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Messaging, and how to get it wrong

01 October, 2020

I think we can all agree (politics aside) that navigating the messaging around Covid-19 was never going to be easy. Yes, the overarching messages were easy to deliver and understand…but when it boiled down to the nitty gritty, I think it’s fair to say the last six months has been pretty confusing for us all.

Messaging, and how to get it wrong

When we went into lockdown back in March, the message was crystal clear, and the public knew what to do: Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.

Simple: we knew what we had to do, how we had to do it and why we had to do it. But in May things changed with the easing of lockdown measures and we were introduced to the new message: Stay alert. Control the virus. Save lives.

“I’m sorry, what?”.

Unlike the first message there was no clear directive, it was up to the public to interpret something that seemed so vague: we knew why we had to do it and what we had to do. But how were we supposed to ‘stay alert’? There then followed the necessary round of TV and radio interviews by various key players in the Government: “I think what we’re trying to do is explain underneath that general direction what that means,” said one Cabinet Minister on Sky news.

Because it was clear as mud! But why not get it bang on in the first place?

Then, to add to the confusion, there followed a flurry of mixed campaign messages: Enjoy Summer Safely (eh?), Let’s Get Back (get tested...but there’s no test), Eat Out to Help Out (don’t worry now, just get out and help your local restaurants), Hands. Face. Space. (dance instructions?). Oh and of course the Rule of 6 – which theoretically should have been simple, but by this point we were so overloaded with mixed messages that we needed the good old Beeb to spell it out to us in layman’s terms. And when a third party has to explain your message you’ve clearly gone wrong somewhere!

Exhausted yet? Still with me?

This constant shift in messaging has caused too much confusion – the Prime Minister recently admitted that some of the more recent ‘local lockdown’ rules have been confusing! How you position your messaging, and build authenticity and trust, is critical: it ensures you have a clear and consistent voice, that people understand who you are, what you do and, done well, it gives you that competitive edge.

I read a survey recently which found that two thirds of marketers (64%) said COVID-19 has made language more important than ever in helping them connect with their customers. If you ensure consistency and clear messaging this builds credibility and authenticity which ultimately leads to trust. And as we’ve all witnessed over the last six months, communication plays a vital role in times of crisis because it lets you talk to the right audience in the right way…or not!

I’m sure a lot of brands and organisations have their messages wrapped up nicely – but have they adapted them to meet the current crisis? And have you? Building trust by delivering on target messaging is a critical issue for many at the moment. A great messaging workshop can help you drill down the right message for the right audience and help your brand or organisation resonate with your audience in the right way.

So, are we all on the same page now? If you think you could do with some help creating or tightening up your messaging just give us a bell.

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