Persuasive Communication: Tailored Messages for a Diverse Population

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NOAA/OFCM Workshop: Strong Partnerships-The Keys to Success

Persuasive Communication: Tailored Messages for a Diverse Population

Naomi Moye
Social Science Research & Hazard Communication Specialist

In an effort to save lives during a natural or man-made disaster, it is critical that federal, state, local leadership, the National Weather Service, Emergency Management Agencies, the internet and the media develop more effective warning messages, methods and systems to disseminate information. Lessons learned from Katrina show that there is a fallacy in the assumption that diverse populations respond in the same way to the same messages. Easily understood, real time, credible messages must be developed that convey trust, genuine concern and urgency of the warning itself.

The challenge was creating a communications model which delivers messages that result in actionable public responses. The standard communications model was comprised of the necessary components for effective communications including: sources of information, the message, delivery channels, intermediaries, the targeted receivers (the citizenry) and the resulting effects. However, these components by themselves are not sufficient to motivate citizens to act. In spite of the varied and multiple warning messages by the media, a survey published in the Washington Post indicates that a significant number of adult Katrina evacuees didn’t understand the severity of the storm or its potential impact on their lives and property. Additionally, many said that they were not aware of the President’s National Evacuation order.

In March of 2006, a “user-driven” communications model was created based on compassionate community engagement and social science research. The ABRAHAMS Communication Model created a paradigm shift and incorporated the unique needs of each user population (e.g., special needs, elderly, disabled), then tailored or packaged the message to meet the user’s need for information....
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