Wednesday 1 April 2020 6:52 am

DEBATE: Do we need a Keep Calm and Carry On approach to coronavirus communications?

Emma Wood is an account director at integrated branding agency me&dave.
Paul Ferry
Paul Ferry is director of digital design agency ShopTalk.

Do we need a Keep Calm and Carry On approach to coronavirus communications?

Yes, says Emma Wood, an account director at integrated branding agency me&dave.

It takes more than a series of directives to engage people and inspire them to act. And statistics will only go so far. We need to help people envisage things in more human terms.

This is where design and storytelling can supercharge purely functional public-service announcements and give them purpose.

The government’s World War II Dig For Victory campaign was such a success because it told the story of how it’s the small things we can do at home that impact the monumental efforts taking place elsewhere. People realised they were part of something bigger, and that their role counted.

2020 is no different. Yes, the means by which we communicate have evolved, and society looks very different, but pulling together to protect each other is as important as ever.  

Let’s give people a heartfelt reason to act, rather than simply issuing instructions, however important. It’s time to rekindle the “Keep Calm and Carry On” magic and deliver it to a twenty-first century audience.

No, says Paul Ferry, director of digital design agency ShopTalk.

Times have changed since the government created that iconic poster in 1939. No question, it was a brilliant slogan, and it evokes a sense of national pride to this day. But while drawing on that British fighting spirit is important, we mustn’t forget modern societal complexities. And we need to use every weapon in our arsenal to get the intricate life-saving messages that are being broadcast every day across effectively to everyone.

The United Nations has just issued a Global Call to Creatives asking them to provide a “stream of fresh, innovative content to drive home the personal behaviours and societal support needed today”. That messaging needs to be in numerous languages, respond to all cultures, and be accessible via multiple platforms by everyone, everywhere.

We can still pull together and show support — the global Clapping for Carers event showed how galvanising that can be — but 2020 and 1939 are worlds apart and our approach should be too. Nostalgia isn’t enough.

Main image credit: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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