By Carolin Wenzel, Director Comms for Change –


One thing about the mess we’re in with COVID-19 is that we’re all in it together – globally.

But it’s quite a challenge for progressive change-makers and organisations to rise above the panic, get positive messages out  and lead with our values in the way we communicate to all our stakeholders.

Some Australian organisations are already taking action to protect vulnerable people and facilitate community building in the face of shut-downs and self-isolation.

GetUp has just started a community hub called viral kindness 

#ViralKindness is a hub for the community care groups springing up across the country to support people in need or in self-isolation during the coronavirus crisis. Whether it’s shopping for food, picking up medicine or a regular check in call – there are lots of ways we can stay together, even when we’re apart!

The Tenants Union NSW is rallying support for renters who lose their employment with a petition to stop forced evictions. Protect our communities – no evictions during a health crisis

“People facing eviction are less able to take actions required to minimise transmission of COVID19, particularly where they become homeless, and will become more vulnerable to illness.”

Examples like these show how progressives are stepping up with effective and positive communication. As communicators it’s more crucial than ever before that we are clear and promote responsible, supportive messages during times of uncertainty.

The Commons Social Change Library has pulled together a range of great resources on Progressive Framing of the Coronavirus Pandemic. One of the links is to a collaborative document ‘Framing a Community Response to COVID-19’ where US communicators are creating a messaging scaffold that draws upon progressive frames and values. It includes the following points:

What are progressive communication goals during the pandemic?

  • Build community during a time of crisis 
  • Demonstrate and amplify leadership and spirit of co-operation and connection.
  • Help stop the spread of the virus by protecting communities who are vulnerable. 
  • Reinforce the importance of public health and solidarity with public service workers and front line health staff.
  • Support progressive economic choices. 
  • Stand against and call out racism and xenophobia
  • Maintain vigilance and hold leaders to account

What values do we want to activate in our communication?

  • Universalism – everyone has the right to protection
  • Cooperation and Community – “We will get through this together”.
  • Care – for each other, for frontline health workers, for the vulnerable
  • Respect for Expertise – not the same as authority

The framework also lays out specific and agreed upon actions that progressive organisations  want decision-makers, power holders and governments to take during this time including strengthening public health structures and protecting people who have lost work as a result of COVID-19.

Key progressive messages for your organisation and community

Drawing on the values and frames from the messaging guide, we recommend that in your communications to your community and other stakeholders that you:

  1. Replace ‘social distancing’ with ‘physical distancing’ – while we need to keep physical distance from each other to stop the spread of coronavirus, it is vital that we continue to connect, check in on neighbours, and raise our voices together to demand change now and in the future.
  2. Embrace notions of solidarity,  instead of buying in to a ‘panic’ frame. Emphasise that we are ‘all in this together’ rather than how bad the mayhem or chaos will get. It is in looking after each other, that we also look after ourselves and vice versa.
  3. Be pro-public or collective, rather than pro-individual – rather than focusing on individual tax cuts or personal measures taken to lessen economic impact, we need to focus on systems-level protections and support that are designed to ensure that all people have the protection they need to get through this pandemic.


There’s lots more to explore here:

Framing a Community Response to COVID-19

Collaborative google-share doc – multiple authors

National COVID-19 Messaging Doc

Anat Shenker Osorio – ASO Communications

Progressive Framing of the coronavirus pandemic

Holly Hammond, The Commons Social Change Library – includes the above resources and more

COVID-19 Pandemic resources for Australian Progressives

Centre for Australian Progress

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