The Four Tenets Of Effective Community Communication

Community Communication
How would you feel if you or your loved one becomes Covid positive? 

Tough to answer this question. 

No amount of preparedness is enough to provide answers to the uncertainty around us. As the lockdown lifts in some parts of the country and as we start to step out, we need to turn ourselves into police. But, before that, we must acknowledge our premises manager- the residential society manager, the office building manager, the community manager – as our new leader. These managers were supposed to be just as the name suggests, manager of the premises. Now, they have the add-on responsibility of taking care of our safety, our community’s safety. Now, they are the leaders to guide, provide community communications, nudge and generate a responsible behaviour from respective communities. 

Dr Atul Gawande, the noted writer and surgeon, reflects on what measures keeps health workers safe at the work places in his latest columm for the New Yorker. He says,

The four pillars of our strategy—hygiene, distancing, screening, and masks—will not return us to normal life, but, when signs indicate that the virus is under control, they could get people out of their homes and moving again. As I think about how my workplace’s regimen could be transferred to life outside the hospital, however, I have come to realize that there is a fifth element to success: culture.

Culture is the fifth, and arguably the most difficult, pillar of a new combination therapy to stop the coronavirus. People tend to focus on two desires: safety and freedom; keep me safe and leave me alone. What Doyle (President of a senior-living community) says she needs her people—both staff and residents—to embrace is the desire to keep others safe, not just themselves. She needs them to say, “I’m worried about my sore throat, and I am going to stay home.” Or “I am O.K. with being reminded to pull my mask up.” That is the culture of the operating room. It’s about wanting, among other things, never to be the one to make someone else sick.

Culture is the fifth, and arguably the most difficult, pillar of a new combination therapy to stop the coronavirus. The culture to embrace the desire to keep others safe, not just themselves. That is the culture of the operating room. It’s about wanting, among other things, never to be the one to make someone else sick.

If you are reading this, then take the time to show this article to your premises manager – residential society, office building manager, shopping complex manager. They have an important role to communicate clearly and lead their community’s behaviour towards the culture of empathy and desire to keep others safe.  

The behavioural economics functions on incentives to change behaviour of people whether they are shoppers or employees. Richard Thaler, The Nobel prize winner for his work in behavioural economics, says, ‘If you want people to do something, make it easy.’

The Nudge Unit was established in the Cabinet Office in 2010 by David Cameron’s government to apply behavioural science to public policy. Now owned partly by the Cabinet Office, by Nesta and by employees, it has operations across the world. The book, Inside the Nudge Unit, authored by the unit’s former CEO explains how to change people’s behaviour in subtle but profound ways. It emphasises on communication to follow the principles of EAST: Easy, Attract, Social and Timely.

I have combined some of these theories with references of research work in the field of Behavioural Economics and written a guideline for community communication. Today, as we step out in the world, we have to borrow the culture from operation theatres and hospitals of embracing the goal to keeps others safe. Our community managers can turn into our guiding stars and provide frameworks for everyone to follow. Their style and tone of communication will define the success of their objective of keeping everyone safe.

4 tenets of community communication

Four must-have tenets of effective community communication

1 Show the gain– most of us end up assuming that everyone knows the advantage of following rules. Showing it through text and graphics reinforces the message. For example- if you write, ‘protect yourself and your loved ones by wearing mask, it reinforces the importance of care for others. This is more effective than just showing an image to ‘wear your mask’.

2 Increase noticeability – People tend to follow what they see others doing. Studies show that when the hotels leave a note in the room with a message to reuse the towel, chances of customers reusing their towel grows if the message reads 75% of people have used earlier. Community managers must communicate in a manner that increases the chances of getting noticed by other members. A simple way of doing this could be to make people sign ‘a pledge of care’ board. The board can be shared virtually or kept at common areas of doorways of entry of the premises. The sight of neighbours’ name urges one to show up for a good deed too.

Remove reasons for excuses. This is a strong pillar of communication. Fence-sitters and excuse makers are equipped with reasons of avoiding a task. Even though mask has been made compulsory to wear, you will still find people with uncovered face and noses. How do we stop them? By eliminating reasons to make excuses. For example – if the tendency is be without a mask in the parking area, put messages there too.

4 Communicate expectations clearly. Communication needs to be clear and simple. Instead of saying do not crowd the lift, it can be specific and tell to not board if there are four people inside the elevator. Similarly, instead of saying, ‘be empathetic towards the community’, one can clearly say, let us be empathetic towards our neighbour, family member, our house-help. Empathy has to be guided. We all need to be reminded several times that our safety lies in keeping people around us safe.

Now, as we move out of lockdown and move into self-controlled measures of activity, it is of much greater importance to come together as a community, to stay safe and to take responsible actions. 

Community Communication - behavioural economics
Four Tenets of Effective Community Communication
Community pledge form for safety
A sample of pledge of safety.

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