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As a communication project, the campaign to spread the word about mask wearing during the pandemic has been an example of how to do everything wrong. 

Let’s put aside the early missteps on the subject as well as the political overtones it has taken on. Let’s just start at the point when there was a consensus that wearing masks was good. So, masks are good, and we need to get the public onboard. What should we do? 

Keep it Simple 

Instead of:

“You should wear a mask when you are outside of your home if you can’t keep a social distance of six feet between yourself and others.”

The current messaging creates more questions than it answers. Is that guy six feet away? Is he going to stay six feet away? Am I sure what’s six feet away without two yardsticks? 

Try:

“Wear a mask when you are outside your home.”

Keep it Short

Instead of:

“By wearing a mask, you are protecting others from yourself and they are protecting you from them.”

Altruism is never a good motivator. I wouldn’t lie, I just wouldn’t include a treatise on the spread of droplets. We are trying to change behavior, not teach a science class. 

Try:

“Wearing a mask stops the spread of the virus.”

Establish Consequences

I have no example to dissect in this case because there hasn’t been any messaging about consequences. It is assumed peer pressure and social scorning will be enough to force compliance. If and when that works, it takes a long time to show results. Time we don’t have.

Meanwhile shopkeepers and clerks have become the default mask-police. These folks have enough to do trying to keep their businesses afloat in these crazy times. They shouldn’t be expected to be mask cops too. 

My Campaign

Try: 

“If you don’t comply, you will be cited and fined.” 

So, this would be the crux of my campaign:

Wear a Mask

When You Leave Home

Unless You are Under the Age of 2

To Stop the Spread of the Virus

Or You Will be Fined

It’s not quite “Keep Calm; Carry On”, but it’s a lot better than what we have been subjected to.