IABC Edmonton is excited to recognize the Government of Alberta — Communications & Public Engagement – Heath, Covid-19 Response Team as our Inspired Communicators of the Year. The team has worked tirelessly over the last few months to help guide our province through this pandemic, implementing solid strategy and providing communications support for Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. They are among the best our profession has to offer.
The Health COVID Communications Team stood up quickly to address the ongoing need for a coordinated approach to government communications during the pandemic.
At the end of February, it became clear that the Health Branch of Communications and Public Engagement would not be able to manage the requirements of a pandemic response alone. Team members would be required seven days a week and for more than 14 hours a day for months on end (and still counting).
By early March, a core team was established with several key roles: lead, media lead, project manager and content lead. Each role had at least two members who “buddied up”, which meant continuity in knowledge and relationships and regularly scheduled days off, something we recognized would be vital as we navigated working from home while also, in many cases, parenting and homeschooling, and taking care of more vulnerable family members. By mid-March the team grew to include a social media lead, who had responsibility for managing the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s twitter account and several content team members. Although individual team members came and went, this basic structure remains in place today and has contributed significantly to our success by ensuring a regular rhythm and no burn-out.
Let’s not forget, we worked closely with a periodic dress wearing, science loving folk hero who quickly came to be recognized as an exemplary communicator. Dr. Hinshaw’s calm manner and commitment to share information honestly and transparently contributes to her skill as a communicator. It also means that she has significant input into any communication developed on her behalf. It became important early for the team to understand her tone and adjust their style to suit. Every set of speaking notes, every quote, every tweet has to have a clear purpose and contribute something of value for Albertans, and must do so in her voice. And every communication is reviewed, edited and approved by Dr. Hinshaw herself, which means thinking ahead to find time in her very busy schedule – for planning availability topics, understanding nuances of a disease as it evolves and interpreting hastily written e-mails into clear, thoughtful content. The team did this all and more.
Although the Health COVID Communications Team had primary responsibility for supporting the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Communications and Public Engagement supported the core team significantly. Every availability was enhanced by social media posts and new web content. Graphics and illustrations made information more accessible. Advertising helped expand the reach of information people needed to know to remain safe. When polling or a trend in social media questions identified Albertans needed something different, we adjusted.
A consistent look and feel have continued to identify government information no matter where it is accessed – from posters displayed in grocery stores to web banners, from out of home display advertising to guidance documents. These treatments were established early and have transcended through the phases of government’s pandemic response and they will continue.
Our work is not done. While information prepared by our team may have helped flattened the curve in Alberta, we are continuing to develop new content and support the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Her role may be evolving, but her expertise and advice continue to influence many decisions that impact Albertans. It’s our job to ensure she continues to communicate clearly, honestly and quickly.
The Health COVID Communications Team is not alone. Our work is no different than the work of all communicators who found themselves thrown into unchartered territory. While we are delighted to be recognized for our small role in a global pandemic, we stand with the many communications professionals across Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and the world who have found creative ways to connect with audiences and to do so remotely. This is a time for communicators to be proud and for their employers and clients to recognize the talent and value that good communications brings to the table. We recognize you, wherever you’re communicating from and stand with you as we move forward. As Dr. Hinshaw says “we’re all in this together.”
The Government of Alberta — Communications & Public Engagement – Heath, Covid-19 Response Team