COVID COMMS #11: Three cracking guides and a super-resource to help public sector comms during COVID-19

Like buses you need a guide and then three really good ones come along at once.

I’m really proud to be a member of the CIPR Local Public Services group who are doing some great work at a really difficult time.

So, I’m especially proud that there are three really good downloads that the group led by Kerry Sheehan have published this week that deserve your attention.

The guides back-up the existing web page that acts as a giant ever-updated super-resource to help public sector comms people.

To get through needs a big bag of knowledge and skills. If you’re expecting to be told what to do as a communicator you’re going to be in for a big old shock. Being agile and thinking on your feet is going to be a big skill. However, the publication of guides as a starting point for you is a really helpful port in a storm.



There’s a stack of experience that the public sector has in dealing with crisis and emergency and it’s good to see some of it coming together in this guide.

If you need help in working out top lines, crafting messages, being a gatekeeper, using your network and tackling fake news and misinformation this is for you.

There’s also some handy tips on basic smartphone filming, going live and connecting with Facebook groups.

Particularly handy is some advice on how to conduct down-the-line interviews using tools like Zoom or Teams.

Much of it is common sense but its good to see it pulled together in one place. Emma Thwaites has done a good job of collating work.

“In a crisis, it’s vital your messages not only reach their intended audience but are instantly
understood so that they can be acted upon. When messages land badly, it’s usually because
they are written for the organisation (what we want to say) rather than for the audience
(what they need to hear).”

You can find the COVID-19 comms guide here.


debriefIt’s important in a crisis not just to move ever forward onto the next task. It’s actually really important just to take stock and see what can be learned so you don’t have to make the same mistakes again. This is where communications comes in.

Especially useful is the section on running a ‘hot debrief’. This is something rough and ready that’s done on the spot so you can learn as you go along and also refer back to if you need to.

Hats off to ex-Greater Manchester Police head of comms Amanda Coleman for this.

There’s a lot of learning from the Arena terrorist attack that has gone into this.

“Debriefing and reviewing the communication approach and activity both during and after a crisis is critical. It ensures that you are capturing the learning throughout the crisis which will become the basis of how to develop and revise crisis communication plans.”

You can find the debrief guide here.


deathsMany communicators will have worked on newspapers and will be well used to the idea of communicating death. But communicating the death of a colleague isn’t the same. A far higher degree of sensitivity is needed.

This guide is going to be sadly valuable to every public sector communicator. It comes from experience and Bridget Aherne has done a cracking job of capturing her own experience and industry best practice.

I like the fact that this guide acknowledges that each death like each life is different and is a starting point for discussion rather than an iron template.

“When emotions are high and stress levels at their peak, it can be difficult to find the
right words or formulate a clear action plan quickly and this is particularly the case when the event involves a death of a colleague from Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Simple checklists and reference materials can help to get you started and that’s the point of this guide: not to tell you what to do but to share the learning from others, in similar situations, which could give you the head-start if you need it.”

You can find the death in service guide here.


abhaAside from the three guides, the go-to page for communicators is the CIPR Local Public Services page that collates guidance, trends and evidence. 

Abha Thakor is playing a blinder keeping the resource updated and if you’re working in the sector the answers to many questions can be found on the site.

“This post provides a list of links and resources relating to coronavirus. The information from the official sources can assist communications practitioners working in the local public sector and other fields.”

You can find the CIPR LPS resources page here.

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