Jacinda Ardern Communications Queen
Opinion

Crisis Communications: What We Can Learn From Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern, in my opinion, has set a precedent for modern politics that every world leader should aspire to. New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years, Ardern has been globally praised for her prolific efforts in deadling with the global Coronavirus crisis.

There’s one blindingly obvious reason as to why this is, I believe. But more on this later…

Crisis Communications: The Importance Of Getting It Right

The truth is that we’re in very unchartered waters, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ communication plan to see us through the Coronavirus pandemic – nobody could have anticipated it, and therefore I doubt anybody has truly prepared for it. This debacle is really bringing out the best and worst in not only brands, but individuals too – and that doesn’t exclude world leaders.

This is a crisis though, there’s no doubt about it.

What will see you through a crisis? No other than a sound communications plan. Crisis management was one of the first things that we were taught at university (which is testament to how crucial a skill it is, I think) and is something that you don’t know how much you need, until you actually need it.

We’ve seen already the implications of getting your communications very, very wrong. Brands such as Wetherspoons, Sports Direct, I Saw It First & Virgin Atlantic have all been scrutinished for their handling of these circumstance. And it’s not just brands feeling the heat either, leaders including Donald Trump (…imagine my shock) and even our own Prime Minister have come under fire for their questionable approach to deadling with Coronavirus. With Trump only recently suggesting that disinfectant and sunlight should kill Covid-19 (then later backtracking, which is arguably even worse) and Boris Johnson’s rather ignorant ‘herd immunity’ plan going pearshaped, both leaders have felt the wrath of the population for these communications fails.

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This isn’t the case, it would seem, across the pond.

What Can We Learn From Jacinda Ardern?

As mentioned earlier, Jacinda Ardern is one of the world’s youngest leaders (and a female, might I add) but is wiping the floor with some of the others. This, in my opinion, is thanks in no small part to her prolific communications strategy.

I mentioned earlier that I would come on to why I think that is. Well, all you need to do is take a little look in to her education and career history, and then it doesn’t take a genuis to work out why she is such a strong communicator.

She is no other than one of us! A PR powerhouse with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies.

I would go so far as to say that her impressive handling of this pandemic is largelydown to her education and experience within the communications industry. I’m a little biased, sure, but I do truly believe that effective comms is at the forefront of everything. Especially during times that are so uncertain, we look up to our leaders to show us the way, and if for nothing else than to reassure us in such difficult times. It takes a strong communicator to step up to such a job.

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New Zealand has just 19 deaths (to date), 1,472 confirmed cases (also to date) and are already lifting their lockdown measures. Despite being a rather sizeable country, they are merely a drop in the ocean when compared to the global situation as it stands today.

There’s a reason that out of 3.04m global cases, just 1,472 belong to New Zealand, and that reason is Jacinda Ardern…

Empathy

Jacinda Ardern deserves to be honoured with a Merriam-Webster definition for the word ’empathy’, she is truly remarkable at expressing it.

Why is nobody taking empathy all that seriously? We have our own Prime Minister stating in a daily briefing just a few short weeks ago that “we will lose loved ones before our time”, meanwhile over in the U.S, Donald Trump is *apparently* digging at reporters by suggesting they inject Dettol.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Jacinda Arden is making sensible, powerful and compassionate speeches to her people, seldom getting it wrong. She recently went viral all over the globe for reassuring children that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are still classed as essential workers, though reminding them that they may not be able to deliver this year, all things considered. She successfully managed to comfort confused children, whilst supporting their struggling families in one swift sentence.

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We don’t need tasteless jokes and insensitive comments right now, what we do need is compassionate and sensitive messaging from those who run the country – every world leader can learn a little something from Ardern in this respect.

Clear & Consistent Communications

Despite restrictions being strict and clear, every message by Jacinda Arden is strangely sobering and soothing at the same time. Frequenting Facebook Live chats so that she is always easily accessible, Ardern has been open and honest about the situation, refusing to downplay the bad news and giving uncomplicated time frames for New Zealanders to understand. Something that pretty much every other leader has failed to do, is to tell their population how long they might expect to be in lockdown for.

In our own country, every day I’m seeing more and more people abusing the rules as they have no end-date to keep them sane. Across the pond, Jacinda Ardern has been sure to clearly express that She expected the lockdown to last for several weeks, adding that New Zealand “won’t see the positive benefits of all of the effort you are about to put in for self-isolation … for at least 10 days. So don’t be disheartened.”

Direction

Something else Ardern has been particularly proficient in, is giving her country clear direction. When you draw a parallel with our own situation, the messaging put out by the Government fails to be sufficient really, let alone up to the standards of New Zealand. Some have contended that lockdown rules over here are as ‘clear as mud’ as we are told that we can only leave our house for essential shopping and exercise once a day, yet stores such as Halford and B&Q continue to trade. Because the rules aren’t so intelligible, people are more inclined to flout them. In New Zealand, thanks to her impressive communications style, Jacinda Ardern’s message has been clear and her procedures have been tight. Consquently, her rules have been followed to the letter. New Zealand almost immediately closed its borders, and even halted online deliveries. Furthermore, Ardern has been fantastic in the way of backing up her regulations with hard evidence. For example, in the UK, we still aren’t entirely sure whether we’re allowed to drive to a nearby park to walk to the dog. Over in New Zealand, not only has Arden explicitly stated that you cannot do this right now, she justified why: “People needed to stay local, because what if they drove off to some remote destination and their car broke down?” This is the kind of direction our own governing body should be giving us.

Because of this, the population has largely obeyed orders, and the country will be one of the first to resume normality in my opinion.

Mixing PR and politics? Seems like a pretty good idea to me. Jacinda Ardern is truly a force to be reckoned with, one of the most revolutionary and impressive leaders this modern world has ever seen. There’s a lot that other prime ministers can learn from her.

It would seem that girls truly do run the world 👑

Image sources: AdweekTVNZ.

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