South Korean President Moon Jae-in has described the pandemic as a "relay race" where no South Korean should be left behind. Others used natural metaphors of storms and waves. It sounds simple but these metaphors encourage all to contribute and indeed, they seem to have contributed to electoral success. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was recently reelected in a landslide victory; South Korea’s election in April saw the highest turnout in several decades with Moon achieving victory once more.
It’s crucial to emphasize that these principles are highly achievable. We derived them from in-depth analysis of nine democracies around the world, many of which implemented all five of our principles. It is essential for other countries to adopt these principles both to mitigate this wave of Covid-19 and to improve preparedness for the next pandemic.
What are the most relevant crisis communication strategies you spotted during your research?
Beyond our broad principles, three really important strategies stand out. First, rapidity is essential. Another study found that the swifter public officials released guidelines on Covid-19, the less the public bought quack cures online. It is important to release high-quality information on as many channels as possible than to wait and have to fight rumours online.
Second, the best public health communicators built rapport with their publics. They sought to communicate empathy with people’s difficulties, showed compassion for those who had passed away, and displayed their own emotions. They did not engage in blame games or stigmatizing certain groups of people, such as the young. This has helped to ensure that people want to get tested and to participate in contact tracing.
Third, they admitted mistakes. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, for example, admitted later in the summer that the lockdown was perhaps stricter than necessary. This earned trust, because Norwegians knew that Solberg would admit mistakes. As a second wave engulfs much of Europe, it is worth considering a reset if things are going poorly and going back to the basics we describe in our answers to these questions. It won’t be easy to rebuild trust but as we wait for more effective treatments or a vaccine, communications are one of the few NPIs left to us.
Copyright: William WEST / AFP