Thought Leadership

How Behavioural Science Can Shape Britain’s Exit Strategy

Nick Barron

Two years ago, MHP began our study of the relationship between communication, behavioural science and the networks that increasingly govern and shape our lives.

Today, the world is engaged in a battle with a virus that spreads through physical networks and fake news that travels even faster through digital networks.

Understanding how to use these networks for the public good has never been more important.

Life After Lockdown - How Behavioural Science Can Shape Britain's Exit Strategy

Last week, we hosted our Partners, the behavioural science specialists INFLUENCE AT WORK, for a discussion about the role that behavioural science has played in managing the UK’s lockdown so far – and what role it should play going forward.

You can watch the whole webinar below, download the summary of the advice here and watch clips from the debate on our Twitter and LinkedIn channels over the next few days.

Life After Lockdown: What Communicators Can Learn from Behavioural Science

Behavioural science has been under the spotlight like never before. Some people have accused government of listening too much to the behavioural scientists at the expense of the health experts, but this is a false dichotomy. Epidemiology is a blend of mathematics, biology and psychology.

While building healthcare capacity is vital, we will only succeed in controlling the virus if everyone plays their part. Short of declaring martial law, the Government has to rely on persuasion to keep people at home and reduce transmission. After six weeks of lockdown, it is clear just how fragile public consent is.

Successive sunny weekends have lured more and more people out of their homes and the public debate has become highly polarised, between those who want a swift end to the lockdown and those who believe that would unleash a second wave, perhaps bigger than the first. The behavioural science that warned lockdowns are hard to maintain has proved correct.

But shutting down the country and educating the public about social distancing was only act one of this story. Act two will be even tougher. Soon, we will have to begin reopening the economy gradually, giving different advice to different groups:

Teachers? Back to school

Office workers? Carry on Zooming

Older people and other at-risk groups? Stay home, but also get a flu jab

Business leaders? Get the economy going again, but also recognise that things will not be going back to normal

Consumers? Start travelling, dining, socialising and shopping again, but take the necessary precautions

And if the threat of a second wave does materialise, forget everything we just said and go back in to lockdown

Effective communication by government, business and other institutions is key to limiting the death toll and the unemployment count. And effective communication is impossible unless you understand how audiences engage with messages. That’s why behavioural science matters.

Two years ago, MHP began our study of the relationship between communication, behavioural science and the networks that increasingly govern and shape our lives. Today, the world is engaged in a battle with a virus that spreads through physical networks and fake news that travels even faster through digital networks. Understanding how to use these networks for the public good has never been more important.

You can download our Guide to the Networked Age here.

MHP's Guide to The Networked Age

And get in touch with me if you want to discuss how behavioural science can shape your employee, customer and stakeholder communications strategies.