COVID COMMS #13: Amanda Coleman’s five tips for a team dealing with a long-running crisis


When you go through life you can learn lessons from people who have come before you.

In the time of COVID-19, public sector comms teams are beset by all sides with pressure, stress and a need to communicate clear messages.

Search for the line ‘we live in unprecedented times’ and Google gives you 147 million pages to chose from. Which is in itself unprecedented.

One person who has lived through a long stressful chapter has been Amanda Coleman who when head of comms at Greater Manchester Police navigated the force through the Manchester Arena terror attack where 22 people were killed.

So, the Public Sector Comms Headspace Zoom chat with her was especially interesting as teams in the UK go into week nine of lockdown.

Amanda was full value and her five points to get through this deserve house room.

Amanda’s five tips for a long running comms crisis

Take time for yourself

The challenge of a big ongoing incident is to run towards it and keep running but after a while your legs will grow tired. You need time to recharge your batteries. Taking time to do something just for yourself is really important. A day off. A half day off.

Keep focussing on something that gives you a bit of energy

Amanda’s tip here is really interesting. When flagging she would focus on something quite personal to encourage you to keep going. For me, that would be family or the idea of aiming towards a time when you could spend some time with them. Yours will be something different, maybe.

Say you need help

As a team or as a manager putting your hand up to say you need help is important. It’s one of the things Amanda says she did earlier. Rather than crack on and keep cracking on until everyone was on their knees burning out asking for help early is actually a sign of strength. It means you can see the bigger picture.

Make time to debrief

The idea of a debrief is to see what has worked and see what hasn’t. It means that when the second wave of COVID-19 hits you’re better placed. You can do that as a team as well as doing it with the wider organisation.

Recovery is a long, long process

I remember the night of the Manchester Arena attack. The news broke on Twitter and the Greater Manchester Police account was active within 15 minutes of the first tweet being posted. That’s impressive and so was the performance of their team. But for Amanda the early response was the easiest. Something has happened and its all hands to the pump. It’s the recovery, she says, that was hardest. It takes longer and more thought needs to go into it. Reflecting on it, that makes sense.

Those were Amanda’s points. The long shadow of the Arena explosion saw workloads soar for weeks and months not days. With the third anniversary of the explosion imminent the work is not yet done. In some ways only 22 deaths is dwarfed by 34,000 and counting but the impact of a terror attack is striking. It is the difference between terror and dread and we’re living in dread.

Amanda Coleman’s book Crisis Communications Strategies is available on Amazon and via good book sellers.




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