These Risk Communication essays were completed in one of Mount Royal University public relations program’s fourth-year classes focusing on contemporary risk and crisis communication case studies (currently known as PUBR 4860). The papers were available for voluntary review by the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) based on a partnership with the PR department, which allows the top papers to be presented before CEMA’s professionals.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Risk Communication Mitigation of Misinformation COVID-19: The Social Media Perspective by Abby McGillivray (FIRST PLACE)

Previous infectious disease outbreaks throughout history have provided a framework of risk communication examples to help develop and expand current practices. The growth of social media in the past decade has enabled many to share their voice and organizations have broken down barriers to two-way communication with their stakeholders; however, it is with this growth that the spread of misinformation has become more prevalent during public health crises.

A review of the literature highlights best practices for risk communication on social media, the role of emotions in risk perception, and the current infodemic the public is facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. A case study on risk communication during the Ebola outbreak is used to identify and compare the strategic uses of social media during an infectious disease outbreak. Further analysis is done on the implications and learnings from the case study on risk communication for COVID-19. The findings indicate that government officials and health organizations must position themselves as a trustworthy, reliable source for information and actively counter any misinformation in order to effectively communicate risk.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

A Comparative Analysis of Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary by Hanna Clark (SECOND PLACE)

Since March 2020, COVID-19 has posed immense challenges for post-secondary institutions, staff, faculty and students. These challenges include operational decisions and processes, as well as preventative measures and increased safety protocols on campuses. Although the scale of COVID-19 is unprecedented, it can be benchmarked against the H1N1 pandemic to help craft best practices for post-secondary communication during a global health pandemic. This paper uses a thorough review of existing literature and a comparative analysis from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic to examine the risk communications responses from Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary during COVID-19 to determine the effectiveness of both institutions’ strategies. The findings suggest that proactive, timely approaches to communicating are essential to mitigate uncertainty and stress among stakeholders and provide clear, consistent messaging about operational decisions and preventative measures.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Comparative Analysis of Risk Communication in Canada and Bolivia by Robyn Ferguson (THIRD PLACE)

Indigenous Peoples living in Canada often experience significantly different ways of life than non-Indigenous peoples. This difference should be considered when creating risk communication messages. A one-size-fits-all approach is not enough, as evidenced by historical accounts of past pandemics and a comparative analysis of the COVID-19 response by Clearwater River Dene Nation and the Indigenous community response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Bolivian Amazon. Risk communication for Indigenous Peoples should take into account the needs of individual communities and factors that make them differ so greatly from the general Canadian population.

The Canadian government appears to be behind in its ability to communicate risk effectively to Indigenous populations. It needs to consider a new direction for risk communication based on evidence of perceived successes of self-determined plans by other Indigenous Peoples in different regions of the world.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Canadian Mental Health Association Takes on COVID-19: A review of CMHA’s risk communication regarding mental health and the pandemic by Serena Heerema (FOURTH PLACE)

Over the past few years, the number of Canadians impacted by mental health disorders has increased and the care currently available is inadequate to address this concern. With the entrance of a global pandemic, the risks to mental health have gotten more serious. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has targeted risk communication efforts towards the government, calling upon leaders to make mental health as important as physical health. This paper reviews the current research regarding risk communication to guide the CMHA in strengthening its communication efforts. The trust, confidence and cooperation (TCC) model is utilized in conjunction with the findings from political science research, which suggest incorporating an emotional narrative and the right messengers. This paper contributes to the research regarding effective risk communication, particularly regarding public health concerns. Overall, this paper argues that by adopting an emotional narrative in its risk communication, CMHA can increase its influence on the Canadian Government to support mental health care.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Alberta Health Services’ Data Collection Processes During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An analysis of the development and implementation of risk communication strategies by Serena Gadamsetti (FIFTH PLACE)

As research on the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is evident that many minority, ethnic and lower socioeconomic groups are experiencing unequal care and support at a disproportionate rate. Research conducted shows COVID-19 exacerbates many existing inequalities tied to socioeconomic status, education, age, gender, ethnicity and geography. Currently, Alberta Health Services (AHS) does not collect specific data to reflect groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19. This essay provides examples of how AHS can assess its data collection process; a study that examined the Winnipeg Central Intake Service (WCIS) highlights how public participation through policy roundtables effectively improved Manitoba’s care service policies. Furthermore, Eiko Yoneki’s (2009) research emphasizes wireless technology capabilities within dynamic physical networks and its effectiveness during an epidemic, providing relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequent studies note the importance of risk and crisis communication while assessing research and stakeholder analysis to offer recommendations for AHS. This paper argues that the reality of COVID -19 is ever-changing; however, it is essential to continuously use and collect information to implement crisis communications properly. Therefore, AHS has the chance to strategically communicate with at-risk Albertans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

2021 Risk Communication Essays Coming Soon!

Join us for the Western Communication Report’s third annual launch on April 14, 2021 at 4 p.m. when the winning risk communication essay will be announced.