COVID-19 and Government communication in Italy

At every press conference, starting with those announcing the first containment measures, the watchword of government communication was “sugaring the pill”.

It is a reasonable choice because conveying the perception that everything is under control and therefore spreading optimism is undoubtedly essential to contain negativity and defeatism. Too bad that, in practice, this has produced ambiguous and opaque messages.

One example is the press conference at which the Government announces an injection of EUR 400 billions in support of businesses, stating it verbatim by the President of the Council:

I announce to you: with the decree that has just been approved, we are giving immediate liquidity of four hundred billion euros to our companies, whether they are small or medium or large.

The meaning is clear: the Government gives 400 billion Euros “cash” to companies.

Then, however, the Prime Minister explains that this is not real money, but guarantees for the loans that companies can ask the banks to come back in business. And then, furtherly, he specifies that a company in the galaxy Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (the “safe” of the private Italians savings) provide the necessary guarantees (in other words: this company pays if somebody fails to repay the loan.)

Ideas precede words and therefore if the idea was to use the savings of the Italians to guarantee bank loans with the risk that many companies would inevitably not repay them because (more or less maliciously) they went Chapter 7, the Prime Minister (or rather, his ghost-writer) should have said something along these lines:

Our absolute and first commitment is to save the lives of our compatriots.

We can not afford, though, to leave the economy sink. Therefore next priority of the Government’s agenda is to take back in business our industry, commercial and professional sectors as well as protect the jobs and the dignity of work. We cannot wait for the decisions of the European Union which – as well – will certainly help our country and therefore we have decided to support our businesses by favouring access to bank credit and reducing the guarantees required by credit institutions.

The State, therefore, is the guarantor of the best part of the country by providing 400 billion Euros with the help of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

This is a blod choice and not without risks because it puts the savings of Italians at stake, but the risk is calculated as we are sure that companies, thanks to this support, can get back on their feet by themselves. Citizens must have confidence that the institutions, Guardia di Finanza in primis, are vigilant about abuses, “piloted” bankruptcies and criminal actions aimed at taking advantage of this opportunity to relaunch the country.

I am not a professional ghost-writer, but I believe that this text is not that bad, and certainly not worse than the one used by President Conte. For the future, then – advice not required, but offered anyway – it would be preferable for the Government to adopt the rule that has made the advertising agency McCann great: “truth, well told“.

And I stress the “well” part.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *