Opinion

Maybe Fatima Could Teach The Government A Thing Or Two?

Ballerinas seldom have a weak bone in their body, including their backbone. Something our government – as they ask people in the arts to retrain rather than putting up a fight for them – seem to lack.

Yesterday, yet another ill-timed and in-poor-taste government campaign went viral for insulting an industry that they’ve continued to batter throughout the unfolding of this pandemic. Support, it seems, falls short when it comes to the arts. A sector that’s been repeatedly thrown to the wolves since pretty much the entire was shut down by the government earlier this year.

Maybe It’s Time To ‘Rethink’ Your Campaign, No.10

Naturally, it wasn’t well-received when Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested those with creative backgrounds retrain, to abandon careers that they’ve likely grafted their whole life for. Ultimately, it seems that many in power have forgotten that this country is built on creativity and the arts. From art, to music, to theatre. The UK has left its mark on the world over the years with the talent amassed here, only for the government to turn their backs on this fact in the face of uncertainty and difficulty.

When it comes to government communications, I’ve said time and time again that trust broke down not too long after the mishandling of the Dominic Cummings scandal. Since, our once united nation is now dispersed. Public trust has been lost and there’s a lot of anger brewing. This is a far cry from the resilience and togetherness enjoyed earlier this year, headed by the powerful “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” message of March.

The Issue With The Government’s Communications

Talking about the problems with the Gov’s comms strategy over the past few months is like opening Pandora’s box. There’s a myriad of issues with the way that those in power have been liaising with the public – from leaks to the newspapers to the insult of last-minute Zoom calls with regional leaders.

Like I mentioned above, I truly believe the rush to defend Dominic Cummings in no.10 was the beginning of the end. National trust broke down after that. This incident was shortly followed by the confusing “stay alert” message that replaced the once-strong “stay home” one. What was once hailed a successful communications strategy, soon became a laughing stock. Following this, there’ve been mixed messages and confusing demands – people don’t know whether they’re coming or going. And then, to add insult to injury, the government decided to launch a ‘rethink and retrain’ campaign* that only really worked to further anger those already feeling let down.

Amanda Coleman, crisis communications expert, wrote yesterday that “rumour, speculation and leaks is no way to turn an effective crisis communication response. For days there have been media stories about the restrictions that are likely to be introduced today. Last night, people in the Liverpool region will have learnt that they are going to be the first to face some form of lockdown. They heard not from council leaders, politicians or a leadership role but from media reports.”

Ultimately, as the nation grows more desperate to find answers and to do the right thing, their messages are getting more and more scrambled. One only needs to look to Jacinda Ardern, to understand the importance of clear and concise communications. But regrettably, this is something that our own government are failing at. Confusing demands and contradicting press reports, mixed in with the newly-launched ‘rethink and retrain’ campaign has ultimately conjured up a recipe for disaster. Though they’ve pulled the ad now, has the damage already been done?

Strength, dedication and focus. The government could learn those skills from the likes of Fatima, who shouldn’t have to give up her passion on account of negligence and poor communications. Ironically and unintentionally, her next job was ultimately putting the government to shame – and that’s a movement I can get behind at the moment. 

Let me know what you think of the campaign, and of course anything else, in the comments below or on Twitter. I always love hearing your opinions.

* It has been noted that this campaign was launched last year on Twitter, though I’ve seen no evidence to support this and with the ad being ‘pulled’ I do have reason to doubt this speculation.

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