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Well the days all feel the same right now. But they still throw up some pretty important learning…

by Darren Caveney

It’s important just to be grateful for your own health and that of your loved ones right now, as we apparently edge closer to the peak of COVID-19. I truly appreciate that.

I’m grateful for the best weather I can remember for the month of April. Is it a record for consecutive sunny days? Just imagine if it was raining day after day.

I’m also grateful that I have a back garden. It’s never going to win any prizes but it’s an outdoor space. And I have been joined by new housemates. I’ve been enjoying my morning coffee(s) watching a Great Tit forage and deposit small twigs, leaves and other pickings into a small roof space in my kitchen wall that has become his/her new home. Nice.

The peace and the quiet is just beautiful and to be enjoyed as much as is possible. Then reality kicks in and I remind myself that I’m not on a holiday. And that the zero government £support for my business literally won’t pay the bills.

Talking of bills a new start-up business has sprouted near to me, delivering a weekly parcel of super fresh fruit and veg. Amazing quality and value and it feels good to support some young entrepreneurs. So, I’ve been making and eating some really healthy meals this week – I’m definitely hitting 5-a-day. Result all round.

And how many chats are you having with friends right now? My best pal lives in London. I’ve known him for 35 years. We had a 90 minute WhatsApp video call the other night. 90 minutes. We’ve literally never done that.  Lots of other things got in the way, most of them probably unimportant.

Here are some more reflections on my week.

1. Virtual mentoring

I started work with a new mentoree this week. It’s one of the favourite parts of my job. It’s more than mentoring, though, it’s actually a 12-month support programme. During the opening two hour (yes Zoom) video call we talked through career history, current pressures, future aspirations, assessed her skills matrix and agreed the top three priority areas for development this year. Then we made a start of a new organisational comms strategy.

That felt like a pretty productive two hours. And fun – we chewed that fat on current comms issues and hot topics. And it’s great to get to know someone better and understand their work, world, worries and wants.

My learning?

Originally we had planned to meet face to face and I’d have embarked on a six hour round trip. And whilst I still prefer meeting in person it’s yet another reminder of what can be achieved in much less time. Note to self.

2. Virtual support

The comms consultants virtual support group has had four weekly Zoom chats now. It’s fun, constructive and supportive. There are 33 of us on the group now and this week we chatted about online learning opportunities.

Of the 33, some have plenty of work, some have none. Some have been in business for a decade, some for two weeks. It’s a cracking group of like-minded people.

My learning

I think the group has been useful for us as we process the impacts of the crisis and regroup as businesses. If you’re a consultant or freelancer who would like to join the group just drop me a message.

3. Did she really say ‘that’?

There is so much we could talk about in terms of the communications around COVID-19 in the UK: Changes in official guidance, key messages, media coverage, letters to every UK household, journalists questions, answering the actual question.

I’m a branding anorak but is anyone else perplexed by the ever-changing press conference podium branding?

Comms texts books will be written and case studies poured over in years to come when this wretched virus has gone.

It doesn’t feel like a time to be throwing sticks at things. As my dear old Nan used to say “If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all”. There’s a lot to be said for that approach.

But the Home Secretary’s first appearance since a prolonged period of self-isolation can’t pass without comment. I suspect its stand-out line will be a soundbite which will follow her for years to come.

I can’t believe this ’key message’ came from the pen or fingers of a comms pro. No comms person I know would have suggested it as a good response to legitimate questioning around very real concerns over the availability of PPE to NHS and care staff.

If you missed it then let me remind you what Priti Patel said when asked if she should apologise for shortages:

“I’m sorry if people feel there have been failings”

Saying sorry can be powerful. And good. This was neither.

My learning?

Human kindness and endeavour touches us, our screens and our airwaves each day in these troubled times. We really are seeing the very best of so many people. When a 99-year old Second World War veteran can raise over £14 million pound for the NHS for lapping around his garden anything seems possible. His initial target was £1k. Incredible.

But the Home Secretary’s comment fell well below the standard required. Poor, poor communications, not to mention an utter lack of human empathy.

So let’s instead end with a salute to Captain Tom Moore.

Darren Caveney is creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

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Image via Tullio Saba

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

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