Communication matters

A message we got this week about a coronavirus infection at the school where our elder kid goes (roughly translated from Finnish).

Sender: the principal

Subject: Some of the school’s students and staff have been quarantined for exposure to the coronavirus – a separate message has been sent to those quarantined.

Dear guardian,

The Helsinki and Uusimaa hospital district has confirmed new coronavirus infections. One of the infections happened in the school areas. Not all students and staff have been exposed. The City of Espoo Infectious Diseases Authority has quarantined the students and staff who have been exposed.

Your kid has not been quarantined. They can go to school and meet other people normally.

According to current information, the symptoms of coronavirus infections remain typically mild in children and adolescent.

For further information, visit …

Best regards.

Espoo Infectious Diseases Unit

Communication matters.

Few thoughts.

Before I get to what truly is relevant for me (my kid is fine), I have to read 72 words (a bit more than 450 characters), including a very lengthy subject line. What matters to the reader should always be the opener.

The whole communication is vague, and the feeling is similar to being on a roller coaster. Some have been infected, one at school, not all have been infected, those infected have been quarantined, your kid is ok, kids generally are. One clear concept is more than enough for a message this short.

There are four institutions named (the principal, Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District, The City of Espoo Infectious Diseases Authority, and The City of Espoo Infectious Diseases Unit). The reader rarely cares about a chain of command, and showing some empathy (the name of a person, a phone number) in such a message in this period could be a good idea.

And finally. Perhaps this message was truly necessary, parents need to know. In general, though, a good rule of thumb is to communicate only things that have a tangible impact on the lives of the audience.

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