In the current COVID-19 crisis, as we sacrifice our jobs, our social lives and even, for some, our lives, we look to answers from those in authority, mainly the elected officials and doctors.
Their jobs are to tell us the unvarnished facts along with the meaning of these facts as it affects our lives. Much as it stares every one in business, politics or in any other leadership position in the face; what is the most effective means of getting my message out in the right balance, clarity and meaning.
Most people are looking primarily for three things from COVID-19 briefings; what are the latest developments, what is expected of me and what is our hope in the future. It may be the time to invoke the name of Marshall Mcluhan, the noted Canadian philosopher.
His most famous definitive statement was “The Medium is the Message.” In simple terms, it meant “What you see is what you get.”
In the case of coronavirus briefings, the more comprehensive, trustworthy and professional the presentation, the more effective it is in the viewers’ eyes and minds. At the end of the briefing, you believe or not, based on the manner in which the president presents, what the medical and logistical people say and the way the questions are answered.
A majority of the population seem to think that, despite the penchant for personalizing too much of the accomplishment and fighting with the media, the president, as a whole, is doing good job. A part of this success has to be attributed to the appearance of Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH and Dr. Deborah Birks who make sense out of some pretty detailed medical science.
Most of the 50 governors are also doing daily briefings including Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor. Top kudos here have to go to Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor.
Everyday, Cuomo provides a “talking to” like you would get from your uncle…straight talk from the heart and very personal showing his emotions, his strategy and his projected outcomes. The New York Times said it’s like a good old fashioned Italian dinner without the Chianti and meat balls. You’re going to get straight talk. It’s done in his shirt sleeves surrounded by key personnel…doctors and state public health officials. A key is that he uses graphics to help tell the story.
Power Point slides are well known to most of us from business. It is a computer slide production product introduced by Microsoft in 1987 and he uses them effectively to keep the listener on the same step he’s on and to show bars and graphs. It is truly the best example of using support material to make a point. Soldier on, Gov. Cuomo.
A good guideline for messaging in a case like the current crisis would be the following. First scour every fact you state making sure they are correct and not out of context.
Don’t try to minimize severe outcomes. Deaths are absolute and you can’t qualify them. Provide an accurate picture of where we are with the positives and negatives. And point out the strengths, stability and of our society and the promise for the future. About going to war, FDR said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
How would you sum up this crisis?