Lockdown 2 is here for many. But it can’t be like the first lockdown for communicators, can it?
by a local authority comms lead
As England prepares to enter another country-wide lockdown you can almost hear a collective sigh from the nation. A country of people exhausted by the thought of limiting contact, restricting socialising, managing anxiety and trying to stay positive in the face of a somewhat bleak winter ahead.
But as a public service communicator that exhaustion feels amplified. Am I the only one not just to be mourning the loss of pubs, or the blow to the economy but feeling a rising, overwhelming sense of ‘I’m not sure I can’.
Can I dig deep enough to launch back in to 24 hour operations yet again, to dealing with the waves of panic, high energy crisis response again and again, to managing the competing demands of everyone else’s priorities leaving little space for strategic communications and planned out thoughtful response?
Out with the meaningful evaluation and two-way dialogue, in with the knee jerk.
And of course, it’s not all terrible, of course a meaningful crisis response means evaluating what the public needs and responding fast, cutting through the noise and dealing with what really matters. But the pandemic response has been unique in that it has been high level crisis but over a sustained period. The adrenaline you run on cannot sustain you for months on end. We have to set ourselves in for the long haul, put in place systems and tools to provide a long term response, one that’s sustainable for the organisations we support and for us. I doubt I’m alone in writing staff messaging about well-being and looking after your mental health in the early hours whilst multi-tasking four other jobs and as keeping the home fires burning.
Comms is the front and centre; the first to the response and the last to leave. Quite often the fall guy; ‘we got the comms wrong on this one’ and rarely the celebrated.
But it’s also the one holding this all together. In a world where nothing is in our control, the way we communicate, inform, educate, support, signpost, engage and encourage debate; well that’s pretty damn vital.
Written down this feels defeatist and bleak, tired and pessimistic. I know we’re so very lucky to be in relatively secure jobs, to not be worrying about imminent job losses (for now) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Other people’s tragedies don’t make your stresses and strains less hard to bear.
So my resolution for Lockdown 2; this time it’s winter…is that I will take my advice. When I tell my staff to take a break, I’ll do that too. When I advise people to say no, that’s not manageable alongside the other tasks needed, I’ll take a leaf out of my own book. And when I tell people that work is only part of your world, a global pandemic is hard to live in, for everyone, and that we’re all doing our very best in very hard circumstances. When I tell people that, I’ll listen too.
Good luck out there comms people; you’re doing wonderfully.
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Image via Tullio Saba