International Monetary Fund via Flickr
Pandemic Management: When Perception is More Important than Reality
Is government doing a good job? Are you feeling protected and well-informed about the pandemic today?
The people behind Our Brew, being communications professionals, are concerned with perceptions. They know that prevailing perceptions are more important than what's actually happening on the ground. How the people feel has impact on family and neighbors, on optimism, and optimism has impact on how this year will end, and whether we survive the pandemic as a nation, or implode into lawlessness.
International Monetary Fund via Flickr
Tending to perceptions is a crucial task of government.
A perception has life: it has form and weight and mass and influence; it must be monitored, reshaped periodically. The wrong perceptions reflect miscarriage in the dissemination of information.
The government fails in the eyes of foreign media consistently, and, consistently, government responds stormily, contesting all reports. Being last in Bloomberg's The Best and Worst Places to Be as We Learn to Live With Delta was so damning and irrefutable, Duterte decided admission was the best face forward, saying that he was “not surprised” that the Philippines landed at the bottom of the list.
(UPDATE: The Philippines remains at the bottom of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking of the best and worst places to be amid the pandemic in October, as vaccinations and reopening lag despite its outbreak easing.)
A hot-off-the-press PulseAsia survey shows that approval ratings for "Controlling the spread of COVID-19" eased by -6 percentage points versus three months ago, and by -25 points versus last year.
Judge government on four aspects:
Don't scour the internet for answers; the point is to check how you feel, and what you believe are the prevailing sentiments of the people.
What is your perception of government's contact tracing? Do you feel that government is successful in tracing? Have you felt their diligence? Have they knocked on your doors or called?
How is government doing in testing? Based on what you know and perceive, is government doing enough testing, or do you feel that there are many walking about with undetected conditions?
What is your perception of government's border controls? Do you feel that government has been sufficiently alert and quick to the draw in securing our borders? Do you feel that the country should have locked borders earlier, last year, or last week, to prevent the entry of variants?
What is your perception of government's vaccine procurement? Have we been successful in the prompt and adequate acquisition of the preferred vaccines?
"INCAUTIOUS PRONOUNCEMENTS can affect government credibility."
It's an either-or: either government is managing the pandemic blunderingly or doing a bad job of selling itself. When there is a perception of wrong, no matter how false or undeserved, there is a problem to repair; it is a reality to contend with.
Perceptions are more important than reality.
Lest we be accused of promoting misinformation, this is not about what is truth, but a matter of perceptions management, of communication skills and strategies. When you're dropping the ball, flubbing, making mistakes every day, and left and right, for more than a year and a half, handling reality badly worsens your cause. Government loses credibility, loses the hearts of the governed, its pronouncements and actions regarded with askant brows.
"This government is not managing the pandemic well. The fault is not inefficiency, but corruption." Tended badly, these perceptions, substantiated or not, will form an irreversible reality. When the mind settles on a position, expect uncompromising and firm insistence, expect no chipping away or erosion.
A major task of government communications is to prevent perceptions from coagulating into a stark and dangerous reality that dismays and discourages severely, a reality that damages future governments./vrp
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