5 champion communicators in the COVID-19 era

When it comes to leaders and heroes in this crisis, there are few who have used their voice and platform with aplomb. Here’s what PR pros can learn from them.

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No matter where you turn, it is nearly impossible to avoid any talk of coronavirus.

With rapidly changing developments and policy updates, it seems like every broadcast news chyron is “breaking,” any organization you’ve ever interacted with has sent an email on how they are managing this crisis, and everyone is constantly inundating you on social media with helpful (and sometimes not so helpful) tips to stay safe.

Now more than ever, messengers play an influential role in conveying facts, telling important stories, and raising awareness on the issues that are of critical importance. The communicators who are making the biggest impact are those who are able to stand out, break through all of the noise, and reaffirm themselves as reliable and credible sources of information. Authenticity matters—and audiences are paying attention.

So while we are being bombarded with breaking news every minute, who are the champion communicators who have demonstrated they are effective messengers? Here are five:

Dr. Anthony Fauci: The one delivering all facts, all the time

Dr. Fauci has established himself as the go-to trusted source on all things coronavirus—but why is he such an effective messenger?  First and foremost, he has proven experience. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), he has literally been the nation’s expert on such issues throughout various administrations. We see him everywhere, from press briefings to interviews on nearly every major media channel—and wherever he shows up, he always delivers a consistent message in a calm and clear manner.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: The one who takes charge

Throughout this pandemic, Cuomo has gained popularity and emerged as a trusted leader.

Though he has been criticized for some negative personality traits in the past (such as being too brash or controlling), his communication style has actually benefited him during this critical time. Right now, people want the facts and they want direction—and Cuomo delivers. In his daily briefings, he has been very direct and to the point, and has also communicated by taking decisive action.

This “take-charge” communication style makes Cuomo an exceptionally effective messenger.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern: The one who empathizes

Ardern has led New Zealand to effectively respond to coronavirus.

In communicating with her constituency, she manages to not only demonstrate control and leadership, but also incredible empathy, which is crucial as people learn to manage their new reality.  Knowing that a collective action and response is crucial in managing this pandemic, she communicates in a manner which can convince people to act in a socially responsible manner, making them feel empathy and taking their neighbors into consideration.

She also has taken the time to address her youngest constituents, calming some of their biggest worries by announcing that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are indeed essential workers.

José Andrés: The one who takes action

Andrés isn’t a world leader or a policymaker, but in times of disaster, he has emerged as one of the most credible communicators, frequently seen all over the media discussing the impact a crisis has on underserved communities.

Why is he such an effective messenger? Sometimes actions speak more than words.

Andrés has established a reputation as someone who is more than talk. He means what he says, and he backs it up in the things he does. He’s managed to transform himself into more than just a celebrity chef, but a true philanthropist with his nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen, using the spotlight he has been given to speak on behalf of those who don’t have such a platform.

Moreover, he’s willing to fill the gaps in serving communities where policymakers may be falling short.

Frontline health care workers: The ones with stories to tell

One of the most effective communication tools is storytelling, and no one has a more compelling story right now than our frontline health care workers, dealing with this pandemic up close and personal on a daily basis.

When doctors and nurses are interviewed by the media, it’s clear on their faces and in their voices the impact that being on the front lines personally has on them. The details they give on the experiences of so many of their patients is heartbreaking—and it allows those of us watching at home to really put a human face to this crisis.

Who are some of your communications champions right now? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Dee Donavanik (@donavanik) is vice president at Scott Circle Communications (@scottcircle), a Washington, D.C. based public relations firm working with mission-driven clients.

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