The Significance of Using Risk Communications as a Public Health Leader - Paper Example

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  982 Words
Date:  2022-07-08


Crisis can be defined as a major, unpredictable event that has potential adverse impacts on an organization (Szczepanik, 2004; Koerber, 2017). The event and its aftereffects may have significant damage to a company and its employees, goods, services, profitability, and reputation (Szczepanik, 2004). Therefore, effective communication of a crisis is vital if a company is to avoid these adverse consequences.

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One of the most critical aspects of communication in public health is crisis or risk communications. The importance of this type of communication has been a focus of research by many scholars who have justified their use in times of crisis. For instance, according to MacLeod (2014), the knowledge or competence in crisis communications help organizations and people working in organizations to appropriately handle the crisis. That is, by being competent in crisis communications, organizations and its employees are less likely to be stunned, frightened, and depressed when they encounter a crisis.

Proficiency in crisis or risk communication is also essential because it helps to ensure that an organization's reputation is not damaged during a time of crisis. Poor communication during a time of crisis and its damaging impact on an organization's reputation was manifested in Exxon's handling of the oil spill in 1989. Exxon's mishandling of the crisis was characterized by delayed response, downplaying of the incident, and offensive response to the media. Consequently, the reputation and the image of the company was damaged. It is also worth noting that crisis communication is useful in controlling a crisis, in managing a situation, and in avoiding confusion (Ray, 1999).

Crisis communication has also been hailed because, in the presence of a new threat, it ensures that people get consistent and simplified guidelines to follow (Reynolds, 2010). Moreover, effectively communicating after a crisis is so crucial because in many situations the intensity of crisis is assessed by the reaction of society. The presence of media hype following a disaster and increased public access to information, there is a likelihood of a crisis being exaggerated or diluted based on the attention it garners (Szczepanik, 2004).

How I Will Utilize Crisis or Risk Communication in My Public Health Campaign

According to the Lang, Fewtrell, and Bartram (2001), risk communication should comprise of both negative messages and warnings as well as positive messages. Before risk communication is undertaken (such as before communicating the positive benefits of quitting tobacco smoking), it is crucial to characterise the target audience. The proposed risk communication strategy will ensure that facts about the positive impact of quitting tobacco smoking and the harmful effects of tobacco smoking are delivered quickly via an authoritative source. The healthcare messages should have clarity and be easily understandable. The following messages will be utilized to ensure that the target population adopt the intended health behaviours: a) tobacco smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, b) tobacco smoking reduces lifespan, iii) tobacco smoking leads to respiratory diseases. These negative appeal messages will persuade the members of the public to adopt healthy behaviors.

The crisis or risk communication will be delivered through social media platforms. There are many reasons why social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, is the most appropriate means of disseminating information during times of crisis. One of the reasons is that social media is because it is a popular means of communication among the target audience. Youths use social media platforms to obtain health information and, thus, they will disseminating public health messages via this media will reach a large proportion of the target audience. Social media platforms have also become crucial tools for organizations keen to achieve a successful crisis communication strategy.

Consequences of Failing to Utilize Crisis and Risk Communications

Failure to use crisis and risk communications can have detrimental effects on public health organizations. According to Radovic and Curcic (2012), failure to have effective risk communication can increase panic. Radovic and Curcic (2012) further noted that when public officials fail to release information to the public on a timely basis, there might increase speculation among the members of the public. Because of this, it is critical to have a crisis management team tasked with providing accurate information as soon as there is a crisis with the aim of curbing the start of rumours. Additionally, researchers have reported that in the absence of crisis communication, the public gets upset and begin to distrust the authority tasked with providing information. Consequently, there is a high likelihood of the public listening to adverse reports instead of positive ones.

Another consequence association with absence of crisis communication is a loss of credibility (Radovic, 2012). When credibility is lost, the public will have little trust in the organization. Loss of trust slows down the implementation of public health plans, thus further affecting the overall health of the population. Lastly, incorrect information can cause economic harms as well as social harm (Quinn, 2018). These harms are aggravated by myths and rumours.


Koerber, D. (2017). Crisis communication in Canada. University of Toronto Press.

Lang, S., Fewtrell, L. & and Bartram, J. (2001). Risk communication. Retrieved from, A. (2014). The impact of communication on human behaviour in times of crisis. Journal of Business Continuity & Emergency Planning, 8(2), 134-140.

Quinn, P. (2018). Crisis communication in public health emergencies: the limits of 'legal control' and the risks for harmful outcomes in a digital age. Life Sciences, Society and Policy, 14., V. (2012). Climate change and adoption strategies-a report from the republic of Serbia. In National Security and Human Health Implications of Climate Change (pp. 95-102). Springer.

Radovic, V., & Curcic, L. (2012). The opportunities of crises and emergency risk communication in activities of Serbian public health workforce in emergencies. Iranian Journal of Public Health, 41(10), 15-23.

Ray, S. J. (1999). Strategic communication in crisis management: Lessons from the airline industry. Greenwood Publishing Group.

Szczepanik, K. (2004). The importance of crisis communication: what lessons did we learn from Tylenol and Exxon? (PhD Thesis). Miami University.

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