The Significance of Crisis and Risk Communication

Authored by: Robert L. Heath , H.Dan O’Hair

Handbook of Risk and Crisis Communication

Print publication date:  September  2008
Online publication date:  September  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805857771
eBook ISBN: 9780203891629
Adobe ISBN: 9781135597757

10.4324/9780203891629.ch1

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Abstract

Get a credible spokesperson who can deliver a knowledgeable message in a clear manner. Communicate in ways—dress, manner, and posture—that encourage audiences to identify with risk communicators. Be clear to be understood. Be sensitive to the audience members’ outrage and concerns. Time was, when this kind of advice captured the essence of risk and crisis communication. Let experts determine the probabilities of risks, hold a public meeting, share this expertise with those who attend, and move on with the project. Or, just do the project and wait until the protests occur and let public relations experts handle the problem. Know the risk, frame the risk with a fear appeal (of varying degrees), report the risk, and gain the advantage of behavioral change to alter targeted audiences’ health related behavior. Do your best with risk communication, but only become truly serious if protesters raise challenges that achieve crisis level. This kind of reasoning once was, and even today often seems to be, a compelling logic underpinning risk communication in the community relations and public health tradition.

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