Risk communication is the “process of exchanging information among interested parties about the nature, magnitude, significance, or control of a risk”. (24).
Travel notifications and alerts are popular within organisations.
SMS alerts have been seen as the ‘gold standard’ by many businesses and providers.
We did some research into the science of risk communications and messaging to determine the validity, benefits and dangers of mass messaging of risk and threat information.
Taken from 91 separate academic and scientific sources, supported by 200 scientists and experts in their field, in addition to the review by a major government science and technology department, here are some of the key findings.
Risk communications are categorised by 3 distinct phases, they are: preparedness, response and recovery.
There are no less than 15 social science and psychology theories that influence and govern the recommended scientific approaches to risk, crisis and emergency messaging.
No one medium or channel such as SMS is exclusively recommended or most effective.
In fact, multi-channel, frequent, formulaic messaging is found to be most effective.
Slovic’s psychometric paradigm seeks to identify, characterize, and quantify risk to enable communicators to have a baseline understanding of how their target audience might perceive and respond to risks via their risk perception. (78).
4 main classifications are attributed to a group or a community’s perception of risk. (80).
Low familiarity and lower dread is number 1.
This can be an issue like foot-and-mouth disease.
The perception of risk is greater than the actual risk: Individuals tend to overreact to those risks that are hard to understand, involuntary, and invisible despite evidence and reassurances by experts that a particular risk is minimal or unlikely. (68).
Lower familiarity and higher dread is number 2.
This can be an issue such as terrorism.
International risks like terrorism are a particularly complex hazard for individuals and the public to interpret, respond to, and prepare for as they involve the intentions of other people; and those are often hard to understand. (67).
Higher familiarity and lower dread is number 3.
This can be an issue such as natural disasters.
Effects of these risks are more observable, easier to understand, and shorter term.
At the same time, however, these risks contain dread attributes of being involuntary and having the potential to cause fatalities. (91)
Higher familiarity and higher dread is number 4.
This can be an issue such as a terrorist attack.
Higher dread risk events have enormous secondary effects (also referred to as ripple effects) that extend beyond the immediate direct damage to encompass many other victims. (91).
The Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) Model discusses who should be seen as the greatest priority at each of the 5 stages; and the types of messages that should be directed to those groups.
How do you segment your audience, message, content and psychological considerations?
The heuristic-systematic model allows communicators to see and understand the connections between a person’s desire for accurate, and sufficient information and the motivation for processing that information. (33).
Do you consider how your audience may respond and act based on an alert?
The Risk Information Seeking and Processing (RISP) Model identifies differences between an individual’s perceived current knowledge and the knowledge needed to mitigate risk appropriately. (33).
The Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF) identifies that the public may overestimate risks if institutions fail to take the social context of risks into account, when making decisions and conveying information to the public .(91).
Overall, the science advises us that we should ensure information comes from multiple channels and is repeated often, known as the actionable risk communication model. (91).
There is no evidence for single, SMS exclusive communications approach.
Organisations need to reevaluate their assumptions and validate practices for optimal results, clarity in communications and reduction of harm.
This is supported by the Theory of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior; which asserts that behaviour is also a function of a personal risk estimate, through which an individual can determine the potential harm he or she faces from performing or not performing the prescribed behaviour.
Any child can send a text message.
There are specific science considerations to risk communications.
Are you communicating like a child or a scientist?
Is your risk messaging procedures consistent with the science?
Is your risk communications doing harm to your employees or community?
Are you causing mental duress, anxiety or other psychological stresses as a result of your travel alerts and bulk SMS messages?
What science is your risk, crisis and emergency communications based on?
If you would like to know more about the science of risk management and communications,
Feel free to have a chat with our experts.
Visit www.intelligenttravel.com.au . to learn more.
Evidence-based decision making for enterprise risk management, inclusive of travel.
Authorised by Tony Ridley, International Security and Risk Management Professional.
Here are the 6 pages of references and citations used in our research.
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We prefer science and evidence over quackery.