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How the state of Kerala is using communication to calm the public while fighting Covid19

The state of Kerala has seen it all when it comes to calamities in the last few years, from devastating floods to fighting the deadly Nipah virus outbreak and now Covid19. While there is no arguing that Kerala boasts of superior healthcare systems as compared to many other states in India, one of the most important things that has stood out during these tough times is the state’s ability to communicate effectively to its people.

From traditional press conferences to mass campaigns, the state has adopted a well thought out communication strategy in reaching out to the public at large.

Let us take a look at a few things which the state is proactively doing to generate awareness and instill a sense of calm amongst the public.

Designated spokespersons

The public relations department (PRD) of the state of Kerala has developed a strict protocol when it comes to communicating with the media on Covid19. 

Apart from the chief minister and the health minister, only the respective district collectors of various districts are authorised to speak to the media on Covid19. No other personnel, even cabinet ministers are allowed to address the media on the issue. 

This has enabled the state to streamline its communication.

Press Conferences

Ever since the Covid19 reared its head in Kerala, the chief minister and the health minister have never missed addressing the press conference every evening, during 7-7 30 pm, using it as a platform to update the people of the state on the latest developments on Covid19.

Apart from the update on the newest reported cases on Covid19, the general theme of the press conference have been that of awareness building and appraising the people on the initiatives the state is taking to overcome the crisis. All this is being done to instil a sense of calm, and the state is also ensuring that the communication covers all strata. The communication has also been forward-looking and extremely positive. 

Below are a few initiatives which were announced during the previous press conferences:

  • Since the state has ordered the shutting down of all schools and colleges, it said that mid-day meals to all students would be delivered to their homes.
  • Keeping in mind that most offices have allowed their employees to work from home, the state said that it has advised all telecom and broadband service providers to enhance better connectivity and ensure uninterrupted smooth service;
  • Sensing a shortage of masks in the state, the Government has roped in all its jail inmates and Kudumbashree (a self-help group in the state) to start manufacturing masks, the first batch of which has already been delivered.

The GoK Direct App

The Kerala Start-up Mission and public relations department launched a multi-lingual app called ‘Gok Direct’ which enables its users to get all the information relating to Covid19 in the state. All government announcements, the precautions to be taken, important telephone numbers, etc. are available on the app. 

The app also has a feature which enables the user to send a text message alerts to basic phones without the Internet. The app also flags fake news that may be doing the rounds. 

The app has become so popular that it has seen more than 2 lakh downloads within 48 hours of its launch.

Social Media

The state is also pioneering the use of social media in driving the messaging around Covid19. For the past few weeks, Twitter communication from the chief minister and the health minister have only been focusing on the Covid19 pandemic. From appeals for the launch of ‘Break the chain campaign’, Kerala seemed to have mastered its communication strategy in dealing with emergent situations.

The Government felt that one of the main reasons why people are escaping hospital isolation and quarantine is because of their perception of the conditions of government hospitals, its cleanliness and food.

To break this myth, the PRD on 17th March, released photographs of government hospital facilities and the breakfast food tray along with the menu which went viral on social media with leading national and state journalists tweeting about it.

Break the chain campaign

The Break The Chain campaign is a mass campaign which aims to spread awareness on the need to wash the hands regularly to contain the spread of Covid19. The Government has installed water taps at public spots such as railway stations, bus stands etc. Sanitizers have also been made available at these locations. The state has also roped in several Malayalam celebrities and sports stars to promote this campaign.

Many large corporates find it extremely difficult to communicate while in a crisis. Probably, this is a model that every corporate should try and emulate. The more you shy away from reaching out to your stakeholders during a crisis, the more will be the business impact. Open, fair and transparent communication is the key.

Balagopal Padmakumar is branch head-Mumbai for brand-comm, a unit of Madison World

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