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Great communicators that helped us through 2020

2020 has been a year like no other. A global pandemic, country-wide lockdown, national recession and a US election have dominated headlines, conversations and social media debates.

In times of crisis – and let’s face it, 2020 has had its fair share – we look for clear guidance and advice, that beacon of hope and reassurance. At Speed, our belief is that great communication can change the world so during a year that has thrown everything at us, who were the communicators that stood out?

Who were the shining examples of how to effectively communicate during times of uncertainty and who were those that, let’s just say, missed the mark somewhat and will be remembered not for their great words, but for how they got it so wrong?

Here the Speed team share the good, the bad and the ugly of communications in 2020.

The Good: Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality

“There isn’t an industry that hasn’t been impacted by the pandemic but arguably, the hospitality sector has been one of the worst affected. From forced closures for months on end, to multiple restrictions when opening back up and many well-loved businesses unfortunately permanently closing their doors, hospitality has needed someone to stand and fight its corner. This is where Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, has come in, working tirelessly to ensure the hospitality industry has a clear and unified voice, speaking with passion, empathy and authority. In a crowded landscape, she has ensured that the hospitality industry’s voice has been heard and that issues and challenges have been taken on board at a government level.”

Caragh Seymour, Account Director

The Bad: Mike Ashley, Businessman and Sports Direct Founder

“Mike Ashley is no stranger to controversy and has potentially a greater share of headlines (good and bad – mostly bad though!) in the UK media than any other business leader, but this year’s press cuttings will surely be something even his battle-hardened comms team will want to forget. From being forced to issue a public apology early on in the pandemic for trying to keep his retail chains open as ‘essential services’ to being accused by his own staff just months later of abusing the furlough system by asking managers to continue working, his bullish approach to comms at a time when humility and openness have proved to be so important for leaders has significantly dented his reputation. Only time will tell whether the events of 2020 will have an impact on the way he approaches communications in the future, we can but hope.”

Carrie Greene, Associate Director

The Ugly: Donald Trump

“Strong leadership. That’s what’s been needed this year and people tend to look towards their government to help them through difficult periods in history. Unfortunately for our friends across the pond, now ex-POTUS Donald Trump spent the vast majority of this year proving he has the communication skills of a brick wall. I could write a thesis on his communicative shortcomings but as far as lowlights go, in April he implied Americans could fight the coronavirus by injecting disinfectant, while during a US presidential debate he failed to denounce white supremacist group Proud Boys, instead insisting they ‘stand back and stand by’. Mind-boggling!”

Ben Rogers, Account Manager These are just a few examples of the power of communications to positively and negatively impact the reputation of leaders and the success of businesses. If you’d like to talk to us about how to enhance your communications to have a positive impact on your business in 2021 please get in touch

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