28 May ‘Domnishambles’ – how should Government handle the Dominic Cummings lockdown scandal?
It’s not every day a Minister resigns because a special advisor has kept their job. Then again, Dominic Cummings is no ordinary special advisor, at least in the eyes of the Prime Minister.
Our founder and MD Jenny Ousbey contributed her views to PR Week on how Government could best recover from the media furore around Cumming’s comings and goings during the lockdown, and the tone and message they will need to reinforce the bruised faith in their public health messaging:
“Once lockdown was eased there was a certain inevitability health messaging would fail to gain as much cut-through. If you ask people not to open a door the majority will leave it shut. If you ask them to leave it ajar, they’ll all interpret that differently.
‘Domnishambles’ feeds the growing sense of perceived unfairness – whereby soon you can visit Primark, but not attend your Gran’s funeral – which was already resulting in a lack of rule-following.
But let’s not forget that everyone – dependent on age, income, race, education, etc – receives public health information differently. And this episode is no exception.
Prime Minister Johnson must double down on the ‘don’t let this have been for nothing’ messaging over the coming week. He should instil a desire to follow the guidance – not out of reluctance, but because it will provide tangible benefit, such as seeing your friends, going back to work and hugging your grandchildren.
The PM missed his window of opportunity over the weekend to address this head-on. The only course of action he can now take is to appeal to people’s emotions. Acknowledge the anger of the public, recognise the deep sacrifices made, and tailor his messaging accordingly.”
However, it’s not just the the integrity of the message that needs considering, but the message itself. Earlier in May, Jenny also shared her thoughts with PR Week on the Government’s slogan: “Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives”:
“Aside from asking us to be alert to a threat you can’t see…it demands that an individual control a virus, which is too big an ask. Our own research shows asking the public to take on smaller tasks, such as washing hands, has more emotional resonance. ‘Stay safe, keep apart, save lives’ would have worked better as a slogan at this point.”
To read the full article on PR Week, with thoughts from other organisations like the NHS Confederation, click the link here.