It’s never been a better time to examine the role communications plays in the world of wellness. With the current health crisis dominating headlines and headspaces, brands and governments alike need to consider their strategies carefully in order to best serve the public.

Bringing together industry experts for a frank discussion on this subject, our Creativity+Wellness symposium looked at how creativity has served us during the pandemic. We welcomed H+K leaders including Healthcare MD, Jess Walsh; Chief Innovation Officer, Claire Holden; Director of Behaviour Science, Dan Berry; as well as WPP’s Chief Technology Officer, Stephan Pretorius.

“Creative destruction accelerates in a crisis’ – Joseph Schumpeter

According to Stephan, the COVID-19 crisis has created an environment where creative destruction is accelerated; aspects of society or technology that were doing well previously are thriving, whereas weaker elements are disintegrating at a faster rate. While these are uncertain times, this is an enormous opportunity to reinvent how we think about work, life, and everything else during the pandemic.

Already, innovators are rising above the crisis. Digital collaboration is creating more effective co-creation than physical whiteboards in the past, while we’ve quickly learned to solve more complex workflows – helped by emerging platforms such as PlatformIO.

Isolation as led to self-assessment, with brands quickly working to address our needs as we focus on our mental and physical health. Access to classes and services means that the public is turning to new platforms en masse, prompting further innovation from creators. Apps are even evolving to help triage health issues, as in the case of ResApp.

All of this is happening quickly and it’s fascinating how connected we are to each other. If nothing else, this period of separation has proven how brands can work with technology to facilitate better communication on a business and personal level. Some of the most beautiful uses of technology, such as the Apple Watch’s shared haptic heartbeat feature, are the ones that bring us together during isolation.

This is a thread that ran through Jess and Dan’s discussion too – starting with the question of what creativity is really doing for human health now.

When lives are at stake, more than ever we need to deliver impact as well as emotion. In our recent research showing the behavioural science behind effective public COVID messaging, creative thinking, in particular, demonstrated its value. In one example, ramping up the ‘ick’ factor on certain recommendations, such as avoiding touching one’s face, ensures they land more effectively.

Sometimes, simple and repetitive messaging is best. We responded so well to the government’s ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS’ directive because it was so memorable and easy to understand. In fact, it was so effective a slogan, it was too successful in its results; the NHS saw much lower use than expected and too many people stayed at home!

The most important observation, however, is that leaders need to go beyond the typical instructive tone of voice and appeal to the public’s sense of altruism at this time. It is clear that altruism – particularly when you don’t immediately know if someone is vulnerable or needs protecting – will continue to be a key component for creative healthcare communications going forward.

Healthcare brands and organisations looking to continue the virtual consultation revolution will also need to look to behavioural science for tips. While there will be far more options in the future, the most successful ones will add in what is most valuable for users and consider how to maintain human touch. There is an opportunity here, but it needs to be done through the patient lens.

When considering creativity and purpose during these times, one would think that the scale and task of communications around the pandemic mean we need to go big – the data suggests the opposite. Brands need to simplify and think carefully about what the public’s priorities are at the moment. Adidas is one example of successful pivoting to share simple, lofi communications at scale with its #HomeTeam campaign – recognising the need to stay active and inspired at home. Similarly, one of the most surprising campaign for our panellists at the moment is the world-famous Noma restaurant reopening as a burger and beer joint, showing an understanding of what its audience needs right now: an opportunity to heal simply.

Despite minor technical glitches and a glorious contribution from Stephan’s surprisingly vocal cat, the session was a sharp insight into how brands can effectively connect with audiences and serve the public meaningfully going forward. For those who missed it, you can watch it back here.

Our final takeaways to consider are:

  • Adapt to people’s sense of altruism rather than to protect themselves.
  • Adapt technology to fit the human, not the other way around.
  • Accept that our audiences seek certainty and want to avoid risk. Use creativity to teach them how to better understand this and help people make informed decisions as they adapt to a new way of life.
  • Include the most vulnerable into mainstream creative programming and messaging – design for inclusion, as it makes a world of difference.
  • Purpose matters more than ever; reset and simplify.