What are the factors that an emergency communicator must consider?

An emergency is an exceptional event, which requires timely responses since it puts a system in crisis. The involvement of the individual, a community, a territory, together with gravity, requires that evolution be carefully monitored to limit the negative effects. So what are the factors that an emergency communicator must consider?

Since these are processes with clear characteristics that determine the various relative actions, including the transmission of information flows, effective emergency communication must take into account:

  • the characteristics of the target group, starting by identifying the categories of stakeholders
  • the source of the information, to determine the authoritativeness of what is transmitted
  • the content and form of communication , since everything contributes to the reduction of further risks and can encourage virtuous behaviour for risk containment

The characteristics of the target group of an emergency

Who is the target audience of the communications? The answer is not easy; it depends on the context in which the emergency communicator operates. For the press officer of a camp providing refuge to displaced people, the first audience will consist of journalists. If we are talking about an institution or association, the target audience with whom we will interface will also include volunteers and emergency workers. Finally, communicators must be capable authoritative references also for the population involved in an emergency, even when it is not foreseen that they will have direct relations in the transmission of messages.

Information sources

Time and space are tyrants in an emergency. The first dictates a fast pace, which goes against the research of reliable information and data. The second, space, is also to be understood virtually: emergency communication sets itself, more or less consciously, in the spotlight. It is highly visible. The two factors are linked and jeopardize quality communication, because they direct every step towards quantity at speed. Instead, taking the time to pause and consider information is crucial. It means recognizing the central role of the communicator in an emergency and the dignity of the job of transmitting messages. It can be interesting to study carefully, in ordinary time, the context of journalism and institutions, to identify a maximum of five visibly authoritative sources and, in the event of an emergency, consult them easily for a cross-check of the contents that reach the figure of the communicator.

Content and form

Training in summarising, in cleaning up the form to reveal the content, is what those who work in communication should do every day. This means grasping the conceptual core that you want to convey, telling it in the most natural way possible and, finally, rereading it to get rid of any spurious elements of oral origin, judgemental adjectives, adverbs that make reading hard going. In this way, spontaneity is maintained, but the value of the essential, fundamental to understanding, is discovered, especially in the agitated context of an emergency

Three macro factors that outline the path of those who want to work in emergency communication. Three elements, that must be understood in depth, capable of regulating the dynamics of the event of which we are witnesses and narrators, which we will discuss in greater detail in the pages of About Emergency, including with authoritative guests.

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