COVID COMMS #2: We need to move from phase one ‘here’s a poster’ to phase two ‘here’s me doing what the poster says.’

In the time of coronavirus, a calm head while communicating has rarely been more important.

The temptation to SOS – send out stuff – has rarely been greater which is why some comsscore data this week is so useful.

Why useful? Because it feels as though we’ve moved into phase two of communications.

Phase one was the key message repeated.

Phase two is going to have to be a bit more subtle. It’s human beings and their lived experience repeating the message.

It’s less, here’s a poster and more here’s why I’m doing what the poster tells me.

What the new UK media landscape behaviour tells us

In the UK:

  • social media traffic is up by 39 per cent as it remains the top consumer occupation.
  • News site traffic are up by 54 per cent with the category in second place.

The late March 2020 traffic data published on the comscore blog can be found here.


So, news media and social media are where people are at.

But there’s a but.

The data means that public sector people need to up their game.

Pumping stuff out in an SOS style isn’t the way forward regardless of what an executive director who has joined Facebook but never posted says.

Your content is competing in a far more crowded market place and simply shovelling out the same data on repeat is not the answer.

This is where you earn your corn as a communicator who understands the landscape and advises the organisation.

Three things to up your content game

We’ve had the core messages… stay safe, stay home.

There’s merit in repeating those but I can’t help but think that diminishing returns will start to kick in if they haven’t already.

Stay safe? Stay home? Sure.

1 – Human beings sharing their take on the message

For me, the challenge is to repurpose the message but delivered through human beings in a distinctly human way.

We’ve all seen it on our travels if we’ve been online and we can recognise it instantly.

It’s the bin crew or the paramedic or the child making their point.

2 – Content which isn’t a call to action

You may not want to hear it but a wall-to-wall diet of calls to action has never proved to be an effective way of building an audience on a channel. Yes, there are things people need to know but stop a second. What does your own media consumption look like? Are you consuming rolling news 24/7? Or are you dipping in and then looking for old football matches on YouTube?

3 – Go to where the eyeballs are

I’m not going to stop banging on about this. If your public sector people don’t want to be friends with you. Get over it. So go and find where people are. It’s exactly why my Dad used to help with a stand at the Staffordshire County Show when I was a kid. He went because that’s where people were.

Examples of content which is on top of the game

The Paramedic on instagram

Equipped and prepared NHS operative @naghmehty on Instagram ticks this box.  The member of staff using their own channel. Encourage your staff to share their lived experience of the message. Share that content. Run a competition for them. Do whatever. Make your frontline heroes the hero of your content.


The video news story

This story about the care worker Sam petrified at the risks she’s taking but determined to do her job is human way of presenting the challenges. She visits an 86-year-old who needs daily care.

While your own channels are important don’t forget the important role that news media have.


Children’s content

The Scott family wrote and illustrated a book that showed a discussion between parent and child. The child wants to know why she can’t go to school and the parent tells her why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s lovely. The child’s school posted the video onto Twitter. It’s great. It’s human content that comes from a child and amplified in a tweet by a school Twitter account.


The content that is useful but not scary

Facebook Live is a tool whose time has come.

This library – The Emily Taber Public Library – in the US has started to use it for story time for children. You can exactly what you’d get if you took your child to the library. A story and then a craft session where you are shown how to make something that’s related to the story.

It’s lovely.

It’s all the more beautiful for the wobbly camera phone and the wave of greeting from behind the camera phone by the person who is filming.


That’s it.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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