Learning during crisis

Long hours, working at pace, dealing with stress, pressure and anxiety. The last few weeks have been tough going for lots of us working in public sector communications.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with loads of professional challenges, to go with the personal ones, but also an opportunity to learn.

This weekend is the first one for a while where I’ve had the time to reflect on the work we’ve been doing and think about what it’s taught us about what works, I’ve shared some thoughts below:


When working at pace it can feel like a hundred plates spinning at once, and very easy to lose track of what you’re meant to be doing.

Good clear organisation has really helped address this.

Being clear on where and how decisions will be made, when you’ll check in with colleagues and who’s leading on what gives you the confidence that what seems chaotic is actually being managed.

But getting the structures in place is half the battle, ensuring the right people are in those conversations is also key. Bringing audience, subject matter and operational experts together gives you well rounded decisions.


An inital reaction to a period of crisis can be to immediately leap in to action and add to the growing noise.

But it’s been really useful to take a step back and think about why we need to communicate.

Not only does this stop unessecary communications that can be burdensome for our audiences but it gives what we do communicate an outcome orientation.

The struggle is to win arguments with non colleagues about comms that might not be needed, no one ewnats to be silent in a time of crisis.

Not that we’re always successful in those arguments.


Whilst a lot of the team are on the front line delivering activity, it’s useful to try and have someone above the fray. Able to take a step back and give a strategic perspective about whether we’re doing the right thing. A perspective you might not get if you’re on the ground.


Keep talking to our stakeholders. The situation is changing rapidly and so is what our audiences need to hear from us.

Our stakeholders keep us in touch with that changing reality, are a great sounding board for our content, and allies in helping to share it.

In times like this collective action makes more sense than ever before.

Be good enough

A lot of people I know who work in this field are perfectionists, or at least are always looking to deliver outstanding work.

Obviously in normal times that can be a great thing. But working at pace we need to accept that not everything is going to be outstanding, a lot of the time we need to aim for good enough.

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up and we should also be ready to defend our colleagues from unfair criticism.


This is a really stressful time and we’re definitely up against it. But there is also opportunity here, to take some of those things on the backlog, the innovative ideas we’ve always wanted to try, the new ways of working. And start trying them.

The things we couldn’t get through the door previously because there wasn’t the rationale, are suddenly possible.

Let’s innovate and learn and come out of the other side as better professionals and teams.


This is the last point, but the most important.

We’re all going to be under a lot of pressure, both professionally and personally.

The things we’ll see, hear about and have to communicate on will be traumatic.

It’s so important we look out for one another, check in with each other, give ourselves time away from the maelstrom, and say thank you and well done as often as possible.

Hope everyone is doing OK and look after yourself out there!



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