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How Will People Judge Your Emergency Messages?

This information is for historic and reference purposes only.  Content has not been updated since the last reviewed date at the bottom of this page.
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Before taking any recommendations, people want detailed explanations, strong reasons, and second opinions from people they trust. During an emergency, audiences judge messages much quicker. People must decide who to listen to, what to believe, and how to act without much time to weigh other options. It’s up to us, as communicators, to help people receive and correctly interpret our messages and accept our advice.

Audiences will consider your messages based on:

  • Speed of communication: People tend to trust the first thing they hear. Being among the first to communicate in an emergency can help your organization appear to be prepared, and may also make your message more believable.
  • Factual content: People expect messages to contain accurate information and specific actions they can take. Recommended actions should be backed by facts and explained in relevant detail. Your organization should aim to get the facts right, repeat them often, and work with other credible sources to share them consistently.
  • Trust and credibility: In addition to speed and accuracy, your message should be credible. Your organization can demonstrate credibility by bringing your expertise, commitment, and honesty to communications in an emergency. Expressing empathy can help as well. You should put into words the emotions your audience is feeling at the beginning of your message so that they know you understand their experiences.

Understanding how audiences evaluate information in an emergency can help you adapt your messages to better meet audience needs. Ideally, you want to promote action and encourage people to adopt behaviors that will protect themselves and their communities. If your organization is able to communicate effectively, your audience will know your public health advice is worth following.

For more resources and information on CERC, please see Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication, 2014 Edition or Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Pandemic Influenza, 2007.

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