CovidComms Awards Ireland

Irish Guards change tactics to keep their people safe

Keeping people safe
An Garda Síochána
Winner: Best essential workers’ communications
Irish CovidComms Awards

An Garda Síochána has well-documented issues with internal communication. It has poor internal channels, a propensity for wordy, convoluted written communications and suffers from a hierarchical cascade culture which leaves employees feeling that they are neither listened to nor cared for.

As the pandemic hit, An Garda Síochána was aware that staff were starting to feel overwhelmed by the volume of public health information and rapidly changing legislation. But it also knew, from the experience of police services in other countries, that Covid-19 had the potential to reduce available manpower through high absenteeism.

It was therefore imperative that An Garda Síochána upped its game when it came to internal communications if it was to keep employees safe during the pandemic.

The solution was to launch a new digital newsletter, which became the single source of truth. Written in an informal engaging style, with catchy headlines and an inviolable rule of 200 words per article, the newsletter was quick to read. It was also sent directly to all employees, cutting out the force’s traditional bureaucratic style, although Sergeants also received a print-friendly format, so that they could use the information to brief Gardai before their shifts.

Photographs, videos and infographics were also embedded into the newsletter. The safety messages regarding Covid-19 were reinforced with a series of creative, playful print campaigns using famous crime fighting partnerships and popular movies.

Articles on mental health, wellness and nutrition also appeared regularly, which represented a sea-change for the organisation. This initiative received positive feedback from employees, who said that they felt included and cared for.

As one respondent said: ‘Straight talking, with very little jargon, short and succinct. We are too busy to read long-winded stuff so your updates are great.’ Another added: ‘The situation is constantly changing so these bulletins bring us up to date immediately.’ The communications also received positive feedback from the Garda Associations and Unions and the Policing Authority.

The judges said this entry gave an ‘honest and clear understanding of the challenges’ faced by the internal communications team, who ‘broke ranks with new tone and communication tactics’. They added: ‘There was a desire present to discover an effective way to communicate directly and sensitively with employees, not just for this activation but beyond.’