The central message of the sweeping new Adam Curtis doumentary Can’t get you out of my head is that the world is something we make and can actually be remade differently despite all the hidden forces that have brought us to this point.
The overwhelming feeling after watching all six episodes is that more than anything else the human race needs stories – practically, politically and emotionally – to help make sense of the world and ourselves.
Power structures, societies and individuals all rely heavily on these stories to understand their own reality and explain how we got here and where we are going.
During the anxiety, fear and boredom of lockdown this has been even more important and is why we’ve seen simple, human stories that offer some hope cut through so well during a time of relentless grim news.
For public sector communicators these simple stories (often simply told) have played an important role in reassuring people, offering hope but also attempting to explain a cataclysmic event.
Using the right spokespeople to tell these stories has also been crucial and in the NHS we’re lucky enough to have the number 1 and 2 most trusted professions by the public which is why we’ve been so consistent about using frontline staff to deliver our key messages about the lockdown, vaccination, accessing services and the reality of what’s been happening.
More than 12,000 people have read one of our blogs by frontline NHS staff and we’ve been pushing weekly, and at time daily, videos by nurses, doctors and other health professionals on the key public issues throughout the pandemic.
I’ve banged on about this forever but there’s something really joyous about simplicity in an increasingly complex world and I’m reminded about the possibly apocryphal Einstein quote that says “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
In Chip and Dan Health’s book made to stick they also talk about simplicity as a hallmark in communicating ideas which is important when we’re thinking about behaviour change
“Simplicity is achieved when an idea is stripped down to its core, to the most essential elements that make it work. Simple does not have to mean short (but it helps); what is important is that the single most important thing be highlighted.”
With the vaccination programme now firing on all cylinders and a roadmap in place for reducing the restrictions the way we as communicators are able to tell these stories will be more important than ever.
Power of partnerships
As I said in a previous blog partnerships of organisations working together locally have been crucial to the response and I think lots of this innovative, regional work will continue.
One of our nurses Holly has been central to a joint North East campaign with seven local councils culminating in this powerful, human video: https://www.beatcovidne.co.uk/covid-stories/holly-turner/
Developing and opening a PPE factory to provide equipment for NHS organisations and create jobs was another innovation completed locally which gained national recognition last week https://www.newspostleader.co.uk/news/people/prime-minister-officially-opens-ppe-factory-seaton-delaval-3136162
If you only read one thing about NHS partnership working make it this one from Claire Riley
Data and behaviour
Speaking of behaviour we’ve heard lots about behavioural science throughout the pandemic without seeing great deal of definitive evidence or results.
It’s often very compelling in an intuitive way that feels right but this piece in Unherd should give some pause for thought or at least consideration. https://unherd.com/2021/02/behavioural-science-wont-save-us/
Data though is becoming increasingly central to all our comms work and throughout the crisis has been at the heart of the narrative.
However, it can be overwhelming, contradictory and confusing which is why online tools like this have been such a help during the pandemic. https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map
Finally, there’s been an increasing interest in stories that in ‘the before times’ might have been seen as a bit dry or niche.
Take it easy and keep going….