Communication in a crisis


At the time of writing this, the world is in the grip of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Shops, bars, restaurants, sports facilities and entertainment venues are all temporarily closed. For those that usually work in offices on computers, working from home is becoming the new normal, and many families are now juggling work and home schooling at the same time.

As well as adapting to the new ways of working and living, another problem I have come up against in the past few weeks is, what do I write about now? And how can I write responsibly during a crisis?

Let’s take a look at the status quo.

It’s currently less than one week into the official lockdown in the UK and the internet is already awash with tips on how to work from home and stay productive during this unusual time, so I don’t want to write about that.

This is also a time of heightened anxiety as an unknown future lies ahead for many of us, but I don’t want to write about how to stay productive and manage anxiety during a crisis either – many others have already written about it.

Instead, something else I’ve noticed during the past few weeks is how my writing has changed as a result of an increased awareness of the world around me and the realisation that words may have a stronger impact than usual.

For example, there has been criticism in the press of world leaders using war metaphors when talking about how they are tackling the pandemic. Words like “fight”, “war” and even phrases like “blitz spirit” have been dusted off and used with casual abandon without any concern for how the use of such metaphors may impact people.

Other articles online include information about how to “survive” quarantine at home, and there are even reports of potential rationing of food.

My point is that words are powerful.

Words often have a deeper meaning than their initial use and can evoke strong emotions and memories in people.

As writers, PR and communication professionals around the world adjust to working during the pandemic, it’s important to remember our responsibility as communicators, because that is what we do. We communicate with others through the medium of writing and we have a responsibility to carefully consider our choice of words before putting them out there.

Here is my approach to communication and copywriting during a time of crisis:

  • Avoid the use of war metaphors – it will only scare people.
  • Take time to write and carefully consider how the words may impact others.
  • Pause before publishing or issuing a statement to carry out a final review. If possible, ask someone else to look over the work.

This is an unusual, uncertain time, but by working in a responsible manner and being mindful of the words that we write, we can get through it together.

For more information about communication and copywriting services, contact