A live address on prime-time television by a political leader is usually reserved for moments of great national importance.
In Northern Ireland, such an occasion is unprecedented in modern times.
So it is a sign of the deepening sense of crisis that Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill chose to make a direct TV plea to people on Tuesday night.
Speaking for just over 10 minutes, staring straight at the camera and into living rooms around the country, they struck a serious but measured tone.
There was little new in what they said - the warning that this is a critical moment and the importance of following the guidelines are familiar to us all.
Instead, this was about the way it was delivered, almost presidential in style.
Some Stormont sources have voiced concern that the public has tired of the gloomy tone of the Health Minister, Robin Swann.
The address was sombre, and it had to be, but also tried to strike a personal touch.
It was easy to emphasise with Mrs Foster when she said: "As an Executive, we will not get every last thing right but our motives are to protect as many lives and livelihoods as we can."
So too Ms O'Neill when she touched on her own worries.
"As a mother and daughter I understand this reality. My family are worried too," she said.
It was also about giving a sense of hope - a point that Ms O'Neill made near the end.
Sometimes how the message is conveyed is as important as the message itself, and all of Northern Ireland was listening.