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The problem with ‘Stay Alert’
The problem with ‘Stay Alert’

I have written before about the cardinal value of coherence in messaging. With the coronavirus crisis, the stakes are raised to literally life-threatening level.

The ‘Stay at Home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.’ message was extremely clear and meaningful, and (rightly) repeated ad nauseum.

I can see the problem, though. Stay At Home had worked too well. People who should have been going to work (those who couldn’t work from home) weren’t going. And the economy needed to be edged out of hibernation. So the Government needed to move from the most simple message: Stay At Home, to the more nuanced: stay at home, unless you can’t work from home, in which case you need to go to work, but maintain social distance. Also, you can go out whenever you want, but you must still maintain social distance.

How do you boil that down to 2 or 3 words? Their solution: Stay Alert – which does the job of signalling a change, but has the fatal flaw of being meaningless. My suggestion for the slogan: Keep Your Distance. This signals a change, but qualifies it – yes, go to work; yes, go outside for pleasure; but don’t forget that there is still a pandemic, so, Keep Your Distance. The word ‘Keep’ has the added advantage of connecting to what has gone before – you’ve been careful about social distance until now: keep doing that.

Just a thought…


Michael Isaacs

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