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A 3-way narrative needed to combat COVID
HCCB's Kamlesh Sharma and Bang in the Middle's Prathap Suthan
The virus has also brought about a big reset. It has thrown up new opportunities, new habits, and perhaps new ways of l...
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A 3-way narrative needed to combat COVID

The virus has also brought about a big reset. It has thrown up new opportunities, new habits, and perhaps new ways of l...
  • Kamlesh Sharma, Chief Communication Officer at Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages and Prathap Suthan, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Bang in The Middle write why we need to arm people with relevant information.
  • They suggest using a 3-pronged communication approach to tackling the multiple sides of the pandemic.
Shortly, we will head into the 6th month of our first exposure to the Coronavirus. And the world we knew is no longer the same.

We suddenly know of a class of people who built our cities, but the cities didn’t have any place for them. We now know our health infrastructure is still a planet away from what a near 3 trillion economy deserves, and while we have found a way to reach distant Mars, we still haven't found a way to lockdown a tiny virus.

Be that as it may, we are now surer than ever, that we are now our own medicine. As much as we are our own defense.

As such, communicating the bigness of this truth to the nook and corner of the country needs to be our stubborn focus. Perhaps as much as there was a need to convey – sabke saath, sabka vikas!

Going ahead, we need to arm people with relevant information, and immediately at that. Perhaps there could be a 3-pronged communication approach to tackling the multiple sides of the pandemic.

Plan A needs to be about hammering down and convincing people that the mask is meant to be worn, and not used as an item to avoid challans or penal action. That washing of hands or sanitizing them is an easier, cheaper, and more convenient way of combating the virus than trying to secure a hospital bed. And that do gaz ki doori (social distancing) is as sure a way of breaking the back of the virus, as was do boond zindagi ki, for eradicating polio.

The only medicine for corona is YOU. You are the vaccine. You are the cure. Look no further than our success against HIV, if we are still not making sense.

Plan B needs to be about co-opting all of us into the combat. While we expect the government to wield a magic wand, they simply don’t have it. The burgeoning daily maths doesn’t allow that.

So, while every community, RWA, association, corporate, village, etc. need to start thinking of isolation wards, beds, emergency measures; we must also come together to celebrate those that have successfully conquered the illness.

There’s just too much of stigma and ostracization attached to the disease. Why can’t we think of a COVID patient the same way we think someone who caught dengue, chikungunya, or common cold? Falling ill is human. This when we also know that thousands of people have cured themselves of the virus through simple home isolation.

Plan C of the narrative simply must be around CBM – confidence-building measures - for self, for the country and economy.

The economy is bruised, people are not earning enough, and yes, there have been job losses, all ironically at a time when people need money the most. But at the same time, the virus has also brought about a big reset.

It has thrown up new opportunities, new habits, and perhaps new ways of living. There are new kinds of businesses being set-up, people are looking at new ways of doing things.

We are now talking about one country, one ration card; home delivery and the traditional grocer is the toast of the town; working from home does not stoke guilt but is the new status quotient, and so much more. So as Mirza Ghalib said, “this too shall pass,” and we will certainly have much more to look forward to.

The need of the hour is to put a portion of the state’s resources in quickly radiating the messages of A, B, and C. And to also seek and allow willing corporates to combine and put out a credible line of advisories, DIY remedies, and SOS methods to help people fight this themselves if and when corona comes visiting. We may not have much time.

- By Kamlesh Sharma, Chief Communication Officer at Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages and Prathap Suthan, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Bang in The Middle