How to Talk with the Public– and What to Say

How to Talk with the Public– and What to Say

Stakeholder Message Mapping and Communication Training

Building resilience requires effective communication with the public before, during and after any major emergency – and when things go wrong bad communications practices are often part of the problem.

That’s why DRIVER has a dedicated work package on communication as part of its work on civil society resilience. The work is being undertaken by a unique multi-national partnership between public sector communications specialists (Q4PR), researchers (University of Stuttgart and TNO) and a civil protection NGO (Austrian Red Cross).

The work package runs throughout DRIVER and is currently carrying out research in two practical areas; framing effective messages for stakeholder groups and implementing training for end users on the key principles of communication for public resilience.

Stakeholder Message Mapping

It has long been understood that different groups receive messages in different ways and have different information needs during crises. It’s also understood that it is very hard to write effective messages under pressure unless you have carried out important preparatory work.

So how can a responding organisation frame and deliver its messages to the best effect?

Stakeholder Message Mapping is a well developed technique used for preparing detailed messages for public health emergencies. Key elements of this technique have been adapted to develop an approach which may be implemented for emergencies such as flooding. A template for focus groups has been prepared with the intention of testing if they are effective in

  1. helping to develop a list of most likely questions the answers to which can be prepared in advance of a crisis
  2. providing useful feedback for refining key messages,
  3. showing the most effective channels of communication for these messages, and
  4. defining important differences in these areas between and within broad stakeholder groups.

A total of seven focus groups have been held in Ireland and Germany. Once the research report is complete a short guide to stakeholder message mapping will be developed and given to end users to review.

Training in the Key Principles of Communication for Public Resilience

Making sure that people within and between organisations are working to the same core principles is a major challenge in using communications to enhance public resilience. A short training course has been developed to meet this need. Designed to fit within the agenda of busy personnel, it can be tailored to the needs of specific groups.

The draft course has been in training workshops hosted by the Irish Government’s Office of Emergency Planning. Held last December, the workshops involved 26 senior personnel across a full range of government departments and agencies. The top-line evaluations were very positive with 100% of participants saying that they would recommend the course to others to take. The highest ratings for the course came from personnel for whom communication is a core part of their jobs.

Early in 2016 the course will be tested with a local-level responder organisation. If resources permit, the course will also be tested in conjunction with one of DRIVER’s test-beds.