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Coronavirus comms: Five things we’ve learnt so far…

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Coronavirus comms: Five things we’ve learnt so far…

Well…there’s more than five but we know you’re all a little busy right now!

This time last year, the situation we find ourselves in now would have seemed preposterous. Yet here we are, finding our way through uncharted territory together. Internal comms has never been more important than it is now, and undoubtedly, we will all look back at this time with a sense of pride at what was achieved in the most challenging of circumstances.

And as with every new situation, there’s always plenty to observe and learn (mainly how awesome internal communicators are – see point 5). So, we’ve collated some thoughts from the last few weeks, which we hope can be enjoyed with a well-earned cuppa (or something stronger if you like) and a biscuit.

  1. Plain English is everything

When the term ‘social distancing’ was first mentioned, internal communicators shuddered. A crisis is not the time to introduce unfamiliar words and phrases that have the potential to confuse people.

Social distancing is the opposite of what we need to be doing. We live in a world of technology that keeps us connected wherever we are in the world, and it’s important to remind people of that. In fact, people are saying they feel more connected at the moment than they have in a very long time.

The message that should have been shared was ‘stay at home’ as this image shared by Helen Reynolds on Twitter perfectly demonstrates:

It’s been a good reminder that even content from official sources needs rewording sometimes to make sense for our employees.


  1. A crisis can bring out the best and the worst in people

There have been some shocking examples shared online where employees have found out they lost their jobs through bluntly worded emails sent by leadership.

It’s possible the authors of said emails thought they were being factual and transparent. However, you can share facts while still having empathy. People are scared and the impact of this virus is far reaching. Everyone I speak to has a different concern depending on their own situation. Compassion and kindness have never been more important in the way we communicate.

And paired with this is using, and directing people to, single sources of truth. Who hasn’t received a WhatsApp message from a well-meaning family member or friend linking to the cure for Coronavirus or a website that claims it’s all a conspiracy theory?

It’s been fantastic to see internal communicators leading the way on this by keeping people reliably and regularly informed based on hard facts (even when most important announcements are being revealed at 5.30pm!).


  1. Understanding human behaviour really matters

Despite communication from the government about what to do and what not to do, people across the country continued to flout the rules. Undoubtedly, this was partly due to a lack of clarity on those instructions, but also a misplaced assumption that humans will simply do as they’re told.

Anyone who has been studying neuroscience and nudge theory will know that simply isn’t the case. It’s a good reminder that communication isn’t just about getting the right words down on a page or using the right channels. We need to understand what makes us human and why we do the things we do.

Hopefully, a positive to come out of all of this is that communication will be seen in a different light by businesses. Not only from how important it is, but how complex it is and why you need experts like us to lead it.


  1. There’s plenty of support and resources available

One thing we haven’t been short of is support, comradery and resources. People have kindly offered up their time and experience and created guides and toolkits to help the wider community.

Here are some of the ones we spotted:

IOIC: Coronavirus advice for internal communicators

All things IC: How o communicate covid-19 working patterns

ABComm (podcast): Crisis communications – covid-19 special

IABC: Covid-19 resources

Comms rebel:How to manage difficult conversations during crisis

Comms rebel: How to communicate with frontline remote workers during coronavirus

CIPR Inside

Horizon Comms: On the outside of a crisis

Wadds: Personal resilience in a time of crisis

Smart: Ultimate coronavirus management checklist

If you have any others to add, let us know!


  1. Internal communicators are pretty awesome

Yes, this is stating the obvious, but the last few weeks have really showcased the commitment, passion and talent of internal communicators across the world. Long days followed by long nights with an ever-changing situation that no one fully understands.

Despite this, people in our profession have made time to share advice and experience, listen, commiserate, and just check in on each other.

So, to all of you internal communicators out there doing an incredible job, we salute you!


And just a quick reminder that we regularly work with amazing NHS comms teams from across the country. So, we’re offering £20K of our time (for free) to help wrestle with the virus. Get in touch with to find out more about what we’ve been doing.


By Helen Deverell for Alive with Ideas

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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