It is times like this that really shows the important role that public service communications play.
Everyone recognises the vast strain that the Coronavirus is placing on public services and the need to react to a continually evolving set of circumstances.
Of course, it isn’t just the professional strain; it is also the personal strain that comes with juggling these huge demands with our worries and concerns about our immediate and extended family.
Not since World War II has public information played such a central role in the fight against what is an unseen and silent deadly enemy.
The message from the Prime Minister on Monday, 23rd March 2020 seen by a record 27 million, was as powerful as it was clear in delivering a simple instruction to the British people: stay at home.
Our job in public service communications isn’t just about amplifying the central message, as important as that is right now, it is also about connecting audiences with vital information about what this means to them in their own neighbourhood and communities.
The delivery and translation of Government policy are changing all of our lives as seen through the evolving way local public services are being delivered and the broader impact it is having on local communities.
The demand this is placing on local public information, and our ability to help create solutions to the problems this creates is never-ending. At 8pm on that Monday in Oldham, we were urging people to take rubbish (largely recycling) that wasn’t being picked up by a reduced bin collection service to the local waste and recycling centre with detailed plans drawn upon how we would manage the demand while limiting social contact. By 10pm, following the Prime Minister’s address to the nation, Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority had closed all recycling centres across the city region.
Every council will be dealing with the same set of issues, and our job as communicators is not only to relay clear and equivocal advice but to help find solutions.
In Westco our staff are in the frontline of delivering this service across Westminster, Wandsworth, Scarborough, Richmond, Oldham, Hounslow and Havering. And that response is of the very highest quality – not just confined to the 9-5 but spread across all hours and all days.
That task will be stepped up as we move to the next phase of our response – ensuring that every vulnerable person who is self-isolating receives the support that they need. These are not just people on the radar of social care – it is the people who aren’t on that radar and do not have access to support networks. We will play a huge role in ensuring that the right people at the right time receive the right information, not just through broadcast channels, but by disseminating it through a myriad of local networks.
Never before has public information played, such a direct role in saving lives.