an unrealistic expectation. As a communicator, I would say that words matter but in relation to keeping the trust and confidence in the Covid-19 crisis response they are critical. It you say 21 June then that is what everyone will remember, if you say all existing restrictions may be lifted they will hear restrictions being lifted. It is like the ‘don’t think of a pink elephant’ situation. Of course, the first thing you think about is the pink elephant. Crisis messaging needs to be very carefully considered, reviewed, discussed and then revised or used.
Many may remember the statements about vaccination being the way out of this crisis putting it as the golden bullet makes it difficult to then say that despite being jabbed you still need to continue to social distance etc. There is no simple way out of dealing with a pandemic and a level of honest about behaviour not just vaccination would be beneficial.
Once again the information about the statements that are going to be made later by the UK Prime Minister have been leaked or provided to the media. This makes the detailed press conference later almost redundant and I am sure that this is my design and not by accident. I will say no more about this.
So, 15 months on from the first lockdown and around 18 months since Covid-19 started to be a focus of our thinking, where are most people and what is in their minds? There will be a whole range of views, thoughts, and emotions which depend on how the past year or so have been and what they have brought. That fact alone makes the communication that comes next even more challenging.