Coronavirus Comms

As the Coronavirus spreads across the world and is gaining pace in the UK, the UK Government has mobilised a comms offensive to prepare for things to come.

The message they have adopted is to ‘Wash your hands more often and for 20 seconds”. Whilst this may sound like a very basic message, it is clear that the comms team are aiming to tackle a complex issue with simple messaging.

There has of course been daily updates, COBRA meetings and many other media briefings and activity, but the simple message to an anxious public is designed to be easily understood and acted upon.

In the face of many serious faces on the news, and an arguably overactive media, this simple approach to comms, aimed beyond the press to individual homes, is the right way forward.

No such thing as bad press

The old cliche – ‘there’s no such thing as bad press’ is still banded around and often describes questionable headlines where it is hoped that the overall publicity will outweigh the negative connotations of the story.

However, there is such a thing as bad press. Mud can stick, even when it is something later proved to be unfair or untrue.

This brings us to Extinction Rebellion. Their campaign initially captured the headlines and a public now more aware of environmental issues was happy to applaud their cause.

But the group’s recent campaign of sever disruption is a questionable strategy. Whilst it is succeeding in getting the attention of governments, which is their stated objective, they are doing this by abandoning their public support. The distressing interview of the person unable to fly home to say a final farewell to a dying parent, solely because Extinction Rebellion chose to shut down an airport, was an awful watch.

As was the group member being dragged from the top of a train and set upon by angry commuters. Their is a perception among the public that the group are simply out to cause disruption and trouble, and in fact care little for their cause. A point underlined when they glued themselves to electric trains to stop them running – surely electric trains are part of the green transport solution?

Which brings me to the next cliche – ‘perception is reality’. Whilst many of us want to see a renewed urgency to tackle climate change and fear for the future, the perception that Extinction Rebellion are doing more harm than good is out there. Time for a rethink?