The ultimate form of empowerment for publics is to receive information advising them on what actions they can take to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their property. During a crisis, be it a product recall or a hurricane, people want to know what they can do to reduce their risk or offset the harm they experience or could experience. They also want to understand what is happening and why. As such, a best practice of crisis communication is to tell the public what is happening and instruct them on the appropriate actions they can take for self‐protection or community protection.
How Can Messages Empower Publics?
One of the impacts of a crisis is the perceived loss of control. People affected by a crisis often feel things are being done to them and that they have lost their ability to comprehend and control their own destiny. As we explained previously, Weick (1993) designates this consistent emotional response as a cosmology episode. At this point in the lives of publics engulfed in crisis, they are experiencing something at an extreme that is new to them and they do not fully understand what is happening or know where they can turn for help. Communicating recommended actions for self‐protection can help reduce these feelings of confusion, impending doom, and helplessness by recreating some sense of control.
Based on the nature of the specific crisis event, these messages will vary widely. In the case of natural ...