Communicating in a Crisis: Risk Communication Guidelines for Public Officials

Developed by SAMHSA, the guide provides public officials as well as others involved in disaster and emergency communications with information about effective communication, working with the media, using social media, and addressing errors and controlling rumors.

Public officials must be prepared to communicate effectively with the public and the media to deliver messages that inform without frightening and educate without provoking alarm whenever acts of terrorism, mass violence, natural or other disasters, and public health emergencies occur. The purpose of this primer is to provide a resource for public officials on the basic tenets of effective communications generally and on working with print, online, broadcast, and social media specifically. The primer is not encyclopedic in nature, but rather an easy-to-use pocket guide on the basic skills and techniques needed for clear and effective communications, information dissemination, and message delivery.

The guide includes:

  • A brief orientation and perspective on the media for public officials, including discussion of how the media thinks and works, and on the public as the end-recipient of information
  • Techniques for responding to and cooperating with the media in conveying information and delivering messages before, during, and after a public health crisis
  • Tools of the trade of media relations and public communications
  • Strategies and tactics for addressing opportunities and challenges that may arise as a consequence of communications initiatives

View the guide.

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