The way the government has communicated with us during the pandemic has been very telling. Telling because it shines a light on the value of good communication in a crisis, and telling because of what happens when you get it wrong.

Our director was invited onto Talk Radio on Sunday 11th October to discuss the appointment of number 10’s new press secretary, Allegra Stratton, and how this will affect the way government communicates with us.

You can listen back to the interview at 03.54 from the Talk Radio website

Rebuilding trust

The public trust has undoubtedly been knocked during this pandemic. From MPs flouting the rules, falsehoods, U-turns, and mixed messages, the reasons have been endless. Gaining trust with your stakeholders right from the start of any crisis is crucial if you want to take people with you. Allegra Stratton has a big job to do to regain public confidence right from the word go.

Speaking human

The tone of the government briefings earlier on in 2020 has often been defensive. Questions have been dodged and deflected and the answers have only added to the confusion. There has also been a real lack of empathy when thousands of people have died, often alone and separated from family. It has been suggested that Allegra has been chosen to bring a warmer approach to the government communications and this is desperately needed.

The messenger, as well as the message is important in any communications and sometimes leaders just simply can’t connect – remember May Bot? It is essential that PR and communication experts are involved in senior decision making so that they can craft and shape the messages that will resonate and feel authentic to the audience.

Owning your mistakes

We don’t expect government to have all the answers. Managing a pandemic is an extreme challenge for any organisation. But it is crucial to be honest when mistakes are made and take clear and early responsibility when they do. Mistakes will happen but it is how you handle them and what you do to make it right that people will judge you for. Acting with arrogance and denial is not going to win you any support.

Working as a team

No war can be fought alone, you need allies around you and a strong support network to help spread the message. The government has been criticised for not involving regional partners throughout the pandemic and pointing fingers when things go wrong. A clear communication plan and cascade system is essential during a crisis and consulting early with decision makers will help inform and shape your message. By working together more effectively with Regional Mayors, business leaders and statutory partners, Number 10 will have much more control and support for their policies at grass roots level.

Communicate the plan

We all feel unsettled by the uncertainty this pandemic has created. The ongoing and unpredictable nature of the virus makes it all the more difficult to navigate. People want to know the big picture during a crisis, to get an idea of your plan and the general direction of travel. They understand that things might change but they need to know someone is in control. To reduce fear and panic, communicate the plan and then provide the detail when needed, explaining how this links back.

Crisis communications is a skilled and complex task that can feel overwhelming when your company is hit by unpredictable events and every business, large or small is vulnerable. Challenges can include technology failure, cybercrime, fire, legal action, flood and complaints on social media. For advice on how to plan and manage a crisis, please get in touch with the team