Direct, honest and empathetic communication as well as empowering the public to act, are recommended strategies for effective government crisis communication
Dr Alex Beattie, Associate Professor Rebecca Priestley


To analyse Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's daily press briefings with the Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield as a case study of government communication during a public health crisis.


When analysing crisis communications, scholars argue that it is important to assess what is being communicated, who is speaking or delivering the message, and how the key messages are communicated. To address how government communications were delivered, we focus here on daily briefings between 15 March and 13 May 2020. Who delivered the messages in the daily briefings often varied. Here we focus on Ardern and Bloomfield's addresses at the daily briefings. To address the significance of what was being communicated, we ask: what were the key themes of the communications presented by Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield in the daily briefings during the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown? How did these communication themes support or undermine Aotearoa's New Zealand's COVID-19 elimination strategy?


A reflexive thematic analysis leads us to identify three key themes in the daily briefings:

  1. Open, honest and straightforward communication
  2. Distinctive and motivational language
  3. Expressions of care


Situating our findings in the fields of crisis communication, science communication and psychology, we argue that the messages presented in the 2020 daily briefings supported the New Zealand Government's COVID-19 elimination strategy through building trust with the audience and framing the ‘lockdown’ as an urgent, collective and meaningful cause, mobilising New Zealanders to support public health measures.

[Full paper] (

First published: Sep 20, 2021
COVID-19 Modelling Aotearoa
[COVID-19 Modelling Aotearoa](, is a cross-organisation and transdisciplinary group of academic researchers and scientists that were brought together by Te Pūnaha Matatini to help Aotearoa New Zealand face the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work is underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, fast and committed peer review, and ethics. These parameters ensure that the modelling developed by our broad team is uniquely equipped to provide scientifically robust results which are fit for Aotearoa New Zealand and support our decision-making.