The Taxpayers’ Alliance may beg to differ, but I think Local Authority communications had a ‘good war’ during the initial response phase to Covid-19. But what about the next stage? What role will comms play in our national and local recovery?
by Will Mapplebeck
Building Public Confidence
Understandably, many citizens will be nervous, if not scared, about a return to something approaching normality. How safe will they feel returning to work or school? What happens if there is a second wave? People will be looking for trusted sources of information in uncertain times. This is what you might call ‘New Normal’ communications. For example, getting people used to wearing masks in certain situations or asking them to take greater responsibility for their own health. The tone has to be calm but also realistic. It must be well researched and data led if it’s going to help to change behaviour. Given recent events, it will not work if it’s just locally badged Whitehall generic guidance.
Helping to navigate the information overload
There will be a lot of communications ‘stuff’ flying around during the recovery phase. For example, guidance for transport users, grants for businesses, tips on social distancing in shops and advice on where to claim benefits. It will be part of a local council’s communications role to create or marshal this information, make sure it is locally relevant and distribute it to the right audiences. Plus, existing local government services, for example housing or business support, are going to be much in demand, as the economic effects of Covid begin to bite.
Getting the vote out
Some big elections were cancelled this year – for example the London, Greater Manchester, and Liverpool City Region mayoral contests – so it is going to be a busy 2021 for electoral services. The first elections since Covid-19 will be a key test that life is returning to something near normal, but these polls are still likely to contain lots of challenges. For example, will more people want to vote from home and avoid polling stations? And will ‘big P’ Politics come back on steroids as candidates are judged on their response or otherwise to Covid?
Building Back Better
Regional politicians are already starting to talk about ‘Building Back Better’ after this crisis, seeing it as a chance to create fairer and greener economies. This may or may not be a blank slate moment, but what is for certain is that communicators will be needed to build the narrative, setting out a vision for recovery that everyone can get behind.
Will Mapplebeck is public affairs manager at Core Cities UK. You can see him talking about the impact of Covid-19 on public affairs outside of London on LinkedIn here Follow him on Twitter @wimapp.
Image via Trending Topics 2019