At least the Government have got their message right, says Absolute Corporate Events’ Managing Director, Chris Parnham…
Whatever your politics, the UK Cobra Team are doing a great job modelling effective communication. Over the past few weeks we have seen a varied line-up of medical and political figureheads, but each of them have championed the same consistent mantra.
Behind the scenes, this team are being well advised on how to deliver impactful, relevant and memorable messaging. They seem to be following one of my own golden rules of communication, which is to try to sum up a complex message in a simple, memorable string of words, and repeat this as much as possible, within different examples and contexts.
Those who have worked with me for a long time may remember; “Without change, nothing happens”. A campaign I ran to prepare my business for significant, difficult, but necessary change. Also; “Nothing is more important than new business”. A tag line I used for almost a year, when my business was facing a dramatic fall in income.
The Cobra Team are doing this with “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”. Every press conference begins and ends with this simple message. The words are woven into every presentation and most answers to questions. It’s even printed on the front of the podiums – visible and audible messaging in action.
Notice also the new common phrases that are being introduced into our language because we have become used to hearing them. Social distancing is an easy one, and though the UK team didn’t invent this one, they have adopted it, as have we all. Notice also how when the team talk about deaths due to the corona virus, they always precede the number of deaths with the word ‘sadly’, “526 people have sadly died.” This shows compassion and shows that they care, and we are not just statistics. Our vulnerable citizens are being ‘shielded’, which is much softer word than ‘isolated’ or ‘quarantined’, and rather than making them sound like prisoners, it makes them sound protected. It’s only subtle word play, but it makes a difference.
From the very beginning the Cobra Team have been telling us that their actions have been “led by the science”, and that they have been “taking the right steps at the right time”. This is to convince is that they are following a strategic and well-thought-out plan. Whether they are or not is another question, but not my point. The messaging is telling is what they want us to hear.
Listen to the next few press conferences and notice how often these phrases are used by each of the different players. This is a very effective way of hammering home the important messages amidst a lot of noise and uncertainty. Notice also that it doesn’t matter who is at the podium each day. Yes, some are better orators than others, but the mantra is the same. The same repeated phrases are delivered every day. They reinforce each other, and never contradict. This is to give us confidence that the team is united and in control. Again, I’m not suggesting they are, but they are succeeding in telling us that they are.
Compare this for example with the US mantra. Each press briefing is delivered by Donald Trump. It appears off-the-cuff, and with no common threads at all. Trump’s senior team, and sometimes he himself contradict earlier messages, so we are left with confusion and a lack of apparent control. The US public are divided, they don’t know what to believe and many of them are oblivious to the crisis.
The very effective communication from Cobra tells us that we should stay at home and assures us that our vulnerable citizens are being shielded and cared for. We know that any loss of life is a sad occurrence, but we know that we can save a life by staying at home. It’s simple but effective, and we all know what we have to do. The Cobra Team present a consistent and united front, and in turn they have united a post-Brexit divided nation. We are united against Corona, all of us complying with the government recommendations.
When we get over this tragic global event, and we will get over it, we can take these lessons back to our businesses and lives, and work with effective communication mantras. Effective communication unites any audience, even yours.