I find it hard to believe what I am seeing on the streets of Kyiv and across Ukraine is actually happening in 2022 in Europe. Not since I was at primary school have I worried about the potential for a nuclear war. At that time, aged about seven I used to try and work out if I could get home if there was a four minute warning. A new generation are now having that same experience, while there is fighting on the streets of a European country.
In recent days it has not felt right to focus on the communication lessons or to talk about how effective Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been in his communication so far. Why? Well, this for me is about lives and not communication. Zelenskyy is not focused on improving his image but on fighting for the survival of an independent Ukraine and for his citizens. He is leading his country at a time of war. It is a reminder about what really matters when you are in a crisis and that is to do what is right.
Set this against the recent photographs circulated at the weekend of Liz Truss and Boris Johnson. Liz Truss carefully staged a photograph of herself in front of a Ukrainian flag and a Union Jack, while Boris Johnson was said to be ‘at the frontline’ while talking to troops. Neither of them appears to be anything more than a publicity opportunity. What both lack for me is any authenticity. I am not really sure what Liz Truss was actually saying linked to that image.
Effective crisis communication does not come from a series of carefully staged photographs or promotional materials. It comes from focusing on what matters, and how to get through the situation and out the other side. It comes from looking at helping people and not helping yourself.
At some point it will be right to assess the communication and leadership that has been in evidence during this conflict. But that time is not now. What matters now is the people who have lost their lives, their families, those attempting to defend their country, and those forced to become refugees.