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Tornado Warning: Understanding the National Weather Service’s Communication Strategies


This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory. National Weather Service field offices do not employ public information officers. Instead, forecasters predict the weather, craft messages, and build relationships with their publics. Scholars have called for public relations research that examines messages, including how crisis communication can help publics cope. Additionally, scholars have noted that all organizations need public relations, even if they do not employ formal public relations personnel. In our study, forecasters emphasized the need to build their publics’ tornado threat awareness and provided strategies to make weather science accessible. Forecasters discussed a variety of message strategies including avoiding fear appeals, humanizing the organization, and visualizing risks. Forecasters also built relationships with active publics through soliciting weather spotters and empowering them to prepare others for severe weather. Overall, findings expand knowledge about how organizations can employ strategic public relations to benefit society, thereby extending fully functioning society theory.

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Full Citation:

Liu, Brooke Fisher, Anita Atwell Seate, Irinia Iles, and Emina Herovic. 2020. "Tornado Warning: Understanding the National Weather Service’s Communication Strategies." Public Relations Review (January). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811119305417