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Coronavirus crisis shows the real value in genuine expertise

Nick Baker Chief Research Officer 20 April 2020

Trust is an outcome, expertise subjective: Covid-19 is demonstrating the real value in genuine expertise

Fast-forward to 2020 and the current coronavirus crisis — and professionalism is back.

The 2008 financial crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis generated a great deal of popular discontent with experts. “We don’t trust experts” was a clear rallying call from populist political leaders which also resonated across Europe.

Fast-forward to 2020 and the current coronavirus crisis — and professionalism is back.

We have seen the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty front and centre leading the call for the UK public to take the difficulties of the current lockdown on the chin. Only this can tip the infection rate to less than one forward infection from every individual with COVID-19  – the tipping point for the virus to recede as opposed to proliferate.

People are very open to trusting experts and heeding the evidence, the science when their own lives are at stake. This changes the game and we can already see the growing legitimacy that this has lent to the professionals who lead the fight against the virus. In many senses the return of the state – following on so quickly after its rejection at the ballot box in the UK when Jeremy Corbyn was so spectacularly defeated in 2019  – has been made possible because trust in experts is back.

Only a few weeks ago, the civil service was under constant pressure and the BBC often criticised by senior government figures; now, both institutions are central in our collective response to the current crisis.

Experts now hold everyone’s attention. The value of evidence, knowledge and expertise is being re-written and re-established as you read this.

But what does that mean for those of us who deal in evidence, insight and expertise? Those of us who are not engaged on the medical frontline as our world of knowledge, research and advisory is in a different arena.

In truth, nobody can say conclusively we are in the middle of a probable paradigm shift. A systemic change is once in a generation so there aren’t the usual reference points. But from everything we can see here at Savanta…

  • Evidence was always vital for decision-makers; it never went away. Evidence matters and will be crucial in navigating this period of significant change and beyond.
  • Don’t under-estimate the importance of your ‘licence to speak’. Expertise is multifaceted and context dependent, you need to use your expertise wisely and at the right time.
  • Brands can get it wrong easily – just look at Sports Direct – but keeping a close focus on your customers, their changing needs, priorities and behaviours through this transition, not just once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, is crucial.
  • Don’t just look internally. This crisis will present opportunities for survival, for growth, to keep destiny in your own hands, but to do so evidence, insight and customer listening are crucial. Keep your finger on the pulse.
  • This transition is not gradual or linear, daily and weekly barometers have become business critical tools and should be prioritised – again…keep your fingers on the pulse.

As an immediate resource Savanta’s daily tracker, with 1,000+ UK respondents every day, will keep you informed on how the UK population are reacting to the COVID-19 crisis. The tracker covers 5 key areas: concern & impact, home & work, out-of-home & retail, news sources and approval ratings.

As well as our daily tracker, Savanta is running weekly coronavirus surveys in the UK, US and other regions as well as a bi-weekly survey for UK & US businesses. Both brands and businesses can ask their target audience a range of bespoke questions to dig deeper into the key topics each week

We will be updating our coronavirus tracker daily and weekly as this unprecedented pandemic unfolds. Please get in touch for more information.