A lot of public health changes have happened at the end of 2021, so we thought it seemed like a good time to reflect on how emergency communication principles such as using simple messages, credible sources, consistent messages, and other insights have been actualized. How have these principles been put into practice (or not put into practice) in our second year of COVID-19? Where do we have the opportunity to grow as communicators still? Let’s take a look at a few year-end events.
COVID-19 Testing and Schools
A big part of an effective message is its actionability. We don’t want people to just be able to find and understand information but act on it. But what to do when the process isn’t doable? Here in Chicago, we saw piles and piles of COVID tests around FedEx boxes around the city this last week of the year. Parents tried hard to follow the plan, but clearly the plan wasn’t actually actionable.
This is a common challenge we see in our work — even if we can get the message easy to digest, is it realistic and doable? Have we really thought through the experience of the reader?
At the Clear Language Lab, we frequently ask A LOT of questions when writing about policies or processes — oftentimes, the policies or processes themselves haven’t been fleshed out fully in the first place. So while we can definitely write it more clearly, it still won't necessarily be easier for people to do.
We must examine the policies and processes that we are writing about through the lens of our audience. We can’t write only about idealized conditions rather than reality and then shrug our shoulders when actions can’t be completed or, worse, blame our audience for not taking action.
Account for scenarios people will actually encounter, not just idealized versions.