“You may have thought: a new cabinet, a new minister (…) that may mean a different way of communicating. And that‘s going to happen, but not immediately today,” Prime Minister Rutte opened the corona press conference. Nevertheless, the way of communicating was definitely different.
For example, the brand new Minister of Health Ernst Kuipers used charts for the first time to support his argument. Experts believe that is a major improvement with previous press conferences. But in some cases, the on-screen images next to Kuipers actually diverted from his story, or did it add little.
Under the line, according to experts, criticism has been listened to and steps have been taken in the right direction. But they also state that a lot of improvement is still possible and necessary to make the message come across clearly to everyone in the Netherlands.
According to Rutte, that’s going to happen. He said that the best way to announce changes in the corona policy is still being looked at. As far as Julia van Weert, professor of health communication, the video screen will at least be here to stay.
“With pictures to support, you help people understand the info better. But those pictures must be in sync with the argument and that was often not the case now.” As an example, she points to the graph showing that infection rates have risen sharply in four countries:
“That graph mainly raised the question for me: why is there more close to us if things are going relatively well here?” In addition, four charts at a glance are too much to process if someone is plotting a story at the same time. “The graph was also gone too fast.”
‘Not working on this message’
Communication expert Lars Duursma sometimes missed the added value of the images on the screen. For example, when Kuipers spoke about loneliness among young people.
“He did show numbers, but they first went up and then down again. That doesn‘t work when your message is: there is a lot of loneliness among young people. Then, for example, you’d better show three young people and then make two red and one green, if it affects two thirds of young people. Or show the contrast to before the pandemic.”
According to Duursma, what the new minister did address well on this subject was that he made it personal. Kuipers referred to his four sons. “You can‘t disagree with him that way. He also spoke calmly and expertly. But Kuipers actually wanted to say too much in a short time and used too much graphics.”
Compared to his well-thought-out presentations about the corona figures to journalists or MPs in his previous position, Kuipers is now talking much slower and in short sentences. Nevertheless, according to Professor Van Weert, he still uses too many difficult words to reach everyone. “It can be even more understandable. But it is much less wide-ranging than its predecessor De Jonge.”
By the way, it was sitting with a bowl of popcorn and a beer watching the press conference at home:
The experts wonder why the display was not used to present the new measures. Or to show exactly what the added value is of the medical face masks that the cabinet is now urgently advising, adds Van Weert. “You really have to convince people why such a thing is important.”
Furthermore, Duursma believes that the sign interpreter comes out better in the new set-up. Because of the prominent place in the background, the sign interpreter previously distracted too much for people who don’t use it. Now the interpreter can be seen in a small frame at the bottom right of the image.