The impact of communication on human behaviour in times of crisis

Published on May 31, 2016   20 min

Other Talks in the Series: Hot Topics

0:00
The impact of communications on human behavior in times of crisis.
0:06
Communication is an integral part of managing crisis, with scholars such as Heath in 1998 identifying that "communication is the most important tool of crisis management." Therefore, policymakers have constantly sought to find the most appropriate ways to use communication to influence behavior during these times to assist in the recovery from crises. This talk will investigate why policymakers wish to utilize effective crisis communication, and explore the importance of crisis communication on influencing human behavior in a time of crisis, and the influence of the medium of communications. It was noted by Gross in 1996 that "in order to understand and predict the effectiveness of one person's attempt to change the attitude of another, we need to know, ''who says what in which channel to whom and with what effect''.
1:01
Whilst we demonstrated that the medium of the message is important to ensure that the correct audience has been reached, it will be suggested that for policymakers to maximize the impact of crisis communications during a crisis, they must utilize rhetoric and cognitive response theory. This talk will go on to suggest that the most important factor in implementing behavior in a time of crisis is that communications are provided from a credible source and are empathetic in nature. It was noted by Reynolds and Earley, since communications to tailor messages and be empathetic and considering the communication needs of others can help dispel rumors and engender trust.
1:45
One may question, why should we focus on crisis communications? Indeed, why has it become a subject of significant academic study with policymakers questioning, why they should focus their efforts on understanding communications when they would be better served understanding how to respond to crises? Ulmer suggested in 2011 that "if we do not study crisis communications organizations and the many people associated with them are likely to be stunned, frightened, and depressed when enveloped by a crisis." It is widely considered that Exxon's handling of Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989, the second largest oil spill in the United States history, was badly managed through poor communications. Their mismanagement led to Exxon suffering significant damage to their reputation. Indeed, it was noted that Exxon handled the crisis badly by delaying its response, downplaying the incident and responding offensively to the media. The company severely damaged its image and reputation. The Exxon crisis led to organizations revisiting and in some cases implementing significant crisis communications capabilities. Whilst the lesson of Exxon-Valdez is certainly identified, one might question whether the lessons were learned and applied, particularly in the wake of BP's handling of the crisis communication of the Deepwater Horizon. It has been proposed by a number of scholars that there were arguments which emphasized the importance of crisis communications. This includes Ray in 1999 who suggested that communication, critical to the control of a crisis, serves to either manage the situation or create further confusion. Reynolds in Earley in 2010 expanded upon this when they argued that, when faced with a new threat, give one a consistent and simple recommendation to follow. If officials cannot give people the information they need or think they need when they need it, others will. When policymakers are required to activate crisis communications, there are a number of options they face. In particular, how to communicate their message to the interested party. Because although each group will be required to be handled in a different way, what is important is that a consistency of message runs through each statement to each group.
Hide

The impact of communication on human behaviour in times of crisis

Embed in course/own notes