The ECB needed to financially protect the game during COVID-19. It also needed to secure UK and Welsh Government approval for return-to-play, ensuring safety when that happens - and support society during the crisis.
A 'minute-by-minute' sequencing plan was put together for every announcement, leaving little space for leaks or misinformation. Announcements were followed by on-record Zoom briefings with media and ECB senior executives. WhatsApp groups were set up with media and other to counter misinformation and to supply regular, accurate updates.
Timings and tone were crucial. The comms emphasised that protecting the vulnerable and key workers was paramount. Journalists were invited to see the how behind-closed-doors (BCD) cricket would work.
Public affairs activity included a high-profile Select Committee testimony backing return to play and the establishment of the BCD working group, for which the ECB secured representatives from three government departments and Public Health England.
In Wales, the ECB took a leading role on the return to sport working group. The ECB also used creative digital and broadcast content, involving England players, to remind people about washing hands, staying home and being tested.
An uplifting consumer campaign, Together Through This Test, launched in May included an emotional film The Wait, narrated by Stephen Fry. It showed how the sport was helping society; for example, furloughed Essex players making and delivering dinners to NHS workers.
Cricket was the first sport to re-start, by 26 July, with crowds in attendance. From February to June, the ECB’s corporate reputation improved across the board: 10 per cent more people thought it was doing a good job at running the professional game, for example.
Together Through This Test generated over 200 articles. The Wait generated 622k views. Almost all coverage was positive.
"The team successfully managed to support the strategic objectives of the ECB whilst appearing sympathetic to the challenges created to wider society due to COVID-19. It's a difficult brief and the team have clearly delivered."
'Pizza Hut team members: delivering for Britain' by Hanover Communications for Pizza Hut
This campaign aimed to ensure Pizza Hut workers felt safe and vital during the COVID-19 crisis. Whatsapp was chosen as the most effective channel because it allowed new groups to be created and to access existing franchise comms streams. The message was refined, focusing on the importance of health and safety, their role in the community, and the NHS free meals scheme. Messages of thanks came from the top and a two-way dialogue was promoted. The new group reached 7,500 team members, 60 franchisees and 400 restaurant managers. Feedback was that team members felt valued, confident and happy about coming into work.
'Back Don't Block' by Newsworks and Bluestripe Group
'NatWest Group response to COVID-19' by NatWest Group Commercial Banking Corporate Affairs Team
'Responding to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the energy sector' by Energy UK
'The lighthouse of Storm COVID' by Cognito Media for HW Fisher, Chartered Accountants