What we can learn from New Zealand’s Covid-19 messaging

New Zealand has been leading the way in the fight against coronavirus with its simple but powerful communications strategy, which focuses on bringing its people together. We look at how it got the rhetoric so right, and whether countries like the UK should be following its example

Over the course of the last few months, the world has been collectively blindsided by coronavirus. Countries across the globe have been forced to impose heavy restrictions on travel and social activities, close schools and places of work and, in many cases, implement a state of total lockdown. When the history books are written about these tumultuous times, however, some nations will inevitably emerge from the other side having handled it better than others.

As the global death toll continues to climb and scientists scramble to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible, patterns are already beginning to emerge within individual governments’ handling of the crisis. In a recent survey of PR professionals around the world by PRovoke Media, the US came out by far the worse for its approach, reflecting the country’s soaring infection rate and President Trump’s often erratic and confusing messaging, while the countries that fared best were generally the ones that have managed to stay more on top of cases, such as Singapore, New Zealand and Germany.

New Zealand in particular has been widely praised as one of the big success stories of the current crisis so far. With the government’s swift instigation of a nationwide lockdown via a series of video game-style lockdown levels, it has been able to keep its infection rate remarkably low, and to date only has 21 recorded deaths. At the centre of these efforts is the country’s prime minster Jacinda Ardern, whose popularity has skyrocketed by 20%, making her the most popular New Zealand prime minister in a century.

So what is Ardern doing right that other political leaders are not? Along with making carefully thought-out decisions, such as taking a 20% pay cut to show solidarity with those affected by coronavirus, and floating the idea of a four-day working week as a way to boost tourism and improve work-life balance while the country begins to rebuild, communication has played a big role in her successful handling of the crisis so far.