A friend asked me how I would communicate with the Manx public. This communication strategy is entirely separate from the issue of the content, which I’ve discussed elsewhere on this website.
If I were advising the Chief Minister, I would advise two separate tracks:
Track One: Communicate directly to the public
Get a colleague to ask the Chief Minister the questions that the people of Mann are asking at home – and broadcast it directly on social media. Show leadership as the face of our community.
The Chief Minister should literally collect questions from the public on social media, and prepare and rehearse (repeatedly) the answers, and communicate directly to the public. Unfortunately, the anonymous advice being provided on Government websites is a debacle – it is secretly changing with no notice, with an insufficient effort to show or explain the changes. Basically, he should replicate good, simple, public communications like this video from my good friend Tim Wilson, a member of Parliament in Australia.
The Chief Minister should look down the camera, and he should be visibly angry, and he should say words to the effect of: “Knock the panic buying off. If you are panic buying at the supermarkets, you are a bell end. You should stop it. Our food logistics are strong and the supply chains are resilient. Stop panic buying, it is nonsense, you are being silly by doing so.”
He should use deliberately frank and blunt words to show that this is a time for serious and blunt communications. Don’t try to be subtle – be straight-forward, open and honest.
As I write this, I am staggered to have just read that Public Health IOM are shutting down their Twitter account. This is the precise opposite of what I would do.
Track Two: Get a medical expert to explain why the decisions are being made
The Chief Minister should get the chief medical scientist or whoever the expert is, and be the face of the Manx public putting questions to him/her. Sit down in a couple of chairs, and ask the medical expert why our schools are still operating. Let the expert explain the rationale, because when people understand the strategy, they are more likely to abide by it.
Today, parents don’t understand why their children are being asked to go to school – they don’t understand why schools in the Isle of Man need to keep parents out, but children in. I (and many others) will remember how nits, and chicken pox, ran through schools when I was at school. We know that diseases can run through schools very quickly – so if parents are being asked to send their children to them, there better be a bloody good reason to do so. So tell the parents of Mann what those reasons are.
The Chief Minister should make a series of short videos addressing each issue separately, one at a time. This is for two reasons: they’re more likely to be shared and watched if they are short and address a specific issue. People can watch the videos on the issues that they care about. Secondly, if you try and do it all in one take, mistakes will be made in the wording. Making short videos addressing one issue at a time are easier to re-do if there’s an error. Each question and answer should be rehearsed, with the best version shared to the public.
Updated 19 March: This video from Chancellor Merkel of Germany is another good example – obviously, their situation has progressed ahead of where the Isle of Man is, but she is saying the right things and communicating directly to her people.