Keep Calm and Make GIFs: Communicating COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand
The early stages of the global covid-19 pandemic threw into relief the communication skills of governments and their leaders. Aotearoa New Zealand was known for its exceptional communication response and elimination of the virus in this initial phase. Much of the praise was attributed to the communication skills of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. However, this study focuses on the work of Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, a science communication collaboration that aided public understanding in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world. In March 2020, during the initial wave of Covid-19, microbiologist and science communicator Dr Siouxsie Wiles teamed up with cartoonist Toby Morris to help simplify her message and reach a wider audience. Work from their collaboration has been shared globally, translated into dozens of languages and used in press conferences by the Prime Minister of New Zealand. This case study uses a VUCA framework in a thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with Morris and Wiles, and the communications they produced. It asks what characteristics of this collaboration helped people navigate the global VUCA situation of Covid-19 and whether an appropriate counter-VUCA model exists for this communication context.