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Communications leader recognised for pandemic response

Communications leader recognised for pandemic response

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Communications leader recognised for pandemic response


The States' first Director of Communications, Mary Putra, will be awarded an MBE for her work to build public trust in the government during the pandemic and bring islanders together under the banner of #GuernseyTogether.

Mrs Putra has been recognised in the Covid-19 section of Her Majesty The Queen's Birthday Honours list.

She devised and led the States' Covid-19 engagement strategy at short notice, ensuring the government could communicate with the public in a timely and honest way.

Mrs Putra also delivered a new States website in record time, which would go on to handle an unprecedented level of traffic, and managed to maintain normal government communications service throughout.

"[At the height of the pandemic] it was very fast moving, very long, seven days a week, having to respond to whatever was happening at that time," Mrs Putra recalled. "It was incredibly busy because very early on we took the non-clinical Covid helpline. I patched in those numbers next to the communications team's, which worked really well because it meant we were getting the insight from the community but also the comms team was able to update the helpline very quickly.

Helpline Phone

Pictured: The communications team also took charge of the non-clinical helpline.

"It was frantic and the early days were nerve-wracking for all of us. We've got vulnerable members of our family too and we didn't know how things were going to pan out any better than anyone else."

The team had to work hard to address the many rumours which spread quickly across the island - the majority of which turned out to be untrue.

"We were very real right from the outset, so you could hear the personalities behind the voice, particularly on social media," Mrs Putra continued. "We had just over 5,000 followers on Facebook before the pandemic and we now have 26,500.

"It's very difficult to read things that are not true and are rumour and conjecture, and sometimes that's actually really dangerous because we knew there were people in the community that were really nervous and scared, certainly in the early days. So, incorrect information needs to be called out."

Mrs Putra's work drew praise from national communications professionals throughout the pandemic.

iPad Social Media

Pictured: Islanders kept up to date with the communications team via social media.

"There was no communications team for the States of Guernsey until seven years ago - unbelievable as that might seem," she added. "So for us to have got to this point in seven years and to have a light shone not only on me and my team but also on the profession as a whole - understanding the importance of professional communicators - it's quite something when you think there was no team.

"My team are amazing. They are a small team and they work incredibly hard. They're all very talented and I think this pandemic just gave them an opportunity to demonstrate what they know how to do. I could not be prouder. They've all got different skills and they bring them together in the most fantastic way."

When she received the phone call from Government House about her recognition, Mrs Putra said she was "stunned into silence".

She had to keep it to herself for a while but did tell her 91-year-old father, who was very proud of her achievement.

Pictured top: Mary Putra at a Government House celebratory event with Paul Whitfield and Dr Nicola Brink who were also recognised in the list.

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