Those of us that remember with joy, either by having seen the original TV screenings and/or the repeats, of those many times in Dad’s Army when Corporal Jones exclaimed the words *Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring!” will have appreciated that they would not have calmed the situation. Quite the contrary, which made it so funny.
The same thinking was aired recently on BBC Breakfast when they were talking about the current petrol shortage, with a guest psychologist urging the media to stop talking about “panic buying” because that was helping to cause panic. Of course, this is not funny, and BBC News has also reported that the government has urged councils not to use the word “panic” in communications about the current fuel shortage.
A balanced approach
This is a difficult path to tread. Emphasising the problems of the fuel shortage in dramatic terms can lead to people filling fuel tanks and jerry cans in the belief that what is here today will be gone tomorrow. This potentially deprives people such as care workers, taxi drivers and delivery companies that rely on mobility, and therefore fuel, of the ability to do their job.
On the other hand, pretending that a crisis doesn’t exist or is less urgent than it is perceived to be just will not do. What would seem a practical solution of bringing in drivers from the armed services to supplement the existing complement of HGV drivers has been brought in pretty late in the day. It is fairly easy to conclude that the authorities dreaded the possibility of members of the public saying “Oh no! They’ve brought in the army! This really is an emergency! Where’s the nearest filling station?”
And yet the UK defence forces have performed exceptionally well in supporting civil authorities during the Covid-19 emergency. This post by IISS.org last year describes some of the contributions they made: “150 military personnel are being trained as drivers to deliver oxygen to hospitals… The RAF alone has contributed 600 staff and trainees to boost the ranks of the National Health Service.”
These moves are likely to have created reassurance rather than panic and demonstrate a balanced practical approach to dealing with a national emergency.
Communicating in a crisis
Communication by the government and medical authorities during the pandemic, while it has been sometimes muddled and not particularly well presented, has generally been comprehensively and conscientiously delivered.
The US based Center of Creative Leadership (CCL) has laid out some useful tips on communication in a crisis, which include:
- Deliver essential information in a quick, clear, and transparent manner.
- Share what you don’t know, in addition to what you do know.
- Make it clear what people can look to for stability and guidance
- Communicate broadly, repeatedly, and through multiple means.
- Explain before questions and concerns are submitted, when possible.
In other words, undertake effective planning, consistent updating and use focused multi-channel media and social communications to deliver your messages. What is said and how it is presented is critical and transparency and honesty are paramount.
Support for the next challenge
Having been established since 1996, BBI Brandboost has been involved in managing a wide range of crises of differing importance, from technical difficulties in the websites and online presence of our clients, to issues in marketing and communications left behind by previous agencies.
As an experienced online communications and marketing agency that has worked extensively in both B2B and B2C sectors, we would be delighted to offer our support with any issues that you believe your business needs to solve. Please contact us at any time to discuss your requirements.
Also, if there should be a shortage of websites in the future, as we entertainingly predicted in this short video clip, you’ll know where to come! We hope you enjoy it and would welcome your feedback.