Postcard on covid comms vol 7

In the modern world we are sometimes guilty of thinking we have a monopoly on disruption and the pace of change, but I was struck this week by a line in the excellent Michael Palin book on HMS Erebus.

When the ship set off on a polar expedition in 1839 there was no such thing as photography and yet when they returned to port just 4 years later the daguerreotype camera meant photos were now part of everyday life.

That’s an incredible, other worldly change in a really short space of time.

Viewers of BBC drama The Terror will be all too aware of thefate that awaited the crew of the ship in their next expedition trapped in the arctic ice.

In some ways we’ve all been trapped in the ice for the past 12 months as the pandemic and lockdown took hold but it’s also been a time of rapid innovation and change.


It’s not always about super high tech either – my revelation has been the rediscovery of whiteboards, I’ve got 3 in the office now, and they are the ultimate, lean workflow tool.

Our chief executive Sir James Mackie also spoke recently about how adversity has driven improvement, explaining how adding sinks to the front of all hospital entrances has been another simple but effective innovation. 

You can see more examples in this video

Innovation is sometimes too focused on the space age when really, we should think about Archimedes and his lever. A small, simple change that amplifies the results by many more times the effort to introduce it. 


One thing the pandemic has reinforced in my mind is our almost pathological need for powerful stories and storytellers to help us understand the world.

That’s never been more important than during a time of such high anxiety, fear and stress with most of the population locked in their homes.

As communicators we play a crucial role in this by providing information and news directly to our audiences or helping journalists tell important and emotional stories like this

This excellent podcast by Adam Brimelow at NHS Providers also offers a fascinating insight into the Covid experiences of three national journalists.

Staff comms

We mustn’t forget also the vital role in staff communicationsduring the pandemic and we were mentioned alongside some other fantastic NHS organisations in this piece from the Guardian. click here.

Staff have become the default official spokespeople at a local level (See Edelman trust barometer for the reasons why) but as we now enter a time of reflection I worry about the impact of this year on those who have worked the hardest. This BBC video is a tough watch:

As the vaccine programme really kicks in let’s hope that it’s plain sailing now as we move out of this terrible 12 months.

Keep going. 

Photo: A daguerreotype of Lieutenant James Fitzjames (later Captain) of the Royal Navy, taken by Richard Beard at his temporary dockside studio in Greenhithe, England, shortly before the Northwest Passage expedition’s departure on 19 May 1845.

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