GUEST POST: People are bored of ‘hands, face, space’ but our local human stories of compliance work

After 12-months we’ve all grown bored of the generic messages reminding us of the rules. So how can we remind people to stick to the rules? By showing people… sticking to the rules says Julie Walden.

Back in January I read a blog about how we should be sharing stories of compliance to encourage compliance.

The author had heard Radio 4’s Today show sharing stories of compliance. As his email dropped into my inbox I realise it linked directly to recent Government behavioural science workshops I’d attended that said the same thing…

Positive messages encourage positive behaviours.

Government data shows that 80 to 90 per cent of people do follow the rules to a high degree. However, when stories circulate – particularly on social media – about those who don’t follow the rules, compliance begins to fall. Behavioural science at a very basic level.

Our Government Covid-19 ‘hands, face and space’ messages, and those from our Local Resilience Forum, consistently received very little interaction or response on our channels. Even the trolls and Covid deniers had given up commenting.

Each post we put out was met with a tumbleweed and no interactions at all. After ten months, I’d exhausted the different ways to say wash your hands, cover your face and keep your distance. I was bored of writing it and our residents were bored of reading it.

It was time to rethink our communications approach.

Compliance comms shows people sticking top the rules

The blog sparked an idea and I created a series of ‘compliance comms’ (not the snappiest title, I know) messages around the activities we all do week in, week out – catching up online, staying home and staying local: following the rules.

Members of staff and the local community submitted their photos to show us of how they were following the rules in their own ways. Each social media post had to have a ‘scene setting’ introduction explaining that most of us were staying safe and following the rules to reduce rates in our area and keep the community safe. Then I added the compliance story and each post was finished with the reminders about the hands, face and space guidance.

We shared individual, real stories about how people were sticking to the guidelines, including:

Messaging on lots of different platforms to keep in touch with grandparents.

Coping with elderly, vulnerable relatives living far away (staying away to keep them safe).

Delivering shopping for grandparents without going inside their house.

A grandad facetiming his 9 week old granddaughter

But we also shared stories around:

Working from home, missing people but with cute dogs for company (dogs always a hit on social media.)

Visiting local beauty spots but choosing less well-known areas to keep away from crowds.

Children playing Guess Who online with vulnerable family members.

A primary school child’s view on home schooling and missing friends.

Walking the same routes locally and Facetiming family members who couldn’t visit.

Real stories, real people doing things we all do every week to follow the rules.

The impressions and reach of the compliance posts compared with our previous posts was dramatically different. We went from a tumbleweed to each and every post having a really positive reaction, with lots of likes, shares and comments with examples of how others were following the rules. The campaign was an easy to organise, no-cost and a creative way of boosting messages that were previously falling flat.

Twitter impressions were for the most part between 1-2,000 per post with similar figures achieved for the reach for these messages over on Facebook. The one video we used performed strongly on both platforms which supports what we all know about how the algorithms work on these platforms.

Not surprisingly the posts featuring dogs and children worked particularly well, especially 9 week old Penelope going down particularly well on Facebook.

Not everything was perfect. The messages were tricky to make work on Twitter. Next time I’d use Twitter threads rather than tweets using photos containing the text – from an accessibility point of view this is a better approach. I used it here but I wasn’t consistent sharing messages in this way.

We’re now looking at how we can re-use some of this content for further messages over the next few tricky weeks, while lockdown is still in place but people in our communities are going out and about much more.  

Julie Walden is marketing officer at Selby Council.

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