Study hails Jacinda Ardern’s use of Facebook Live during pandemic

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 09:48:00 BST

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's warm and informal use of Facebook Live has helped convey vital COVID-19 messages in a clear and relatable way, according to a new academic study. 

Communication experts claim the honesty and compassion shown by Ardern during live Q&A sessions and video diary updates from her family home created 'a team of five million' against the virus. 

This week's three-day lockdown in Auckland ended a 102-day streak without a local infection in the country. Prime Minister Ardern's initial approach to the pandemic is now the subject of a research paper, co-authored by academics from four universities in Scotland. 

They found the positive and consistent messaging used on social media helped create a sense of unity across the country. The use of Facebook Live allowed Ardern to open up a weekly dialogue with citizens, highlighting progress and challenges in combatting the virus and made her accessible and relatable, the paper concludes. 

From classifying the Easter Bunny as a key worker to taking a 20% pay cut in solidarity with workers who had been made redundant, her relaxed, informal messaging helped build a collective shared experience of COVID-19 and contributed to one of the lowest death rates in the world, the study found. 

The paper, co-authored by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University, Robert Gordon University, Edinburgh Napier, and the University of the West of Scotland, examines the initial crisis communication approach taken by New Zealand's premier to the threat posed by the virus. 

Dr David McGuire, Reader in Human Resource Development at Glasgow Caledonian University and one of the authors, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested the leadership and communication abilities of political leaders globally. 

"Guiding an effective response to the global pandemic has required leaders to demonstrate not only effective planning and coordination skills but the ability to communicate clear consistent messages in an empathetic manner as well. 

"Social media provides leaders with an unfiltered forum to transmit key messages to followers. Moreover, it allows leaders to reinforce or challenge narratives of their leadership approach and show their authentic self. 

"Through the use of daily briefings, press conferences and Facebook Live broadcasts, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern convinced New Zealand’s ‘team of five million’, to alter their behaviours and establish new social norms." 

The paper, published in the journal Human Resource Development International, analyses more than 40 speeches and public statements made by Prime Minister Ardern in March and April 2020.