Simple, clear messaging
This is what has been what has been so successful in New Zealand’’s pandemic so far.
This is partly because the goal we were aiming for was clear – and that was elimination. And the Alert Level system was the process through which we got to that outcome. It was a complete story – it had a beginning, and a goal, and a process by which we navigated how we achieved that goal.
What was helpful about it was that it helped us to understand what we needed to be doing, whether we were doing it right, and if it was making a difference.
The new stepped process for Alert level 3 in Auckland has lost that clarity for many people – such as the simple message of no mixing of bubbles indoors.
Whatever comes next in the Government’s messaging will be a new process – revamped Alert Level System, a possible traffic light system, whatever – that also needs to help people to understand what to do, to show them how to do it and give them clear guidance about if they are doing it right, and if it is making a difference.
This is going to be more complex in the next few weeks because there are so many more moving parts this time around, like possible home isolation, vaccine certificates, regional differences and inter-regional travel restrictions. These were unusual or didn’t exist at all for much of the past 20 months. So, there’s going to be a lot more to keep track of and process in terms of information that we need to understand and act on.
Messaging will have to be even clearer than it has been on its best day, let alone its worst
Clarity about what any new alert system is designed to achieve would help. Having “a good summer” is one thing, but it’s more like a staging post. What happens next? A newly designed alert level process will probably be easier to communicate and understand if it’s clearly tied to a destination – an outcome.
What happens next?
Where are we heading to? That’s what’s missing right now. A traffic light system, or whatever comes next, may help us navigate our way there, but it doesn’t tell us where we are going.
The tough part is that no-one knows the ending of the story right now. It’s not just challenging New Zealand – this dynamic is being experienced all around the world. But we can gather clues about what might happen next here through what has happened in other places around the world. It might not give us all the answers to where we might be headed next, but we need to have a better idea of the story arc and general direction, or else the danger is that we can and will feel quite lost.