The rise of the field of risk communication has seen the emergence of crisis communication studies. Recently, researchers on crisis communication have given emphasis on the significance of experiment, although it still maintains research based on case studies. While the focus of crisis communication has been on reputation and image restoration, the traditional focus of risk communication has been on presentation of information, persuasion, as well as strategic messaging. It is essential to adapt practical efforts on risk communication to ensure the risk type’s match. Models and theories are utilized as well as discussed in risk communication to describe, predict, as well as various test variables as well as interacting agents.

Literature review

Shepard, Melissa, and Brook (2012) looked at the means of understanding risk communication theory. According to the studies, many scholars have spent ample time working towards improving the practices of risk communication through coming up with, testing, as well as refining communication models and theories that aim at explaining the unexpected and expected risk communication impact. These efforts have resulted in a significant amount of scientific discovery. However, no single model or theory captures all the considerations that cause an effect on the efforts of risk communication. The study further highlights that it is important for communities to communicate about the current, emerging, as well as evolving risks. Traditionally, the research on risk communication had a tendency of list the best practices and involved case studies (Heath & O’Hair, 2009). Several theories and models including CERC (Crisis emergency risk communication) model, the heuristic-systematic model, deliberate process model, cultural risk theory, as well as the public situational theory apply to communication (Fronz, 2012).

CERC (communication emergency risk communication) Model was crafted by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention following 2001 anthrax and 9/11 terror attacks. The model has five stages as follows:

  • Initial event: in this phase, communication is focused on the response community and the public to offer risk warning, guidance, as well as a warning regarding preparation. Strategies include developing recommendations on consensus, building alliances, as well as testing messages with the local public (Seeger, Sellnow, & Ulmer, 2008). It aims at reducing uncertainty as well as increase reassurance and self-efficacy.

  • Maintenance: the affected groups and the general public receive the communication (Polič, 2010)

  • Resolution

  • Evaluation

STP (Situational Theory of Public): its aim is to assist organizations and institutions detect the people they should contemplate as public, and then perceive how the public engage in the behavior of communication such as info seeking as well as processing.

Heuristic-Systematic Model: this model can assist communicators of risk predict as well as explain the publics’ behavior. The model ensures that the communicator is perceiving as well as understanding the link between the desire of a person for sufficient as well as accurate info and information processing motivation (Littlefield & Sellnow, 2015).

Deliberative Process Model: on applying this process, risk communication messages can be informed to broaden the consensus, risk understanding, as well as the consensus of risk among the members of the public (Shepard, Ben, Melissa, & Brook, 2012)

Cultural risk theory: the focus of this theory is the effects of culture and social experiences and norms.

Hamby (2013), looked at the issues of risk communication. These issues are categorized into those emanating from administrative and political system’s structure. Others are problems of recipient and risk communicator. In some cases, politics does control decision that is otherwise supposed to be made by experts. Politics intrusion can frustrate the risk managers and others who take part in the process. It is, therefore, essential to consider issues emanating from political and institution system for the communication of risk (Leiss, 2009).. Although risk communication principles are unable to address these issues fully, they should take the necessary action towards addressing them. Problems of recipients and the risk communicators are those emanating from the disseminator of risk messages. The political arena as well as the policy administration where the process of communication occurs significantly influence on what ultimately happens. The general public often interprets risk debates in two ways: risk managers are not aware of their action or do not comprehend the action they should take. Apart from that, the failure of some models of risk communication leads to communication and ethical issues (Ishikawa, A., & Tsujimoto, 2009).

Risk communication is compounded by numerous ethical issues. Some of these problems are tied to culture. There are several cultural obstacles to efficacy in risk communication. Among these include listening to the needs of the stakeholders, discomfort and fear, and holding back info. One the other hand, risk and crisis communication’s political context has an effect on the effectiveness as well as the feasibility of some strategies of communication. In some cases, political leadership does fail to follow the advice of best practices, for instance, failure to have an early announcement of an outbreak. Risk, in essence, can be viewed as a social construction (Anthonissen, 2008).


Anthonissen, P. F. (2008). Crisis communication: Practical PR strategies for reputation management and company survival. London: Kogan Page.

Fronz, C. (2012). Strategic management in crisis communication: A multinational approach. Hamburg: Diplomica Verlag.

Hamby, D. M. (2013). Fundamentals of Establishing a Risk Communication Program. Detroit, Michigan: University of Michigan.

Heath, R. L., & O’Hair, D. (2009). Handbook of risk and crisis communication. New York: Routledge.

Ishikawa, A., & Tsujimoto, A. (2009). Risk and crisis management: 101 cases. Singapore: World Scientific.

Leiss, W. (2009). Prospects and problems in risk communication. Waterloo, Ont: University of Waterloo Press.

Littlefield, R. S., & Sellnow, T. L. (2015). Risk and crisis communication: Navigating the tensions between organizations and the public. Lahman: Lexington Books.

Polič, M. (2010). Risk, crises and control: Between fear and negligence. Modern Risc-Societies, 325-338.

Seeger, M. W., Sellnow, T. L., & Ulmer, R. R. (2008). Crisis communication and the public health. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Shepard, Ben, Melissa, J., & Brook, L. (2012). “Understanding Risk Communication Theory: a Guide for Emergency Managers and Communicators, Report to Human Factors/Behaviour Sciences Division, Science, and Technology Directorate. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. College Park, MD: START.

Wendling, C., Radisch, J., & Jacobzone, S. (2013). The Use of Social Media in Risk and Crisis Communication. Paris: OECD Publishing.