Once you’ve found your voice amidst all this chaos, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it. That’s why this week’s reading list focuses on tone. Below, you’ll find consumer attitudes to the topic and examples of tone from Irish art and the world of politics. There’s also a poem inspired by coronavirus marketing as well as a bonus article on female leadership – because if I’m going to be given a platform, then you best believe I’m going to sneak my feminist agenda in here!
P.S.:For anyone wondering, Darius will be back to his regular spot next week.
Opinium Research surveyed 2,000 adults in the UK to find out what communication styles they would prefer brands to adopt during the crisis. At an overall level, people said they were seeking content that was informative (69%), serious (56%), educational (54%), and inspiring (49%), but not surprisingly, these answers differed greatly depending on the sector. The report also goes into detail as to why the response from big supermarkets like Sainsburys and Tesco have been so well received by the public.
If there’s a group of people who know the importance of crafting and delivering tone, it’s writers and actors. Luckily for us, a new project from the Abbey has taken the theatre online to ensure Ireland’s artistic voice is still being heard. It commissioned 50 writers to each write a postcard to Ireland in the form of a monologue that was then performed by 50 actors of their nomination. The stories range from hopeful and hilarious to downright angry, and just about every emotion in between. Dear Ireland was released live over four nights last week. But if you missed it, fear not. In true millennial fashion, I slid into the DMs of The Abbey on Insta and they assured me the recordings would be uploaded to their YouTube channel from Saturday and remain online for six months. I am writing this pre-weekend so hopefully they were true to their word and you can still enjoy the work at the link above.
This article from Think Global Health offers a gendered and political analysis of how world leaders publicly spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic throughout March. It looks at the similarities and differences in the leaders’ statements in relation to content and proposed action, the level of emotion and familiarity, the use of war analogies (Trump likened the pandemic to a war in thirteen of the nineteen statements he gave that month!), and, of course, the tone:
(Speaking about Trump and Boris)
Both use short, clipped sentences, often expressing aggression or defensiveness. A more important characteristic of these nations’ responses can be seen in their leaders’ sudden shift in tone. Both men adopted a casual approach at the beginning of March—assuring their citizens that “this will pass” and that their countries were more than prepared. However, both leaders had a sharp change in tone as the pandemic developed in both countries.
In contrast to these male figures, female leaders such as Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern provide a consistent steadiness in their public statements throughout the month.
The final paragraph touches on an argument that has been explored more directly elsewhere over the past few weeks – are female leaders better at managing the coronavirus crisis? The best response I have come across is this thought-provoking piece from The Hill that features expert opinion from Kathleen Gersen, a professor of sociology at NYU. Gersen looks beyond the female leadership style to the nuances of culture that enable a female leader in the first place. She goes on to assert that any leader can be successful if they are able to demonstrate a balance of strength and compassion — qualities that are easier said than done due to societal expectations placed on both genders.
…A fully developed leader should be both strong and capable of feeling… if women can lead the way in showing that these are not competing and conflicting attributes, but in fact complementary and necessary for good leadership — I think not only will society benefit, but so will men. Maybe then we can begin to open up the scripts for roles that leaders play, regardless of whether it’s a woman or a man or anything else.
Last but not least, a poem by Jessica Salfia who is an English teacher and writer in West Virginia. As the title suggests, it is literally a poem constructed from emails she received during quarantine. The poem went viral in less than a day and it is a good reminder to us all to avoid using language that sounds opportunistic and clichéd in our communications.