Covid has, at times, been a communications professional’s nightmare. There are mixed messages all over the place, about masks, vaccines and other aspects of the virus.
Spokane business groups are developing media campaigns aimed at unifying basic messages and boosting consumer confidence.
In May, when the coronavirus curve had been flattened, community leaders all around the Northwest spoke with one voice: it’s time to reopen the economy. And now, with everyone from Colville to Coeur d’Alene to Spokane facing increased numbers of cases, the message has changed. But the elected officials, at least in Spokane, are still speaking with one voice.
“We are urging everyone in Spokane County to join us in this effort, to wear face coverings, wash your hands and stay six feet apart," said County Commissioner Mary Kuney during a media briefing on Monday.
"Please enjoy a change of scenery, a conversation at a safe distance, because it is physical distancing, not social distancing," said Spokane Valley Mayor Ben Wick, during that same briefing.
“The only way we’re going to get those freedoms back is by adhering to the guidance, that’s to wear a mask, that’s to physically distance from one another, to wash our hands and to stay home when we’re feeling ill," added Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward.
Greater Spokane, Incorporated is now adding its voice to further reinforce the messages.
“Customers have been confused and unknowing if a particular business, whether it’s a restaurant or a retail shop or a gym, what safety precautions they are performing or doing," said Cara Coon, GSI's director of communications and public affairs.
GSI has unveiled a new campaign called “Spread Kindness, Not Covid," including this message on a peppy online ad.
“As our community reopens, keep taking care. When you act with kindness, your kindness grows and we get closer to recovery. Take simple, but important, steps to keep everyone safe. Spread kindness, not Covid-19.”
The campaign is aimed at showing consumers that businesses are consistently doing what they need to do to keep their customers safe. Right now, that confidence isn’t there. Local social media groups have sprouted up to share anecdotes to warn people about businesses that aren’t following the protocols or to give kudos to those companies that are.
Coon says, with the new campaign, you’ll see and hear ads in media and on billboards. GSI has created materials that businesses can download and use as they like.
“Things that they can try on their own, with their own customers, about how we’re a part of this movement to spread kindness. We want to get over the hump of where we’re at now and begin moving forward," she said.
Visit Spokane, The Inlander and others will follow with their own campaigns. She says GSI will invite other business groups to participate to build campaigns that target smaller, more specialized audiences.
Money for these marketing projects comes from the county’s CARES Act pandemic relief funding.