Are your COVID-related communications effective?

Child play time

Are your COVID-related communications effective?

All operators will have been communicating to some extent with staff and customers since the COVID-19 situation began to have a real impact on the lives of everyone across the UK. That communication has no doubt evolved as the effects of the pandemic have become more widespread.

However, as the virus looks set to be with us for a considerable period of time, it’s a good idea to set up a specific COVID communication plan that you know will help you cope with future changes without taking up hours of your time needed for the day to day running of your setting. This will be useful for large and small soft-play centres alike, whether you are open or, unfortunately and unavoidably, shut.

The easiest way to deal with this is to create a package of tools to help you stay on top of the changes, and the ever-increasing regulation, and actions you need to take. For example, Thomson Screening has developed a toolkit to help managers and business owners work through what’s needed and how to action it. The toolkit provides training and sample documentation. The good news is, none of these activities are new. What’s different is they now need a specific “COVID flavoured” version.

Here, Thomson Screening’s Marta Kalas looks at the characteristics of a good communication plan, and then the adaptations needed for COVID-19.

Communications plan characteristics:

  • Understanding your audience
  • Listening actively to staff, parents and children
  • Being clear about what you want to say (simply)
  • Using the appropriate channel(s)
  • Making sure your communication is timely.

And let’s add one highly relevant and hugely important step: know your trusted sources of COVID-19 information!

One of the difficulties is the confusing or out of date information circulating. Go straight to the horse’s mouth, check the government websites first:

Adapting your communication plan for Covid-19 in your centre:

Understand the audience

Under the current circumstances your audience will be much more sensitive to different types of communication.

Essentially, we are talking about people’s ability to handle uncertainty and manage risk, and this has nothing to do with their job, their level of education or even their age. Some people will be very risk averse, some will rely on science or authority, and some will be just the opposite.

Your communications plan needs to be mindful of this and cater to the different needs of staff, parents, children (and any visitors). It may need you to say the same thing from several different perspectives to cater to different needs. 

Listen actively to staff, parents and children

You need to listen and hear what people are most concerned about. For example, is it rules around mask wearing?

You also need to show staff, parents and children that you are listening, that the measures you are putting in place are to protect them and meet their needs. Then communicate accordingly. Action without communication can lead to misunderstandings and reduces trust.

Being clear about what you want to say

Be clear about what should be done if people have symptoms. For example, tell parents and carers not to visit your centre if they or their children are showing symptoms or have been in direct contact with anyone else who is doing so.

You should also ensure that staff and parents have all the contact details they need to be able to notify you in the event of showing symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

If you need external visitors to wear masks at all times, or if they only need to wear them in certain areas, be clear about this. If areas within your centre are off limits to visitors, ensure they are obviously labelled.

Above all, your communications need to be clear, simple and, if necessary, repetitive. Just look at how the NHS is using simple words and lists of no more than three or four items. Don’t assume just because you’ve said it once, everyone has taken it on-board.

It helps to give specific examples and personal touches: show that you have considered the needs, for example, of those who rely on lip reading.

Use the appropriate channels

Any size of indoor-play centre can have a varied range of communications channels these days including your website, Twitter, WhatsApp and newsletters to signage on your front door etc. Choose the right platforms for the audience and for the message. Make use of as many channels as you can and be consistent with your messages. In your COVID-19 related communications, it is really important there is no misunderstanding.

Start by creating a list of all possible “channels”: website, newsletter, sign on the door, customer service team, training materials, Twitter feed, LinkedIn post; everything you can think of.

Which will work most effectively for staff? For adult customers? For the children?

Use templates as much as possible as this will save time and keep the communications consistent. Ensure anyone involved in any form of comms (from PR to social media, from web editor, to marketing flyers, from poster designs to advertising) know what your COVID-19 messaging is and when and how to include it.

Make sure your communication is timely

As you know, with COVID-19 information, regulations etc. can change very fast (or they may stay the same), which makes it very difficult to plan. You want to make sure you have not left out-of-date information on any of your communications, and to be sure you are always in line with the most recent government or Public Health guidelines.

Here’s a reminder of some familiar tips you can use to keep your COVID-19 related messaging current and correct:

  • In electronic communications (websites, newsletters, chats, etc.) use links directly to the relevant government websites. (see list above)


  • Used shared file systems (e.g. Google Drive, One Drive or Dropbox) for templates and drafts
  • Have a log of where these templates are used, to make sure you don’t miss one of them
  • It is only an extra few minutes to get everything in one place when you start, but it will pay dividends many times over when you suddenly need to change something.

Once you have set up everything, it’s simple to set a weekly reminder in your diary, to check that everything is still correct and relevant. This will mean you can confidently communicate any changes and updates as you receive them. You’ll also be set up to communicate reminders to staff and customers as needed.


Girl with crayons


Marta Kalas is co-founder of Thomson Screening, developers of the Thomson COVID-19 Test Manager software platform which enables testing providers to scale irrespective of where, how and what test is carried out. Functions include automated reporting at local and national level for bodies including Public Health, Community Health and Employers, with data reporting into other systems as required.

A separate module using questionnaire and risk assessment methodology enables local residents to self-report Covid-19 symptoms with automated reporting to local (or national) Public Health and the ability to automatically push out messaging specific to the individual with symptoms.

Thomson Covid-19 Test Manager is designed to adapt rapidly to fast-changing requirements and is fully scalable. The Innovate UK grant enables Thomson Screening to utilise investments made in the core functionality of the company’s products used in the NHS, especially its SchoolScreener Imms product, to rapidly repurpose and deploy the software.