The folks over at the NOAA Coastal Services Center recently released a two-page summary of risk communication specifically for those working in coastal hazards.
In addition to explaining the concept of risk and why our behavior in the face of risk is so complicated, it provides six best practices for those trying to communicate risk. In their words:
- Start small—consider beginning a risk behavior change and messaging campaign by initially targeting a very specific behavior displayed by a very specific audience. Small-scale, localized efforts may be more likely to succeed and can be helpful in setting the stage for more comprehensive and far-reaching campaigns.
- Use social norms to your advantage—people are profoundly influenced by the behavior of those around them. Begin your campaign by targeting an audience whose behavior may be relatively easy to change, and allow that group’s behavior to diffuse throughout the broader community.
- Know your audience—do what’s necessary to understand your audience’s perceptions, decision- making processes, and social and cultural norms. Specifically, uncover what prevents and promotes the behavior that you’re trying to cultivate. Knowing your audience will help you design an effective message and identify a trusted messenger to deliver that message.
- Present easy-to-understand and repetitive information—craft your message to be as brief and as vivid as possible. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And recognize that the message will need to be delivered repeatedly, through a variety of media and communication channels, in order to change behavior.
- Use a positive approach—provide your audience with a specific action to take, and design a message that taps into existing skills, roles, or desires. Messages suggesting a familiar or easy-to-do action can be more effective at grabbing an audience’s attention and promoting action.
- Evaluate your success—evaluate your campaign mid-course and make any needed improvements. Also evaluate your campaign when it’s over to understand whether you met your goals. This information can help to craft more effective campaigns next time.
Good practices to consider the next time you’re trying to convince somebody to build safely.
Download the PDF of Understanding Risk Behavior: The Fundamental Challenges from NOAA here.
Photo: Brave Heart