How-to: A Beginner’s Guide to Risk Communication

Posted: 2010/05/10 in Crisis Communication, Media, Public Relations, Risk Communication
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I won’t proclaim myself an expert on how to communicate risk. However, I will say that it is an area of interest. I am known for helping my friends and family solve their problems and, after I realized that, I also realized that maybe I could do that professionally. Also, as I lie in bed with a bad case of poison oak (risk of living out of town), I figured that risk communication would be a good thing to talk about. So, after some research, here’s my very basic guide to risk communication.

Let’s start out by defining risk communication. In it’s very basic sense, risk communication is prevention work; prevention against bad things happening. Of course, in life and in business bad things happen and we can’t avoid them all. (I have poison oak, remember?). If you get into a problem and then are trying to solve it after everything’s gone down, then you’re into crisis communication work, at least according to Peter Sandman, one of the experts in this field. But we’re not going to talk about crisis communication in this post- we’ll stick with prevention.

So here it goes, what I’ve learned about risk communication from Peter Sandman and the Center For Risk Communication about communicating risk goes as follows. What it comes down to, is that people have to feel like they can trust you. This gets down to the basics of communication. When discussing risk be caring and empathetic, be dedicated to solving the problem and be trustworthy and transparent.

People appreciate honesty in all types of communication, but in this kind in particular because of the sensitive nature of the discussion. Think about how you would want someone to communicate with you concerning a topic that you were sensitive to, and then turn that around.

It’s about kindness, everyone, and compassion. We’re all trying to help each other out, and in our uncertain world, a solid grasp about how to communicate bad things is of vital importance.


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