Cultivating relationships between risk communicators and news media

For something different, here is an excerpt from a paper I wrote which examined the ability of news media to disseminate messages related to risks and hazards ...

By allowing communication professionals to disseminate their messages to large audiences with a minimum of effort, news media can play a vital and indispensable role in the process of risk and hazard communication. The relatively high levels of credibility of news media, compared to those of communication professionals and corporate executives (Budd, 2000), suggest the presentation of risk communication messages by news media would also add a degree of increased credibility to those messages. While this would suggest there is considerable value in the development and maintenance of close relationships between communicators and those who work in news media, this does not guarantee that those relationships are easy to develop.

The Public Relations Society of America’s National Credibility Index assesses the levels of credibility of various public figures (Budd, 2000). This index showed notable differences in the levels of credibility between key figures in news media and those who may be responsible for communicating messages related to risks or hazards on behalf of corporate or governmental organizations:

Official Rating (out of 100)
Network TV News Anchor 69.2
Local TV/Newspaper reporter 65.8
Head of State Dep’t/Agency 63.1
Head of Local Dep’t/Agency 62.9
Corporate President 61.6
Wall Street Executive 57.9
Public Relations Specialist 47.6

These findings are consistent with research which shows that people will turn to alternative information sources, such as news media, when they do not trust official messages which originate from risk communicators (Fessenden-Raden, et al, 1987; Fischoff, 1987). The need to rely on other parties with higher levels of credibility, such as the news media, is even greater in situations when an organization may already be viewed in a bad light by the public and audiences (Frewer, 2000).

Budd, J. (2000). The Incredible Credibility Dilemma. Public Relations Quarterly, 45(3), 22-26.
Fessenden-Raden, J., Fitchen, J., & Heath, J. (1987). Providing Risk Information in Communities: Factors Influencing What Is Heard and Accepted. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 12(3 & 4), 94-101.
Frewer, L. (2000). Risk perception and risk communication about food safety issues. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin, 25, 31-33.
Lundgren, R., & McMakin, A. (2004). Understanding Risk Communication. In Risk Communication: A Handbook for Communicating Environmental Safety, and Health Risks (pp. 13-28). Columbus, OH: Batelle Press.
Young, S. (1990). Combatting NIMBY with Risk Communication. Public Relations Quarterly.

2 Response to "Cultivating relationships between risk communicators and news media"

  1. Anonymous 10/10/07 00:07
    Earl, is it true that Rick Beltram's credibility score was negative fifty-seven percent?
  2. not a cox fan moye 13/10/07 23:31
    one day when i have an hour you can explain it to me

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