Communicating about Risk with the General Public

Risk communication has to address public expectations and concerns in order to gain public confidence in the management effort.

Two-way communication is a prerequisite for all forms of successful communication, but it is often hard to implement and requires flexibility to adapt based on public concerns. Two-way communication includes:

What all these forms of two-way-communication have in common is that the risk communicator is in direct contact with the targeted audience and the members of the audience are equal partners in the exchange of arguments, ideas, impressions, evaluations, and statements. Two-way communication can only succeed if all partners respect each other and are willing to engage in mutual learning.

  • Be honest and responsive with the target audience
  • Use a personal approach that the audience can relate to
  • Be informed and understanding of people impacted by the risk
  • Represent your organization to the best of your ability and knowledge, do not try and explain something outside of your scope of knowledge
  • Be transparent by sharing technical information, laboratory results, or any other data
  • Make important information easily available by publishing details in a newspaper or in a brochure
  • Give people all of the information they need in order to protect themselves



Adapted from OECD Guidance Document on Risk Communication for Chemical Risk Management

Risk communication has to address public expectations and public knowledge about the risk under consideration
Source: Filipe Fortes
Hatfield Consultants The World Bank funded by the Canadian POPs Trust Fund through the      
Canadian International Development Agency
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