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Understanding Risk Communication Best Practices: A Guide for Emergency Managers and Communicators

Effective risk communication requires the alignment of complex factors including trust between the communicator and the audience(s), audience involvement, and emotional responses to risk. Risk communication is especially challenging now as new media changes the landscape for both communicators and their audiences. Viewed as a discussion of the most important findings for risk communicators and managers, this report delves into research driven recommendations for effective risk communication practices. Paired with Understanding Risk Communication Theory: A Guide for Emergency Managers and Communicators, this report reveals the complexity of developing and disseminating effective risk messages. Trust in institutions and organizations, risk related emotions, public proximity to risk, the severity of risk faced, overall tolerance of risk, and public experience with past risks and threats all should be considered in developing risk communication messages and are explored here. The need to reach out effectively to special needs populations is discussed to provide insight on crafting messages for and understanding the behavior of children, the elderly and disabled, those with literacy difficulties, activists, and minority racial and ethnic groups. Other important populations discussed are activist groups and white males. The report also examines the direct and indirect roles of the media both traditional and new media on official communication efforts, and concludes with a discussion of communication considerations relevant to specific phases of a threat or risk. Throughout, the report offers explicit information on key implications of all these factors for effective risk communication.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Janoske, Melissa, Brooke Liu, and Ben Sheppard. 2012. "Understanding Risk Communication Best Practices: A Guide for Emergency Managers and Communicators." College Park, MD: START (May). https://www.start.umd.edu/sites/default/files/publications/local_attachments/UnderstandingRiskCommunicationBestPractices.pdf

START Author(s):