So Boris Johnson has today given the green light for restaurants, museums and pubs to open from 4th July, as long as safety measures are in place.
But, taking my cue from that Field of Dreams movie quote, it won’t simply be a question of “If we build it, they will come,” for pub landlords and cinema owners – a population fed for months on a lockdown diet of stay-home-stay-safe messages, many of us will now need to be convinced to come out of hibernation.
Businesses and organisations must get on the front foot as soon as possible, not just declaring, ”We’re open for business”, but telling us how they’re doing whilst keeping us safe.
A quick, efficient and compelling way to do so is via the media – whether through a press release that’s picked up by national newspaper journalist or by putting up spokespeople – the right messages can swiftly and very effectively convince a sceptical and nervous public.
Already this morning, ahead of the Prime Minister’s announcement, Peter Borg Neal, chief executive of pub chain Oakman Inns, was telling listeners on Radio 4’s Today programme, “We hope to prove very quickly to government that pubs will be a safe environment and they can ease restrictions further in due course.”
And Simon Martin, director of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, put it brilliantly on the same programme: “..we really want our visitors to feel welcome, feel safe and have an enjoyable time. We are working very hard to ensure that although we sanitise the building we don’t sanitise the experience”.
As we saw at the start of lockdown, it’s the businesses that are able to “pivot” and adapt to remaining restrictions quickly that will do well.
I heard a corner-shop owner on Radio 4’s The Food Programme say this week that well before lockdown they were ready with posters to convey a simple and clear message to customers, “3-2-1”: 3 people in the shop, 2 metres apart and a 1-way system.
That foresight and preparation will pay dividends now too, as restrictions are lifted, but “normal” life is still a long way off.
Let me give you a couple more examples of smart practice:
Last week I received a press release from the hotel chain Travelodge. They were clearly anticipating the easing of restrictions and declared, “We want to create an environment where everyone has peace of mind – whether you are staying or working with us.
That’s why we’ve created a programme of cleaning and social distancing measures, designed to keep our guests and teams safe – TravelodgeProtect+.”
And they produced an infographic to show clearly and simply what this meant.
Their rival, PremierInn, is also promoting their new scheme too – CleanProtect.
Today I had an email from the organisation Stay In A Pub, which promotes hundreds of pubs with accommodation across the UK. Together with its sister company, Cask Marque, it has partnered with Visit Britain “to create a Covid-19 compliance accreditation scheme” called “We’re Good to Go” and this again comes with an infographic showing what pubs are doing to keep customers safe.
This is all clever stuff.
But what will really give such schemes and programmes “believe-ability” is when these businesses – like Oakman Inns and the Pallant Gallery – can put up spokespeople, whether they’re hotel managers, bar staff and yes, newly-arrived guests, to tell us just how such programmes are boosting customer confidence.
The more the public can see and hear what organisations are doing pro-actively, the more they’ll be pro-active too and pop out for a pint or a pie.
Let’s all raise a glass to that.