No. 43




COVID-19 Communication in the Context of Crisis Communication

09 June 2021


RiTo No. 43, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic meant for us a crisis where one of the key words was confusion. The emergency situation that was declared on 12 March 2020 made many people compare the situation with other crises, among which war always also looms as a potential threat. The rhetorical question was: “If a healthcare crisis makes us buckle, then how would we as a society deal with war?”

My paper does not aim to focus on some hypothetical war scenario, but to suggest for discussion some crisis communication considerations that relate to the question “What can the crisis communication do at all?” I would like to add here that all statements in my article must be treated as hypotheses and not as confirmed scientific facts.

In summary, it may be said that the successes and failures of Estonia’s fight against COVID-19 cannot be unambiguously regarded as the result of good or bad communication. A comparison with boredom of war brings out that certain processes are inevitable in the case of large crises. In particular, we can see that the anxiety background created by the media is always more negative than the processes that develop objectively. At the same time, as in several previous crises, it could be seen that the attitudes of public opinion in Estonia are highly dependent on the news from the rest of the world, and the behaviour of people is not directly influenced by classical communication. Instead of that, everybody’s personal experience of the crisis becomes important in achieving a long-term impact. The behaviour of people is also influenced by the restrictions established by force by the authorities. In such a situation, classical communication only has the role of explaining the restrictions.

If you look for the best communication practice, then is has been the publication of COVID-19 statistics, which also creates preconditions for introducing the so-called “traffic light system”. In the situation where the second wave of COVID-19 is about to end, we are entering the next stage, where we have to learn to live with COVID-19. The main condition for that is practices that are based on predictability.