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The latest message broadcast by our Prime Minister last night was… “Stay alert – control the virus – save lives”  which has changed from the “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”  message we’ve had during the recent Lockdown.


We’re always fascinated by the impact our words have on others and we’re passionate about simplifying our language so others understand what we mean when we communicate.   So, it’s disappointing to see the confusion around the latest government message announced last night, regardless of our political preferences.    The confusion seems to be mainly what ‘staying alert’ actually means with individuals asking “stay alert in what way, by doing what?”

Let’s face it, many have struggled with the message to stay at home for the last few weeks. We’ve all seen the beaches and parks filled with the public having picnics, the lines of traffic queuing for B&Q and the house parties having to be stopped by the police.   So, it’s even more important to be clear about what is to happen next as we come out of Lockdown.   If the words are open to interpretation, it creates the potential for others to further manipulate the meaning for their own purpose.

The Rule of three
The government is using a rhythmic style that we know as ‘the rule of three’ also known as a TRIAD for their overriding message.   We’ve seen it used before with, “Get Brexit Done” and “Leave means Leave”

When marketing teams design a slogan using the ‘rule of three’ it’s an easy way for us to remember and  focuses our attention by simplifying and embedding a key message.  For example, stop, look and listen helps children remember how to cross the road safely and you may remember the marketing ad, a Mars a day, helps us ‘work, rest and play.’

The desired outcome
One of Steven Covey’s ‘7 habits of highly effective people’ is to ‘start with the end in mind’    So, if we consider the desired outcome the government wanted from this latest slogan, it’s that we must continue to socially distance from each other, except for those we live with.    Let’s be honest, the problem has been the public getting blasé about social distancing.  So, it’s important that we all stay a safe 2m distance apart from each other unless we live with them.

We believe by changing one word, from staying ‘Alert’ to staying ‘Apart’ it quickly and easily focuses our attention on what we’re expected ‘to do’ and it doesn’t require a lot of explaining to help us understand what it means.

So for us, the slogan would be more aligned with the desired outcome if it said,  STAY APART– CONTROL THE VIRUS – SAVE LIVES. 

What word can you change in your language that will have a greater impact on your results?

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