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  • Writer's pictureShawna Bruce

Let's Talk About Risk Communication

Updated: Feb 4, 2020

The foundational layer of any risk communications strategy is trust. When people are concerned about their health, their family and loved ones, they reach out to those they trust to be a credible source to get their information. Academic studies conclude that "trust is central to how public health messages are heard, interpreted and responded to and can determine whether communications are successful in increasing motivation and intention to adopt or maintain recommended self-protective actions" (Vaughn and Tinker 2009).

There are several factors that organizations need to consider when planning their strategies for effective risk communications in support of building that culture of trust.

The Message

In risk communications, the message must be clear, concise, consistent and include a call to action. Your audience wants to know "what's the risk? What are you doing about it? And what should I be doing about it?" The message also needs to resonate with your audiences. Develop your messages to reach different demographics and sectors of society to get the widest dissemination of your information. Reaching your audiences can be done effectively by using graphics and imagery that is reflective of various demographics.

The Medium

Use all the tools in your toolbox. Organizations using posters - both paper and digital - can control the information contained within those communications materials. Consider putting a QR Code on your product so people can quickly scan the bar code on their phones and reach the source of more information. Videos using trusted sources can make an impact on viewers and listeners. Social and traditional media campaigns, bulletin updates, can all support getting the information out where it needs to be in airports, schools, ageing facilities, medical offices, hospitals, manufacturing locations, or the general workplace, to name a few. The distribution of the message to pre-identified audiences is a crucial factor for consideration.

People use all kinds of media to get their information, so as an organization – you need to communicate with all of the tools in your toolbox.


The adage "a picture says 1000 words" has never been more important than when communicating risk and incorporating it into every medium. If you're using statistics to demonstrate the low probability of contracting a virus, for example, use a graph. If you're using social media, visuals are no longer "a nice to have" addition; they're now a "need to have" component of a successful social media strategy. According to Twitter, Tweets with photos receive an average 35% boost in Retweets and Facebook posts with photos receive an average 37% increase in engagement.

Risk by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Be the Credible Source

To establish your organization as a credible source, you need to provide timely and accurate information and updates. It would help to keep your digital platforms current so that your audiences will keep coming back. Consider your internet site, the "hub" of all information. Driving your audiences to your website by linking every social media post back to your primary source of information supports, allowing you to "manage" the message. Include your Facebook and Twitter feeds on the webpage to make for ease of sharing of information. Video messages, infographics, maps, action plans, for example, can all be linked back to your website or "hub" – and don't forget relevant hashtags! For printed material, be sure to add your website's URL and consider having a bar code for ease of scanning.

Our Responsibility

It's easy to share a Facebook or Twitter post, but we have a responsibility to share correct information from trusted sources. We need to be part of the solution and not part of the misinformation problem. We've witnessed racial and senseless sentiments regarding the current CoronaVirus over the past few weeks. Check your sources work to keep important information front and centre times of heightened awareness regarding health risks or emergencies.


Plugging in for CoronaVirus Updates

To keep up to date on the CoronaVirus, consider plugging into these credible sources such as:

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