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Developing the Ideal Crisis Communication Strategy

In an attempt to respond effectively to crises and emergencies, one of the most important steps is the communication of information surrounding the event, and this is not always easy. In fact, it is downright difficult most of the time. Part of the difficulty surrounding communication is that based on the multiple variables at play, things change and the best way to connect also changes.

While every situation is different and needs a different type of response depending on the specific circumstances, researchers have worked out some common elements that need to be in place. I like to think of them as rough guidelines, not steps to follow. Dr. Vish Viswanath, Professor of Health Communication at Harvard developed a list of five elements that can serve as a good starting point for developing any risk communication plan.[1] Erie is going to spend the next few weeks discussing these steps in a little more depth. The basics of Viswanath’s plan include:

  1. Prepare for the crisis

  2. Know your audience and understand who they are

  3. Sometimes saying less is more.

  4. Be open about what you know, and what you do not know.

  5. Practice and learn from experience.

While almost impossible to create a single strategy for crisis communication, you can create a set of crisis communication guidelines. The reality is that an effective communication strategy needs to be customized based on the target audience. There is not a “One-Size Fits All” plan, but by creating some rough parameters, we can do a lot of the heavy lifting pre-crisis event.


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