The Covid-19 pandemic has severely tested the leadership and communication abilities of political leaders globally. Guiding an effective response to the global pandemic has required leaders to demonstrate not only effective planning and coordination skills, but the ability to communicate clear consistent messages in an empathetic manner, as well. In New Zealand the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was recorded on February 28 and over the course of March and April 2020, 1,132 further cases of Covid-19 were confirmed and 19 deaths – a much lower transmission rate than most industrialised nations (WHO 2020). On April 27, 2020, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that they had won the battle against community transmission of Covid-19 (Anderson 2020). In the course of the Covid-19 pandemic the leadership and communication style of Ardern has been widely lauded as exemplary (Clark 2020; Friedman 2020; McCarthy 2020; Smyth 2020; Wilson 2020). This paper analyses the speeches and public statements (n = 40) made by Prime Minister Ardern in March and April 2020 through the lens of crisis leadership and crisis communication. In particular, it looks at the use of different mediums (parliamentary statements, daily briefings, Facebook Live broadcasts and podcasts) as mechanisms for engaging in narrative and dialogue with the public. The paper underscores the importance of communication in crisis management and looks at how positive and consistent messaging inspires confidence and social solidarity.


This content is not covered by the Open Government Licence. Please see source record or item for information on rights and permissions.

Cite as

McGuire, D., Cunningham, J., Reynolds, K. & Matthews-Smith, G. 2020, 'Beating the virus: an examination of the crisis communication approach taken by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 pandemic', Human Resource Development International, 23(4), pp. 361-379. https://doi.org/10.1080/13678868.2020.1779543

Downloadable citations

Download HTML citationHTML Download BIB citationBIB Download RIS citationRIS
Last updated: 17 June 2022
Was this page helpful?