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Applause: an emotional connection

Published Mar 27, 2020 – By Martin MacConnol


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”

I tried improving on Dickens’ opening to a Tale of Two Cities to capture the current mood. Unsurprisingly, I discovered that he is better at writing than me, and that his imagery is as on-the-nail today as it was in the mid-nineteenth century.

Of course, the two cities in his great novel are real ones, Paris and London. But in fact, there is a tale of two cities rolling out in every location of the UK (and seemingly the world) at the moment.

One city is comprised of selfishness and panic. It’s the city of people flouting clear government instructions when they don’t have a reason to, it’s the city of stockpiling when all the retailers say there is no need.

The other city is one of altruism, it’s personified by workers across the whole of the health service who are coming to the front line and putting their lives at risk. It’s the city of volunteers who are offering to support them, the city which last night came out and applauded its heart out for the NHS.

That wave of applause was a significant moment in the fight against coronavirus in the UK. At Wardour we talk a lot to our clients about the value of making an emotional as well as a rational connection in their communications and marketing.

It’s felt so far that many people across the UK have intellectually got the need to be socially distant, but not taken it to their hearts. Rationally, they get the government’s instructions, but somehow, the rules don’t quite apply to ‘what I need to do’ whether that be an extra trip to the shops or a needlessly long drive to a beauty spot to walk the dog.

But the applause last night will shift that intellectual connection with the government’s messaging into something more emotional and as a result will transform how people behave.

It was impossible not to be moved by what took place. In a time of isolation, I have never felt so connected with the neighbours in my street, and beyond that, people in my city and my country. It soaked me up emotionally in a way that Poppy Day never quite manages: something I am ashamed to admit to, but which is true. It did this because I am a bit-player in this crisis (we all are), and also because I know directly people who are risking their lives by going to tend for the sick each day. We all do.

My hope is that over the next few days we will see the city of light prevailing over the city of darkness. If that happens, we will never know the precise catalyst, but I would bet money on it being largely to do with people, standing in their doorways and coming together through applause.

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