Blog post
March 31, 2020

Isentia Conversations with Katherine Newton, CEO at RU OK?

COVID-19 has forced organisations to adjust to a new reality – a new way to work, to communicate, to stay connected and stay motivated.

As we’re connecting in new ways, we’re more committed than ever to making sure you have the information and the support you need.

We recently started a webinar series – Communicating through Change – because we saw an opportunity to learn from subject matter experts and hear their stories, as we adapt to new ways of working. 

In the first of our series, we spoke to the CEO of RU OK? Katherine Newton about ways to stay connected with teammates, friends and family during this time. We also spoke to Isentia’s Insights Specialist, Andrew Ledovskikh about key trends and takeaways  he found relating to COVID-19 in traditional and social media.

Below you can find the key takeaways from the webinar.

COVID-19 in traditional and social media with Andrew Ledovskikh from Isentia

3:38 – COVID-19 data gathered from a global index poll showed traditional media consumption has increased significantly as COVID-19 lockdowns began. The data showed a 42% increase in the consumption of news coverage and 26% of people significantly increased their consumption of news coverage. Traditional media is playing a large role in informing the public about the macroeconomic impact and government responses.

4:33 – COVID-19 mentions accounted for 27% of the total media coverage for the time period March 11 to March 17. Andrew advises this is a significant figure.

5:10 – Australian broadcast programs, like Today, Sunrise and ABC News Breakfast returned even higher figures with 55% of their clips mentioning the coronavirus. These mentions  were about the virus itself and related topics such as quarantine, isolation, economic impact and affected sporting seasons such as NRL and AFL.

6:04 – During the time period January 1 to March 22, 27%  of media coverage was related to COVID-19 – a huge number when compared to the recent Australian bushfires. At the time, the bushfires was the story, yet at its peak, only accumulated 16% of media coverage.

9:46 – The COVID-19 story has almost endless angles and economic impact remains front of mind. Mentions about economic impact have increased week on week from January 1 to March 22. During this time, mentions about governments locking down their jurisdictions increased, journalistic analysis and assessment of government responses was also up. 

10:27 – Conversations in January to late February started explaining the virus, discussing quarantine, isolation and the health impacts of the virus. And later evolved to economic impact, the analysis of policies, and the criticisms and the praises of the decisions being made.

13:03 – There are two differences when comparing social media coverage to traditional media. On social media, conversations are more negative and personal. Data revealed there is three times more coverage about personal economic impact such as job losses, paying bills and paying mortgages than the term recession.

13:57 – Government response conversations are strong yet are growing very slowly on social media in comparison to discussions around self-isolation, working from home and strategies to get through this difficult time. There is an extreme amount of cynicism on social media about the way everyone is dealing with this situation. Organisations should be aware of this.

14:35 – On social media, sentiment around brands is quite strong, and there’s positive sentiment toward large organisations and governments based on their response to the crisis.  The main source of criticism is how other people are dealing with their new reality and there’s still some scepticism, fear and willingness to point fingers during the crisis.  It’s important to note that if organisations front the media and don’t answer appropriately or have their policies in order, they could become the target of a negative response.

Talking mental health with Katherine Newton from RU OK?

16:20 – Katherine Newton from RU OK? Talks about the importance of asking if someone is okay, and under the current circumstances, it could be more appropriate to ask RU OK today? It can be asked to a family member, colleague, friend or neighbour and works best when there is a foundation of trust and when it’s asked in a meaningful way.

17:20 – It’s important we all look after one another as we go through life’s ups and downs. Suicide, mental illness and life changes affect all of us – every demographic, age, and as humans, there will be a time when we are not okay.

18:30 – RU OK? is about starting the conversation, getting in early and getting into the prevention headspace. Trust in the signs, if someone is not quite themselves or their behaviour is off, trust your instinct and ask if they are okay. We need to be proactive, and our message is to encourage everyone to stay connected during this time.

19:06 – We’ve been told to socially distance, but that’s not great for our physical and mental state. Physical distancing with social connections is key during this time.

19:54 RU OK? recommends virtual meetings and seeing your team members screen to screen for adopting or maintaining workplace connections. It’s important to see your team, your leaders etc. to relieve anxiety, fear and to stay connected.

20:36 – We can look after each other.  We can stay connected. We’re all in this together.

20:42 – Ensure that when you do connect with others, you are transparent and communicate clearly. Sometimes people just want to be heard to alleviate their anxiety. The two key takeaways when asking RU OK are:

  1. Ask in a meaningful way
  2. To listen

21:23 – The next thing to do is to provide support and encourage the person to take action. If in a work environment, ask your team members what you can do for them, is the level of communication working? Is more or less communication required?

21:42 – It’s important for organisations to have an employee assistance program in place. These programs provide support, are completely confidential and are there to be used. 

22:30 – It’s okay not to be okay. In the coming months, there will be higher rates of anxiety and depression, and with this, we can be hopeful there will be a greater understanding from each other.

23:15 – Hopefully we can shift the stigma of mental illness. To help yourself throughout the day, take breaks throughout the day, exercise, go for walks to clear the mind, get adequate sleep and stick to a routine.

24:03 – During this time, be yourself, be well, be kind, If you are well and able, be a virtual shoulder to lean on. Stay connected and we can really help each other get through this.

If you would like to view other Webinar Isentia Conversations: Communicating through Change:

Isentia Conversations: with Bec Brown from The Comms Department

Isentia Conversations: with Rochelle Courtenay from Share the Dignity

Isentia Conversations: with Rachel Clements at Centre for Corporate Health

Isentia Conversations: with Helen McMurdo at MTV


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