Communicating in the Time of Coronavirus

At this point, we all our have stories.


During the uncertain time which we find ourselves in with the outbreak of the Coronavirus Covid19, emotions are running high. On both ends of the spectrum.


There was the taxi driver who drove me this week to the River Lee Hotel in Cork.  The conference I was to facilitate the following morning was going on as planned. But organisers texted me as we arrived at the hotel: three groups from the previously sold-out event were backing out and three of the business-leader speakers were now forbidden by their companies from attending.


I told the driver about the phone texts coming in and asked him how concerned he was since he worked with the traveling public. It was as if I hit an ignite switch. Three, two, one….


“Ah!” he blasted off. “It’s a bunch of damn over-kill and CYA from the government. The only thing I’m worrying about is that my fares are scarce.  I caught the swine flu back in 2009 and I’m here to tell you about it. This time around, I’ll still keep my health, but I’ll lose my business.” He had more to say, but I’ll spare you the even more colourful language.  Suffice it to say he was not happy.


I caught the swine flu back in 2009 and I’m here to tell you about it. This time around, I’ll still keep my health, but I’ll lose my business.”


Then there was the taxi driver who met me as I arrived at Heuston station. This time I was traveling back home to Dublin after delivering a keynote in Shannon at an aviation event which had about a third of the would-be participants cancel at the last minute. The taxi driver pulled up toward me in the queue and came over to help me put my suitcase in the back. He was wearing thin, blue surgical gloves.

“I change them after every passenger,” he explained. “I bought a huge supply back in January. That’s not all I’m ready for.  When the health care workers and government and safety officials are all busy with Corona,” he went on referring to it more like the beer than the virus, “that’s when the dissidents will strike. It will be anarchy.”  I didn’t enquire what other goods he might be stockpiling in preparation for that scenario.

And then there was the man in front of me this week at Lidl with two full shopping carts. Peering at his assortment of frozen pizzas (mostly pepperoni), bags of different shaped pastas, two dozen jars of sauces and lots of loaves of bread, I was surprised there was no toilet tissue.

“Why not?” I asked him.

“Because I stocked up on a trolley-full of that yesterday,” he replied, smiling as he reached for his change from the cashier.  “I’m prepared.”

I noticed as the cashier handed him a few bills, that the man tucked the money in his wallet and then vigorously sniffed and rubbed his nose without a glance at the small bottle of hand sanitiser protruding from his jacket pocket.

From those who may be blasé or angrily dismissive, to those who seem paranoidly apocalyptic to those who appear calm and cautious while perhaps not hygienic, the pandemic of emotions may be worse than the current pandemic.

I don’t claim to have any answers, but I do think that this is a good time to reflect before we react.

  1. Examine your sources

When your friend on your Whatsapp chat group writes “sh*t is going to hit the fan” and then goes on to speculate a wide range of things that may or may not come to pass, this is not probably your best source of news.

Who are you listening to? Consider whether the information is coming from a medical official with first-hand research and the latest findings, or a political leader or a news-correspondent.  The most reliable source is the person closest to the actual data.

  1. Limit your intake

Once you locate a reliable source, limit the time you spend poring over your newsfeed. Yes, it’s important to stay informed during a developing story such as this but choose your times and news curating locations wisely.  For instance, spending even a minute or two on Twitter searching #Coronavirus or #Covid19 will likely leave you anxious, frightened, angry or a mixture of all three.

  1. Be considerate of others’ perspectives

Before you announce your beliefs in no uncertain terms, consider your audience. What is their perceived level of vulnerability? Might it be a good idea to temper your declarations of doom or your well-intended blanket-statement of reassurance? Our spoken – and written words – have impact. Even saying something casually and off-hand can have a lasting and dramatic effect depending on the person.  

  1. Embrace humour

We can’t be sober about this all the time. I’m not encouraging to drown anxiety in booze, but a little well-placed humour is good for cutting the tension. 

  1. Journal

It’s better to get your feelings out then stifle them inside. Journaling is a great way to sort, organise and process the rollercoaster we are all on. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control our emotions.
Keep your head. Keep your compassion. And yes, wash your hands.



Write to Gina in care of  With corporate clients in five continents, Gina London is a premier communications strategy, structure and delivery expert. She is also a media analyst, author, speaker and former CNN anchor. @TheGinaLondon