State Policy Network
How state think tank leaders should think about messaging during the coronavirus
Your brand is your reputation. It’s what supporters, donors, lawmakers, and media trust. You have worked long and hard to build a brand that evokes respect and confidence.

By Meredith Turney, Senior Director of Leadership Development and Strategic Communications

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact how our society functions, all of us are learning how to acclimate to this new reality. One of the most important things we can and must protect during this tenuous time is the brand of each of our organizations.

Your brand is your reputation. It’s what supporters, donors, lawmakers, and media trust. You have worked long and hard to build a brand that evokes respect and confidence. During times of uncertainty like this, government has a tendency to overreact, overstep constitutional restraints, and coop the free market. It’s understandable that it raises our ire. But it’s critical that we strike the right balance at this time of crisis. People are looking for leadership and confidence right now, not detailed policy debates.

In order to protect and in fact boost our brands right now, we must strike the right tone of empathy, compassion, concern, confidence, and leadership. A good marker before sending out an op-ed or newsletter is to consider if the recipient will feel more confident your organization cares about them personally, their community, and is committed to finding the best solutions in the midst of chaos and fear.

Messaging that attacks government or focuses on detailed policy debates will not resonate right now. A good marker before sending out messaging about government right now is to consider whether a lawmaker would feel you’re offering wise counsel on ramifications for their decisions, not an attack on their motivations or experience.

SPN’s Vice President of Communications, Carrie Conko, is working with Heart+Mind Strategies right now to bring weekly values-based survey results to the Network. We’ve placed much of this material on SPN’s member portal.

I’m also coaching communications staff across the Network on how to message and communicate during this delicate time. Communications staffers have excellent instincts and are following the best values-based research available. Senior leadership support for communication staff will reinforce their protection of your organization’s brand during a challenging time for all of us.

If you would like to talk with me or Carrie Conko about your organization’s messaging and brand, please feel free to reach out. We are here to support you during this time; to help you continue to build your brand of trust so you have even greater impact now and in the future.

Related resources for state think tanks

COVID-19 Messaging: How to communicate with confidence and hope
(For SPN Members)

How to Think about your Brand and Building Trust in your Community in Times of Crisis

Crisis Communications Prep for State Think Tanks During COVID-19

The Dos and Don’ts of Media Pitching during Coronavirus

How to adapt and thrive during COVID-19: A guide for nonprofits