Engagement and the Covid-19 alert levels

By Angela Bensemann, Director Halo Communications

Figuring out how we might engage with our communities over the coming months as alert levels change is a bit of a crystal ball gazing exercise. It is useful though to start thinking about what it means for those of us with engagement activities planned for the near future.

Level 4: Lockdown – stay at home!

Engagement during lockdown is all about checking in and keeping in touch.

It’s not about requesting input from stressed individuals and groups. It’s not fair to ask people to engage when they don’t know what their own futures hold.

In addition to that many existing projects are being re-thought and re-prioritised so it’s time to take a pause and just keep the lines of communications open. Social media, email and video conferencing are great tools for keeping in touch.

Level 3: Recovery room – stay home if you can – with some exceptions

Restrictions are still in place, travel is still limited, mass gatherings still cancelled and public venues still closed.

Many workers will still be working from home and all of us, including the over 70s and those with high-risk medical conditions are still expected to stay largely at home. People will still be restricted in what they can do, where they can go and will be starting to count the toll on their bank balances, careers and social lives.

Depending on how long this phase lasts people may start to look outwards and start to be interested in what is going to be happening or available when further restrictions are lifted. But then again, they might not!

This is still the time for checking in on your communities. Any engagement will be taken online with video conferencing, interactive social media like Facebook live or Facebook Q&A, Social Pinpoint, through email and phone calls. But is there any point?

It’ll be a wait and see approach to determine if it feels appropriate to start putting pressure on your community to interact with your agenda. Some people will really only be interested in their own survival, so how much importance can you apportion to feedback gathered during this period anyway?

Level 2: Restrictions still in place including limits on gatherings, non-essential travel around the country and physical distancing

Things will be starting to get back to usual but with enough restrictions still in place to remind us that life is anything but normal. Workplaces will still be operating alternative ways of working including remotely, shift-based and distancing in the office.

High-risk people will still be advised to remain at home, and we can’t just travel around the country as we might like to.

I believe this is the time when enough normality has been restored that we can expect people to want to have a say on issues that are truly important to them. I think physical drop-in sessions should still be avoided as much as possible at this point.

Online engagement will be the main vehicle for engaging and encouraging feedback. Online panels and polls can be utilised, and online feedback gathered through websites and surveys.

Level 1: Life starts to return to normal… still social distancing, no mass gatherings over 500, staying home if sick, washing hands etc!

A limited number of physical engagement sessions can start to resume as long as hygiene measures are in place and there is plenty of space for social distancing.

However, many people may still be loath to get out and about and mingle so I think the main vehicle for engaging will continue to be online through a variety of web, social media and video conferencing tools and of course via phone and email.

We will see online engagement become the norm for quite some time with physical drop-in sessions, get togethers, and public meetings remaining a novelty.

Back to normal

Back to normal seems a long way off and it will be interesting to see how our thoughts on engagement will have evolved over time.

We know that not everyone has the technology or inclination to engage online and that there will always be a place for face-to-face engagement, albeit with health and safety measures paramount.

We just don’t know how long it will be before this physical engagement can resume and what the impact on the quality and quantity of feedback will be in an era of reduced contact and online engagement.

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash