Tackling the 5G problem, one freedom of information (FOI) request at a time
18 Feb 2021
We’ve all been searching for a reason, something to blame, anything to pour out our lockdown frustration at since COVID-19 swept the UK last March. And for some people, the answer was 5G.
With dubious links between COVID hotspots and 5G mast locations, we saw a significant rise in the undercurrent of anti-5G sentiment that the telecoms industry and the government have been battling over the last few years. Masts were burned, property defaced and suddenly the ‘tin-hat’ wearing crowd was in mainstream news.
Previously, while it’s always been a concern, the 5G industry has been able to segment anti-5Gers and push ahead with plans. But with the significant investment that putting 5G infrastructure in place takes – plus the potential it has to generate income and opportunities in the future – suddenly a burned mast has pushed this minority to front of mind. Both for the industry and the public left wondering if they might have a point…
Over the past few years, we’ve been lucky enough to work on 5G innovation projects that have put us on the front lines. We’ve answered countless FOI requests about 5G safety, encountered protesters in the flesh at events and spoken with communities and councils about what a 5G roll-out would mean for them.
I’ve personally loved working in this field – never being one to shy away from a crisis comms incident, I’ve enjoyed diving into the health and safety of 5G with the likes of DCMS and large-scale infrastructure providers. Throughout this process, I’ve learned a lot and I think there are some clear do’s and don’ts that should be considered in any 5G marketing campaign.
…try to be a safety expert. As with any new technology or scientific advancement, it will take a long time – if ever – before we can say 5G is safe. So, don’t – but also don’t let that hold you back. Direct queries to outside sources, such as Public Health England, who have the research and purpose of answering those queries and focus your attention on sharing the benefits it can offer.
…underestimate the communications challenge. Most of the material available about 5G is heavily technical and open to interpretation as the industry explores everything from LORAwan to LiFi to work out the best way forward. Expect a hefty upfront messaging investment to produce a campaign that is positive and easy to understand to engage everyone from policy makers to the public.
…put humans at the heart of your campaign. 5G is new, it’s exciting, and it has a huge amount of potential to change the lives of each of us. Think of the businesses, the communities, the schoolchildren, the farmers that could benefit. It’s not about the mmWave speed – it’s about the promise of a better reality.
…think creatively. It sounds obvious, but 5G is the hottest buzzword in telecoms – and maybe even in the whole technology industry right now. Everyone has a 5G stance or campaign, so you need to find a way to cut through the noise. Social assets, blogs, email marketing – they just won’t cut it on their own. What could your hero moment be?
It seems like the more mainstream 5G becomes, the more drama that surrounds it – a phenomenon not helped by a corresponding year of intense health concerns. But the potential 5G has to make our lives better and the lure of the story that we could tell around that outshines the typical marketer’s aversion to walking into a known communications minefield. Having boldly gone there, we can say that it’s worth it – check out the campaign that started my obsession here.