Growing up there was a local newspaper sports reporter nicknamed ‘Dave McCliche’ because of his fondness for the same phrases.
With Dave, the picture caption of two footballers would always read how Player A wins the ball ‘despite the close attentions’ of Player B.
In the first weeks of lockdown we had the same emptiness of phrase. Our experience out-stripped our language. We were left grasping for ‘uncertain times’, ‘the new normal’ or even majestically the written phrase ”all this’ *gestures wildly*.’
So, it’s hard to know what phrases to use at the news that there’s a new COVID-19 variant called Omnicron.
Or that warnings that the NHS is at risk of collapse have been dismissed.
Or that parts of the country literally ran out of ambulances.
Or that 150 people a day are still dying of the first variants at a time when people are talking about being in the ‘post-pandemic’ period.
Talking to people, there’s not just a serious risk of burn-out, burn out is already amongst us. So is walking off the job for the sake of your sanity.
Numbers say, police comms have had it worst, followed by NHS and local government. Fire comms haven’t been in the epicentre but have been drawn into delivering vaccine.
Comms asked to step up again
With another chapter of crisis now facing the UK the public sector are being asked to step back up again. Or before you ay it, did they ever step down?
What’s interesting to me is that for months COVID-19 messaging has all but evaporated. In the tracker survey I’ve been running 65 per cent of public sector communicators in Autumn 2021 recorded that they’ve been sending out less pandemic messaging over the last three months.
There is no way that the level of messaging could be maintained. The cold bath shock of lockdown 1.0 saw 42 per cent of the UK watch Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation. For weeks hands, face and space was the messaging shared and reported. But as we grew used to it the message blunted.
Burn out and risk
In Winter 2021, the important questions facing public sector comms are this.
How do we crank back up the messaging that works about hands, face, space, wear a mask, get a jab or a booster?
How do we do all this without breaking what’s left of the people who are communicating these messages?
Because if we break the people who are doing the communicating, what then?
But if we don’t get the message out what then?
What if people won’t listen?
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons.