It sounds utopian or dreamy, but it will be what people expect. They may not say it, but citizens hope that their local authority will govern to protect the entire community from new cases and that it will take measures to restore “normality” to their lives: this means employment, income, health, tranquility, security, stability and more not in quantities or ideal high levels but at least as he had them which, even if reduced, were sufficient to live. It does not matter how the official acted at the beginning of the pandemic; it will be definitive what he does post-lockdown. So they must align their government plans to this reality and implement efficient communication that achieves this. All of this will require citizens to change in the face of solidarity and the environment. Here, I suggest strategic lines and tactical actions to achieve them.
The books say that the real crisis begins after the storm has ended. To see the damage and consequences will be possible when calm returns and danger recedes. Although it is essential to protect yourself during the storm, a significant challenge occurs afterward. Today we can say that after the battery of the pandemic or the #COVID-19 quarantine, the great objective of governments and societies will be to examine themselves, change and move forward. How much they change and how much better the changes will be the responsibility of the community. Local governments are called to convene their citizens and implement that change; federal governments transform it into protective measures to avoid repetition, stabilize economies, decide if an investment should be more in health or military. No health system was successful in this pandemic, and we must change to have an effective one that responds massively well.
I will focus on local governments full of communication and management than federal governments that are more political or electoral. Let’s start by defining the framework for action; they are newly elected, the crisis occurred when they were preparing their government plans, although it was going well, it will be a year of three months (six lost in the pandemic and quarantine and three in re-starting again), it means that official’s term will be only three years and not four. That implies strict changes in a local administration. Each government program under construction must be reconsidered and include the satisfaction of the general desire to “return to normality” that each official will interpret as he wishes, but that is what every citizen expects. It is easy to explain no one studied, worked, sacrificed, or struggled for years to be at zeroes as in the beginning. Citizens hope that their effort will have value and move forward as it was and not have to start again. They won’t say it, but their unconscious will want it, as studies after 9-11 describe it. Against this background, it will not be enough to reform the government plans to adapt them to three years, but it will be necessary to add a very high communication component, which is not the same as information. I am talking about communication with a call to action, key indicators, social-behavioral change while generating trust and citizen support for each local official when his government program is implemented.
During my years of political and corporate communication practice, I have developed the PRAMS program, which talks about Positioning, Reputation, Agenda, Management, and Solidarity. Here is the key. Align the entire post-pandemic in management and communication to these principles through which symbiosis will be created with high results for the parties and thus, to the extent that they are best achieved, they will determine an effective relationship with citizens.
At this point, we already have several conclusions about what the leaders must do in the post-quarantine: government programs must be modified and adapted to the reality of July that is not the same as that of January 2020. There is a social imperative that it is to give back to the communities the “normality in their lives,” it is necessary to governor execute works for the benefit of the communities as if the crisis had not existed, only that it must be done in 3 years and not in four. The challenge must be complemented by society’s contribution in changing social habits and customs towards the planet and solidarity. Integrating all of this as a well-mixed recipe will be the job of effective strategic communication. So my first advice to the communication teams is that during the quarantine, they take advantage to start planning that communication and thus save time.
I begin to make suggestions that some colleagues have asked me. As strategic lines, I propose two: 1. Direct communication with citizens: social networks and digital media was consolidated during the quarantine. Using digital media in a planned, technical, and sustained manner, officials can reach citizens. 2. Digital strategies: cost and controlled message. The composition of the new strategies must be mostly direct digital individuals by 85%. Other forms, such as non-digital forms with traditional media, must not exceed 10%. The reason is that the media have lost credibility due to their economic or political motivations, and audiences see them but do not believe them, which is significantly different and that prices and results are questionable compared to digital media. Finally, 5% or more, depending on the case, in alternative media, which, in many regions, are of high value and credibility.
I propose four things beyond a specific name or brand; I offer highly efficient measures to complement the already listed strategic lines. 1. Communication with one-to-one segmentation: It is imperative to communicate with citizens one by one as if we have known each one forever but when we only know that they are part of our community. These actions are allowed by social networks and digital tools. 2. Targeting: Implementing strategies of this modality is highly profitable for each peso invested because only when each recipient is reached and acts, the payment of the distribution cost of the messages takes place. That makes it very effective. 3. Micro-Targeting is targeting but adapted to small groups that may think or feel different from others, even part of the same city or local population. If they are not taken into account, they may undermine communication with others simply because general communication does not align with their needs. 4. Communication 4C: We talk about creating Communities, providing them with Content, generating a Conversation, and thus achieving a Connection. After all this process, actions are carried out by the audiences, which is what is sought.
All described above can be used independently or individually and all or in blocks of two or three. Everything will depend on how much the communications plan requires and the needs of the community. In any case, I suggest that the campaigns to be implemented have a defined duration that can be between 16 to 24 weeks. Two campaigns (one per semester) of this 16-week communication are best. It is better to measure results better and implement corrections.
In their messages, several colleagues asked me whether an official, who did good or bad in the storm, has already won the final recognition as success or rejection? First, I will say that I do not use or believe in success and answer the question by saying NO. If the official did it right or wrong during the pandemic, that alone does not guarantee final recognition or rejection. It will only be if, in the post-quarantine, he does it well again or does it well. Let me say it with a simile. The crisis is like a soccer game. You have to play well in the first and second half. There are times when a team plays an excellent first half and a bad second. The crisis is like a soccer game. You have to play well in the first and second half. There are times when a team plays an excellent first half and a second bad. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game, and not playing well in the second half is a huge mistake. By contrast, teams that play both halves well, making the fewest mistakes, are almost always the winners. The same happens in crisis communication.
I encourage colleagues in the communication offices and local officials to take action in this direction, considering all that I have said here. Today, amid the quarantine, they have time to think and design what they want to do. When the closure ends, the communities’ demand for shares comes, and the time will not be enough. A sound strategic communication plan that allows officials to end the year with confidence to execute well the remaining three months and start strong next year will be a significant achievement for every local official. Similarly, not having a plan can be considered that the official wasted a year because they will have to use the following year to produce it, thus reducing their management time.
I have developed strategies and actions like the ones I have mentioned here for Colombian entities. The first was in 2016 for http://www.colsubsidio.com on its social inclusion program, with 90% of the participants obtained by targeting. The second experience was in 2018 for the http://www.registraduria.gov.co in first-round presidential elections; the vote increased by 50% compared to 2014; it was a record. To learn more about how to plan and design one of the tactical actions proposed here, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell me your need or project, and I will surely be able to advise you.