Some alarming junk mail
Do you read everything that arrives in your mail box?
I seldom get excited at the prospect of new ‘mail’. I think the last person to send me something in the post that wasn’t a bill, junk mail, or some kind of correspondence from the government was my Dad who sent me a tree as a Christmas present.1
Elected officials are usually pretty reliable mail senders. Whether it’s shopping list with a magnet on the back, little calendars with a magnet on the back, updates on how they’re serving your local community (sometimes with a magnet on the back), politicians can often be counted on to replenish your mail box semi-regularly.2
However, I reckon the elected officials in Sweden may have gone to a whole new level in government-supplied mail.
You may have missed this story, but it was reported that the Swedish government began sending leaflets to every household advising Swedes what to do if war breaks out.
Yes, you read that correctly.
The 20-page pamphlet, released in English and Swedish and titled "If Crisis or War Comes", gives advice on getting clean water, spotting propaganda and finding a bomb shelter. It also includes tips on how to cope if food and water are short, or if electricity, phones and computer systems fail.
But perhaps the key line for me? The pamphlet also tells Swedes they have a duty to act if their country is threatened.
"If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up," the booklet says. "All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false."
It seems the Swedes are getting increasingly anxious about the Russians from across the Baltic Sea. According to Reuters:
Sweden and other countries in the region have been on high alert since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March, 2014. They have also accused Russia of repeated violations of their airspace — assertions that Moscow has either dismissed or not responded to.
I’ve got to say, this is a pretty major move when it comes to communications. Surely there has to be some kind of vague reality that Russia would threaten the Swedes for their government to issue something like this?3
It’s fascinating from a communications perspective. Surely issuing something like this to households would make people a little nervous? But keeping people calm is one of government’s top priorities.
It seems a very strange communications tactic. Issuing something like this seems more likely to induce panic rather than prevent it.
Some are arguing that it’s all part of the Swedish government’s justification for increasing military spending. Again, according to Reuters:
Sweden has repeatedly cited Russian aggression as the reason for a series of security measures including the reintroduction of conscription this year and the stationing of troops on the Baltic island of Gotland.
The Swedish Government decided to start increasing military spending from 2016, reversing years of declines.
While that kind of rationalising of the pamphlet seems somewhat extreme, I’m not really sure what to believe anymore. Maybe Russia is about to invade Sweden? Maybe the Swedish government is more sneaky than I could imagine? Maybe Russia is conducting a big misinformation campaign in Sweden?
Ultimately though, I guess the lesson from a communications standpoint is: when you’re going to issue something controversial, make sure you’ve planned for all the potential public responses. Because people seldom respond as a collective.
I’ll be watching with interest what happens next. And not just because I’m a little nervous that Russia could invade Sweden.
1. Yes. He sent me a tree!
2. Politicians, it seems, are among the biggest supporters of the fridge magnet industry. Just another form of government stimulus?
3. Perhaps the biggest question of all: why on Earth would Russia want to invade Sweden? Tennis supplies? Some kind of blonde hair genome project? To improve their massage industry?