Amongst many things, the coronavirus pandemic is demonstrating how important clear and consistent communications is when looking to gain the public’s trust and confidence. At a global level, we have seen different approaches to messages and methods of informing the public about the state of the nation, restrictions and plans for a rebuild. Each has received varying reactions and levels of compliance.
We saw this play out in England, where more than half of the public felt that they did not fully understand the rules after the introduction of the tier system. Similarly, the announcement of a previously unknown Tier 4, which prevented many seeing families for Christmas as previously promised, caused serious confusion and panic.
| BUILDING TRUST IS VITAL
Clear communication, and the subsequent trust that it leads to is essential during this unprecedented time. Particularly as the public faces an array of misinformation that has the potential to be dangerous, for instance the impact of anti-vaxxers on the vaccination roll out.
The coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out across many nations around the world. The UK government announced last week that every adult in the country will be offered it by autumn, a hugely welcome step after what has been a heartbreaking winter. Yet, approximately one fifth of people globally would refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. In France, 60% of citizens do not want to be vaccinated. Whilst everyone has a right to decline, we can infer that the level of misinformation about the vaccine has increased hesitancy and mistrust in its safety. That is why it is so urgent that everybody has access to the correct information, delivered in a comprehensive and confident way, enabling everyone to make their own informed decision.
| MISINFORMATION AND MIXED MESSAGES
The volume of misinformation about the vaccine has been difficult for social media to control, as it attempts to ban harmful claims leading to increased distrust. Over the past year, we’ve heard rumours about how it will affect our DNA, that governments are using it to track us and that the virus has been caused by 5G mobile networks.
And it’s not just social media causing hesitation about the vaccine. Mixed messages from around the world are further adding to the uncertainty. For instance, a top US infectious disease expert recently apologised after suggesting the UK approved Pfizer-BioNTech too quickly. And we can’t forget chief adviser to British Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings driving 264 miles, which led to a severe decrease in public trust, now known as the ‘Cummings effect’.
Conflicting messages and actions like these from senior figures, in a moment when trust is absolutely essential, can be damaging for public confidence.
| WE CAN’T AFFORD ANYTHING LESS
Advice is less likely to be followed if we can’t trust the experts, and for that, appropriate communication is key. Without, it is detrimental. This is something we can’t afford as a country that is already grieving the loss of over 100,000 people.