Flashback: Circa Summer of 2008 through 2019. Remember the memorable months of April and May which were dominated by exciting, nail biting and entertaining videos which dominated the mainstream media, OTT and social media screens. Who can forget the iconic spectacle called the Indian Premier League, or IPL for short.
Cut to: Summer of 2020. Recall the same two months this year--what a traumatic period it has been for the world at large, dealing with the International Pandemic Lockdown; IPL, of a different kind.
The IPL cricketing bonanza was a "great equaliser" bonding players from different countries together as a single team, shorn of national flags or citizenship tags. Imagine a cricketer from Up-North captaining a team which had its origins in Deep-South. And the glue which held the attention of IPL audiences was the multitude of exciting videos across multiple platforms.
The Covid virus too is a "not-so-great equaliser" of sorts. Irrespective of nationality or religion, personal fortune, fame or position, it has cut its way through, leaving behind fear, horror, pain, uncertainty and anguish.
True, we have entered the Unlock Phase--but the real challenge is unlocking the fearful and fatigued minds of a populace ravaged by a virus which does not show signs of abatement. That is where the importance of a sustained communication campaign with a clear strategy assumes centrestage importance.
In this Age of Images, undoubtedly, video-content is indeed the king.Welcome to the "Covideo" Campaign: here's an opportunity to design a professional strategy which addresses micro and macro Covid-related challenges deploying innovative, emotive, rational and persuasive communications resulting in behavioural and attitudinal change. Such a strategy can't be left to governments or a few health-care agencies. Since the major beneficiaries of an optimistic, futuristic and positive mindset will be industries and institutions, they will have to take the lead -- from ideation to implementation.
In the past 10 weeks or so, we are privy to hundreds of emotional, personal and moving real time Covid stories and anecdotes which can serve as a communication goldmine to craft wonderful "Covideos." By sinking into the public consciousness, they should act as influencers and persuaders to motivate a voluntary mindshift and action-change. The interconnectedness and interdependence of human beings was never before revealed so starkly as now. As the adage goes, "your mask saves me and my mask saves you".
Let's imagine a few scenarios in the Covid era. An employee in a large car manufacturing plant is infected. Or an IT hub detects a positive case. Or a star hotel checks in a Covid patient. Or a sales executive in a plush mall continues to work despite a Corona infection. These real-time scenarios can have devastatingly cascading effects: converting a commerce space into a containment zone.
Probably the time has come to redefine CSR as "Covid Social Responsibility". In its rebooted avatar, "CSR '' outlays of each corporate could be aggregated and invested for the Covideo public service campaign. One way of handling this gigantic mission is for each industry trade body to constitute a nodal Covid Communication Group of professionals to strategize and execute the campaign deploying optimal use of funds, within an overarching national and local policy framework.
Here's an SOS to the captains of key sectors to come together and work in tandem with central & state governments and national & international agencies to reimagine a new behavioural ecosystem, so to speak. The candid truth is that each of our lives are at stake as the virus doesn't discriminate. We are all "Covid Stakeholders" -- here is a special shout-out for IDMA, SIAM, ACMA CII, FICCI, CREDAI, COAI, CMA, HAI, MAIT, IBA, ICMA, ICFA, NASSCOM, IBF, FIDC, NBF, AHPI, FHRAI, GSMA, AAAI, AIU, FIMI...
For a vast country as India with a multiplicity of lifestyles, languages and literacy levels, the Covideo campaign using multiple media platforms is undoubtedly a humongous long-term initiative, demanding a committed and dedicated team of professionals working as one big family. As it is, the world is rapidly moving towards an ecosystem that is dependent on a virtual, digital, online mode of communication and information dissemination. In a vast heterogeneous country like India there will exist no-internet or media-dark regions: these will require a differentiated approach.
To simplify: in the initial stages of the Covideo campaign, besides Immunity boosting steps, the focus of the content or messaging can be on Preventives. Eg the 4 Ds: Distancing (including mask), Disinfecting, Detecting and Digitalising by targeting individuals, families, communities and groups. Eventually, at the macro level, in the long run, we may witness the emergence of a Contact-less, Online-driven, Value-enhancing, Infection-free, Door-delivered ecosystem.
Postscript: Along the journey, there may be unrelated or unanticipated incidents which may derail public perception and dilute the Covid focus. Witness the widespread protest marches and arson happening in the US. A knee-jerk reaction by an irresponsible cop has brought the entire nation to its knees, symbolically and literally. The pandemic is forgotten with all precautions thrown to the wind. Think of it: the US has nearly 2 million Covid cases--and the Floyd saga may culminate into a virus super-spreader, badly affecting not just America, but countries beyond.
Currently, A. Sushil Kumar is Co-Founder, Grochange Global, and Chief Mentor, Mansions. Earlier roles include Dean, Amrita School of Business; Global Head (M&C), Amrita TV; CEO & Mentor, Popular Vehicles.