Chicago mayor uses humor in serious coronavirus message


This is not an easy task given the apocalyptic statements and headlines. While Illinois is not New York in number of victims, the state has already recorded more than 13,000 cases of covid-19 – the disease caused by the new coronavirus – and 380 deaths. Modeling indicates that the Illinois peak will reach approximately April 20.

Messaging experts like John Greening applaud Lightfoot’s strategy – lightly funny, even disapproving – to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t pay attention.

“It’s a positive tactic,” said Greening, a former global account director for Anheuser-Busch, who now teaches the brand at Northwestern University. “The problem is not that the news is not understandable, but that it is so negative that many people do not want to worry about it. It’s a way to get in your head. It makes the message more attractive by adopting these more contemporary tactics. “

Lightfoot’s change of approach began in late March after closing Lake Michigan beaches, adjacent parks, bike paths and other public areas because the Chicagoans had ignored the order to stay at Governor JB’s house Pritzker throughout the state.

Almost immediately, memes from the mayor guarding the lake and other places began to appear on the Instagram account @WheresLightfoot.

A week later, the Internet is still filling with images on social media of Lightfoot’s grimace eliminating the crowds. She watches people behind the bushes of a house, standing atop hot dog stands, guarding “Cloud Gate” (aka The Bean) in Millennium Park and diving into the middle of an empty Michigan Avenue. In all places, now devoid of people, she looks deadly serious.

Some memes have pushed his powers much further. One shows the mayor cleaning the table of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci and removing the strollers from the Parisian park in the painting by Georges Seurat, “A Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte ” Another guarded the yellow brick entrance to the Kingdom of Oz. “We are going to see the wizard,” said Dorothy and the gang. “The hell you are! Lightfoot snaps back.

Even the Chicago Tribune editorial board got in on Tuesday, placing Lightfoot above the banner so it could watch its editorial on the importance of social distance.

On Twitter, Lightfoot responded in kind. She released a video showing the mayor camped at home. In various scenes, she prepares, decorates, dunks a basketball toy and watches a replay of the 2005 White Sox World Series championship. Everyone’s closing message: “Stay at home, save lives.” (She also sings it while strumming a guitar.)

Kelly Leonard, a longtime creative executive at Second City, the legendary improv theater that launched the careers of many of Chicago’s most famous comedians, called Lightfoot’s use of comedy “brilliant” for the way it engages people.

“She fights a virus with a virus because comedy is also viral and humor is contagious,” he said on Monday. “The idea that she would choose a way in which she could use the larger megaphone was smart. “

The tone contrasts sharply with that of its counterparts in other major cities on the east and west coasts, where Covid-19 struck earlier and harder. Most stayed on serious messages, as did Lightfoot in its daily briefings. On Monday, she was strictly discussing the large emerging racial disparity with local infections. African Americans account for 68% of the city’s deaths and just over half of the confirmed cases – although they make up only 30% of the Chicago population. “This is a moment of call to action for all of us,” she said solemnly at a press conference.

Online, however, is different. There, the bright eyes of his very avatar, his pleated forehead and his monochromatic costume do not appear on a podium of the town hall, but appear instead of a tree branch like Batman.

Leonard says that the wide divergence in Lightfoot’s public image is what makes this approach so effective.

“He is not someone who presents himself as a funny character. … It really surprises people, that’s why everyone revel in it. It came out of nowhere, and the best comedy is the comedy of surprise, “he said.

Lightfoot said in an interview on Tuesday that his office was “very intentional about the strategy” but did not expect an organic viral response. “What this moment tells us is that people are in a situation where they want something that makes them smile,” she said.

Beyond using the mayor as a wink, his office contacted the second city to ask some of his former students to record videos to reinforce the message of social distancing. Steve Carell, Jane Lynch, Bonnie Hunt and Joel Murray have already answered, said Leonard.

Is there a home stretch for this campaign – or is Lightfoot likely to get shot behind the scenes with a big hook?

Like Covid-19 himself, the future is uncertain.

“It is a beautiful sunny day,” she said on Tuesday. “And we’re going to be there for the next few weeks.” We need something to rally. I think it really helps people to spend together. “


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