Last week I was talking about the need for Sales and Marketing thinking to be applied to the risk/BC practice. To do either of these thing effectively we need the appropriate message and presentation. Too often we focus only Crisis Communication, and there are plenty who provide advice in that space.
This topic was motivated by my engagement with a post on James Donnelly’s blog – “Bad hype, good hype?“. JD is one of those who provides good advice on crisis management and communication.
When I joined in the discussion on the post I noticed that Peter Sandman was part of the discussion. That reminded me that I had promised to post on Sandman’s work.
Back in October (in the context of a review of a paper by Geary Sikich), I asked if people had heard of Sandman and encouraged you to go out and read his stuff.
- Hazard in this context refers to “how much harm its likely to do”
- This can be seen as the “technical component of risk”, or the traditional ‘Likelihood x Consequence’
- Outrage is “how upset its likely to make people”
- This is a function of the perceived hazard
- In practicing risk communication we need to understand that perception = reality
“In calculating the probability of danger from technology, one concentrates on the risk that is physically “out there,” …. In determining what is acceptable, one concentrates on the uncertainty that is “in here,” within a person’s mind. Going from “out there” to “in here” requires a connection between the dangers of technology and people’s perception of those risks. Neither the one approach (that the perils of technology are objectively self-evident) nor the other (that all perceptions are subjective) can connect the two.”
I will be exploring the work of Douglas and Wildavsky in more detail in another post.
4 Domains of Risk Communication
Sandman categorizes risk communication into 4 domains, based on his dimensions of Hazard and Outrage.
- “Precaution Advocacy” is required when you want to raise the levels of “outrage”.
- It would be applicable to a High Hazard/Low Outrage situation, where you are trying to alert people to a serious risk.
- The message is “watch out!”
- Sandman has been personally very active in this domain with respect to the threat of Influenza Pandemic.
- The reverse situation, Low Hazard/High Outrage, is called “Outrage Management”.
- Here we are trying to calm people down, the people are excessively upset about a small risk.
- This is not about spin, it applies where the hazard is in fact small – not as a means to falsely downplay the impact of the hazard.
- Crisis Management is when both outrage and hazard are high.
- Sandman describes this as helping appropriately upset people cope with serious risks.
- He argues the message should be about how we can get through this situation together.
Not spin, recognizing the appropriate levels of outrage.
“Everyone aboard Deepwater Horizon – Transocean people and Halliburton people as well as BP people – had Stop Work Authority (SWA), a right and an obligation long enshrined in offshore drilling operations. That is, anyone who believed a practice to be dangerous was entitled to force a halt without risking retribution (at least formal retribution), even if the brass wanted the work to proceed.
The most damning thing we know about BP’s safety culture is that nobody blew the whistle.
What about your safety culture? Would you raise hell to stop something that looked like a disaster waiting to happen? And if you missed it, or were too cowed to blow the whistle, would others at your operation raise hell anyway?”
Again I would encourage you to get and check out Sandman’s site, there is a wealth of knowledge and thought available there. If you want to find out what the 4th domain of risk communication was, you will have to look yourself.
What do you think?
Communicating for risk and resilience.
- Use the right tools and message when you need to manage perceptions
- Understand if you are trying to change perception of the risk, or the underlying risk itself.
- Perception is about people and culture, you have to consider the ‘soft’ aspects
- Encourage people to speak up when the controls are failing or not being implemented properly.