Characteristics Considered when Creating Risk Messages
Amount of material
Speed of presentation
Number or arguments
Source: Mileti, Dennis S. 1999. Disasters by Design. Washington, D.C. Joseph Henry Press.
Extremity of the position advocated
Risk Communication Myths Myth 1: Telling the public about a risk is more likely to unduly alarm people than keeping quiet Truth 1: Not if done properly. Educate and inform, don’t simply alert and alarm. Give people the chance to express their concerns, ask questions and receive accurate answers.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 2: Communication is less important than education. If people knew the true risks, they would accept them. Truth 2: Education is achieved through effective communication. Pay as much attention to your process for dealing with people as you do to explaining the content of the information.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 3: We shouldn’t go to the public until we have solutions to [risks]. Truth 3: Release and discuss information about risk management options and involve communities in strategies in which they have a stake.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 4: These issues are too difficult for the public to understand. Truth 4: No, they aren’t. Part of your job is to help the public understand these issues no matter how complex they may be. The public may not make technical decisions, but their opinions deserve consideration by those who are making those decisions.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 5: Technical decisions should be left in the hands of technical people. Truth 5: Provide the public with information. Listen to community concerns. Involve staff with diverse backgrounds in developing policy.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 6: Risk communication is not my job. Truth 6: Yes, it is. As a public servant, you have a responsibility to the public. Integrate communication with the public into your job and help others do the same.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 7: If we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. Truth 7: If you listen to people when they are asking for inches, they are less likely to demand miles. Avoid the battleground. Involve people early and often.
Risk Communication Myths Myth 8: If we listen to the public, we will devote scarce resources to issues that are not a great threat to public [safety]. Truth 8: Listening to and communicating with the public does not mean that you must set agendas and priorities based solely on prevailing public concerns. Part of your job is to manage issues and expectations. The public’s concerns cannot be ignored, but neither can they necessarily dictate policy. The better informed people are, the more likely it will be that the public’s and your opinions on priorities are aligned.
5 Steps to Creating Messages
Step 1 - Create an Expert Model
Step 2 - Conduct Mental Model Interviews
Step 3 - Conduct Structured Initial Interviews
Step 4 - Draft Risk Communication
Step 5 - Evaluate Communication
10 Questions Risk Communicators Must Ask Themselves
Why are we communicating?
Who is our audience?
What do our audiences want to know?
What do we want to get across?
How will we communicate?
How will we listen?
How will we respond?
Who will carry out the plans? When?
What problems or barriers have we planned for?
Have we succeeded?
10 Questions Risk Communicators Must Ask Themselves (Cont’d)
Getting the Message Out
Brochures, Fliers, and Newsletters
Outreach Activities at Festivals, Fairs, and Other Public Events
Helping the Media Understand
Don’t Assume Knowledge
Guide the Interview
Anticipate Problem Areas
Provide Written Back-Up Information
Be Alert for Signs of Confusion
Check for Understanding
Helping the Media Understand (Cont’d)
Suggest Other Sources
Offer to Look at a Draft or Check Quotes
Encourage Specialized Reporting
Source: Sandman, Peter M. 1992. Helping Reporters Understand a Technical Story . Conference Handouts. <http://www.psandman.com>
Working With the Media
Include a special insert in the local newspaper
Broadcast public meetings on the local access channel or through PSAs