The Playbook – Liberal Leadership and Strategic Communications in the COVID-19 Era

The play book
© Friedrich Naumann Foundation

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about new political and policy challenges and has reframed old ones. It is the goal of the report “The Playbook – Liberal Leadership and Communications in the COVID-19 era” to take stock of these evolutions and synthesize some of the issues that liberal leaders have to respond to in a context of massive uncertainty. Nine specific areas of interest, ranging from nationalism and identity politics to globalization, the economy and inequality, are investigated one by one. It is an attempt to raise fundamental questions and to highlight that posing them is the bedrock of building effective political macro-narratives.

To bridge the old and the new, the feasible and desirable, we delve into the reactions of public opinion and of (liberal) leaders to the COVID-19 pandemic. After mapping the field, we articulate our take on what is communicationally and strategically needed for the fight against the rise of illiberalism, isolationism, and autocratic tendencies to turn into an opportunity for the reaffirmation of liberal values and principles.

With this goal in mind, the playbook focuses on the “what” and “how” of a winning liberal narrative that addresses the current time’s very difficult policy and political issues. This daunting task is approached with humility and curiosity, and we seek to be part of a conversation that wants to bring together what is right and what is politically successful. Finally, from a strategic communication perspective, we zoom in on the issue of the “infodemic”, the widespread disinformation surrounding the pandemic, while arguing for a deeper engagement with the international aspect of this worrying phenomenon.

Across this playbook, we advocate for value-based soundbites and communicational sense and simplicity. Indeed, it is posited that Clarity, Competence and Courage, will make the difference for successful liberal leaders and for our societies as we grapple with ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.