There’s now a short window to get your act together if you’re a public sector communicator.
Week 10 of the lockdown and restrictions are being eased across the UK but at a different pace.
In England, there is the prospect of a local lockdown in areas where the infection rate spikes. That can be a school, a workplace or an estate or town.
So how to communicate it?
Why the need to create local lockdown messages?
It all points to the need to have a comms plan with full collateral ready and good to go within days.
Last week I blogged on why this was needed. In summary, data suggests the Cummings effect has had a measurable effect on trust and getting a message across. But communities are hugely trusted. It points to the tactical need to create your own stuff.
But from a practical need you’ll need to create your own stuff, too. Whereas previously people could troop to their national public health website and download the content that’s probably not going to be an effective option.
Government designers won’t be busting a gut to create content for any lockdown for say, on Walton High School in Stafford. Or Dorman Diesels in Stafford. Or the town of Stafford itself.
So, you need to crack on with your own content as part of a comms plan.
What does local look like?
Here’s a few examples of local messages that have caught my eye.
As with anything, don’t wait for best practice create your own.
#1: A SIMPLE LOCAL MESSAGE
Welsh Government have created something that could work as a broad approach for England. They’ve created a national message and content that can work on a very local level. Like here for Powys.
STRENGTH: It’s ready and good to go. It identifies with a local area.
DOWNSIDE: It serves Welsh needs but the approach would need to be more granular and re-designed for a more local lockdown. A template that comms people could adjust and deploy out-of-hours makes most sense.
#2 A SIMPLE BRANDED MESSAGE
Wigan have done great things over the past couple of years and I really like the way they’ve adapted national messages but made them their own.
STRENGTH: Adding the Wigan Council logo makes it clearly content endorsed by one authority and for one area.
WEAKNESS: While this is for the council, would council branding make it harder for other public sector organisations to share? No doubt they’ve tackled this in Wigan but a conversation with fellow ahead of a balloon going up may be helpful for you. Is there other branding that everyone can buy into without the need for logo soup?
#3 MAKE YOUR EXPERT A MEDIA STAR
Jason Leitch is National Clinical Director for Scottish Government. More than anyone I’ve seen he nails scientific rigour with clear explanation. Find your local version whether that’s NHS or Public Health and have them explain the thinking behind the local lockdown. Engage with the media as Jason does here. Answer questions. A Q&A in a Facebook group or on a newspaper’s page makes sense.
STRENGTH: The scientific advisor is more trusted right now than the politician so encourage them to deliver their advice.
WEAKNESS: There’s only so many hours in the day and some will be better at it than others.
#4: USE LOCAL IMAGES
I lived in the North East for three years as a student and so always missed the summer. The beaches in the region are fabulous and can attract thousands of visitors. This content takes local images with a local message.
STRENGTH: Local images with a slightly light hearted local message postcard-style. A lack of logo can be a strength.
WEAKNESS: While the approach hits the nail on the head for broad tourism messages it couldn’t be cut-and-pasted entirely into local lockdown warnings. But , I’m sure the originators of this know that. A lack of logo can be a weakness.
#5 USE LOCAL IMAGES AND A LOGO
Similar to North Tyneside, the postcard approach takes a gentle route to encourage people to keep away. But with added logo.
STRENGTH: As with the North Tyneside, a light hearted message delivers a balanced prod. I also like the fact they’ve re-purposed a creative commons image of Formby beach so they have a local view without cost.
WEAKNESS: Again, this can’t be cut and pasted onto a specific lockdown warning. But I’m sure they know that.
#6 USE LOCAL IMAGES AND MAKE IT FROM THE LRF
If council-branded comms may be a frustrating and needless obstacle to partners sharing then a joint approach can sidestep that. So, this example of Local Resilience Forum branding can avoid that.
STRENGTH: It has a Suffolk flavour from the text to the image which is a piece of public art in Ipswich. Using elements of the national message can be seen as positive. It comes from the LRF so NHS, council, police and others should buy into this.
WEAKNESS: The light-hearted approach won’t work for more serious matters but I’m sure they know this.
#7 LOCAL DOWNLOADABLE ASSETS
Of course, create a local message. But be mindful that you need to spread it locally, too. Luton Council have downloadable assets that is the starting point for sharing a message. Where communities have English as a second language this makes sense.
STRENGTH: Downloadable means that others can share the information for you. A poster can be a poster in the community without the need to print and deliver.
WEAKNESS: You still need to get the information in front of people so they can download it. There’s also a small risk of fake messages circulating.
#8 LOCAL VIDEO
Sharable content with recognisable local content and a local voiceover makes sense to get local information out. Rhondda Tynon Taf Council have made this strong video, for example. For a local lockdown, date stamping may be an idea.
STRENGTH: Sharable and local.
WEAKNESS: Can take hours to create something local and a lack of technical skills can be a barrier.
#9 POSTERS AND SIGNS
Sealing off a park as part of a local lockdown involves more than a chain and lock with a message online. There’s a need for posters and signs, too. Like this from Liverpool City Council.
STRENGTH: A local sign helps deliver a local message.
WEAKNESS: Can be torn down and vandalised easily.
Thanks to Adrian Osborne, Sally Clark, Carwyn Meredydd, James Moore, Rachael ill, Rachel Ridge, Elena Michelle Lloyd, Paula Elwood and Louise Powney.