Risks communication

As I compile notes from Covello, Walker, Coppola and Maloney, and the CERC training, one consensus has come to mind: get a clear and concise message out to the target audience as quickly as possible when facing a disaster.

Covello stresses the importance of message mapping, which contributes to the digestibility of the message, Walker encourages the inclusion of all subsets of the target audience by describing adaptations, and CERC training enables spokespeople to present the message effectively. Coppola and Maloney provide an excellent overview, from early planning to strategy development to implementation and evaluation, for encouraging the public to participate with and follow the guidelines given in risk communication messaging.

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I also appreciated the Eight Essential Components of Communication document. As I worked through the other readings, I noticed that some of the same components arise within disaster communication. For example, interference was explicitly brought up by Walker at the start of chapter three. While she doesn’t indicate it in Figure 3.1 that displays the sender, message, receiver, channel, and environment, she discusses both the internal and external roadblocks that one can encounter when trying to convey a message. External roadblocks include distractions, such as noise level, seating, and location, while internal roadblocks include individual reactions, such as defensiveness and stereotyping (Walker, 2012, p. 62). Part of the issue with risk communication today could be that our society moves so quickly that we fail to slow down long enough to yield the messages that experts are trying to tell us.

We have all of these tools. We know how messages can be successful and why they fail, so why is it that in the face of disaster, messaging so often conveys something other than intended? I think this has to do with the fact that we tend to operate on the defensive as opposed to the offensive. Emergency management designed preparedness into its mission; but, without education before a disaster, the overwhelming majority of the public will panic and fail to act sensibly when it comes time to be on the offensive. It is not entirely their fault, as we learned from Covello and the AGL-4 template. If, however, we want communication to be effective, emergency managers and the public alike have to be prepared to send and receive pertinent information from one another.


Walker, D. C. (2012). Mass Notification and Crisis Communications: Planning, Preparedness, and Systems. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Answer 2

There was a lot of great information regarding communication in this weeks’ reading and lecture. It was really interesting to see the contrast of disaster preparedness communication and crisis communication differs in strategy but not in purpose. I understand that in high stress situations, the noise and uncertainty require a simplistic messaging to be communicated to the public that can stimulate action quickly. However, how does the communication tactics change when the information is changing or differs from both seemingly reliable sources?

An essential component of communication is the source. During times of crisis, people look to the most capable leaders in charge. During this COVID response, those agencies were the WHO and CDC. However, throughout this ongoing crisis there has been criticisms to both agencies for misleading information, falsifying records and not being honest. Whether these allegations have any basis, or you believe them or not, it does not seem like in the midst of a pandemic to be a good opportunity to view these leading health expert agencies as unreliable. So, how does the WHO and CDC plan to navigate their messages to a skeptical public and gain back their trust?

Answer 3

For this week’s discussion board, we were asked to reflect on observations and interpretations of Dr. Vince Covello’s presentation on message mapping, readings especially Walker’s, and the CERC course. My main takeaways from this week is the severity of communication being a 2 way process, to remember not everyone will react and handle the situation the same and the 6 principles of Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (Be first, be right, be credible, express empathy, promote action, and show respect). In a disaster, you can’t go wrong to keep these in mind at all times for the most effective way of communicating to not only the public, but among the organization internally as well. How the audience responds to your message will determine what improvements are needed. The more effective the options used by the sender, the more the likelihood the communicated message is understood by the receiver. (Walker, 2012 p.61)

Message maps according to the Center of Risk Communication are crucial to ensuring that an organization has a central source of consistent messages. Message Maps are constructed according to the principles of risk communication and have three goals:

  • To organize information in an easily understood and accessible framework.
  • To express the current organizational viewpoint on important issues, questions, concerns.
  • To promote open dialogue both inside and outside the organization.

The periodic table for high concern communication from Dr. Covello are great templates for message mapping especially in a crisis situation, these can also be used in many instances such as a spokesperson from an organization addressing reporters or those high on emotions at a protest. There is a time and place for each of these templates. I reflected on my work in healthcare and how I respond in my environment.

I find myself often using the CCO (Compassion Conviction Optimism) template a lot when addressing my patients especially. Being compassionate, having conviction, and optimism not only makes your patients feel that they are being heard and cared for, but also improves outcomes in patient experience. It shows how human you are, that you can develop a relationship with them and make them feel comfortable as a patient and not a customer. This goes for the team/department as well. It will increase work morale, improve outcomes, and boost confidence for everyone in the working environment. These are important skills to possess in healthcare and unfortunately still many are unsuccessful in displaying these characteristics. I think this is due to burn out, disparities such as language and use of medical jargon, and long hours.

Covello. Periodic Table for High Concern Communication. Institute for High Concern Communication. Retrieved from https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Emergency%20Preparedness/Periodic%20Table%20for%20High%20Concern%20Communication.pdf (Links to an external site.)

Walker, D. C. (2012). Mass Notification and Crisis Communications: Planning, Preparedness, and Systems. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Message Mapping. Center for Risk Communication. Retrieved from http://centerforriskcommunication.org/communication-strategy-services/message-map-development/#:~:text=Message%20mapping%20is%20an%20important,issues%2C%20questions%2C%20or%20concerns (Links to an external site.).

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