It’s good to talk
In the 90’s BT ran an advert in which they told us “It’s good to talk”, a clever slogan, for a telecoms company, but it stuck! And it’s true, it is good to talk, and now more than ever.
As we all now find ourselves isolated at home, some with family or flatmates, others alone, communication with the outside world, and how it communicates with us, has never been more important. It is our link to our loved ones, our social support, our colleagues, the news, our life as we knew it just a couple of weeks ago.
As a legal PR company, we often find ourselves advising our clients that communication is necessary, not just in the good times, and the times of success, but also during the challenging times. And this is certainly one of the most challenging times any of us have faced.
In the absence of the reassurance that we all so desperately crave right now, what is it we expect in the communications from the companies we deal with? Empathy, warmth, solidarity, something that feels like a virtual hug?
While most would agree that the timing of Mike Ashley’s comments, just moments after the Prime Minister announced a lockdown for the country were very poorly judged, and demonstrated a lack of understanding of where the priorities lay – where has it been done right?
It was in the supermarket chain’s Belfast store that the idea of allowing the vulnerable to shop an hour earlier than the general public, during a protected shopping hour was born. The idea quickly spread across the retailers 960 outlets and was adopted within days by every supermarket chain in the UK, and broadened to include protected shopping time for those working in the NHS. The idea was so popular because it was simple, straightforward to implement and demonstrated empathy for those who are most in need at the moment.
The government’s chief medical adviser has found himself an unwitting media star in the last few weeks. The Financial Times commented on him being “an unlikely hero for anxious times”, and his calm demeanour and humility at the daily press briefings have allowed him to win over a country who was apparently ‘tired of experts’.
Chris Witty hasn’t shied away from giving us the bald facts of the situation, telling us “it will get very bad” and “the NHS will be under huge pressure” but without scaremongering. He told over 80’s not to just assume they were “goners” if they contracted the virus. He has told us there is much they don’t know about this novel virus, but has done it in such a way that we still feel we are in a safe pair of hands. His calm and measured manner combined with openness and honesty have provided much needed reassurance.
Your NHS Needs You!
On 24th March a campaign was launched to recruit 250,000 volunteers to aid in “shielding” the most vulnerable through the worst of the outbreak, by delivering medicines, driving them to medical appointments and calling up for regular chats. Less than 24 hours later an army of more than 400,000 had put themselves forward and the figure currently stands in excess of 750,000. The campaign experienced such instant success because it galvanised, it gave people a purpose. It openly asked for help, “this is what we need, can you help us?”.
As we all find our way through these unprecedented times, we have re-discovered that the old-fashioned values of openness, honesty, humility and understanding are the ultimate communication tools.