Diverse Audiences & Cultural Understanding Highlight ICRCC

Story by Nicholson News

When your conference theme focuses on “Megacrises,” you can be sure you’re going to be looking at the big picture. But one of the key takeaways from the seventh annual International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference was to also look at individuals and how they process megacrises differently from one another.

The 2017 edition of ICRCC brought more than 150 scholars, practitioners, political figures and activists together to find new ways of handling large-scale crisis events. Terrorism, weather and health issues dominated the conversations. The conference opened with an exploration of new ways to discourage extremist terrorists from carrying out their attacks, and quickly moved to relationships between government agencies and the public during times of risk and crises events such as hurricanes and health scares. But a consistent undercurrent was the need for a growing awareness of increasingly diverse populations and how they process different messages.

“You can’t expect one plan to work well across cultural spectrum,” said Dr. Antonia Novella, former U.S. Surgeon General under President George H.W. Bush. “Different cultures process messages differently and react to them differently.”

That thought was echoed by Arlyn Rivera-Elizee, a bilingual communication consultant. She noted that after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, “some Hispanic and Latino families assumed their loved ones were OK, mainly because they only understood a portion of what was being told to them. In a couple of cases it took multiple attempts to inform people their loved ones had been hurt or killed in the attack. Some of that was language, some of it was procedural.”

Technological cultural differences are also playing a role in risk messaging, said several severe weather professionals. The growth of social media has helped emergency managers stay in touch with residents, said Kimberly Prosser of the Brevard County Emergency Management Office, but “we have to remember that not everyone realizes that they don’t need to have a Facebook account to see public Facebook videos. We have to realize when we produce this content that not everyone is on the same level technologically.”

The ICRCC also bestowed several awards. Dr. Don Stacks of Miami University was named the inaugural “Bridge Award” winner for his work bringing academics and practitioners together. For the past 20 years, Dr. Stacks has been the executive director of the International Public Relations Research Conference, formerly based in Miami.

In addition to headlining a plenary session, Novello was honored with the Excellence in Crisis and Risk Communication award. The award was bestowed in recognition of her trailblazing work as the first woman and first Hispanic Surgeon General of the U.S., as well as her work as the commissioner of health for the state of New York during the Sept. 11 crisis.

A complete list of research awards can be seen below.

Now in its seventh year, the International Crisis and Risk Communication Conference provides a place for scholars and practitioners to share best practices and cutting-edge research and techniques for communicating before, during and after extreme events. The ICRCC is produced by the Nicholson School of Communication.

Top Student Paper Awards:
Jenna Currie-Mueller of North Dakota State University
Vincent Manzie of Michigan Technological University
Wouter Jong of Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Poster Presentation Winners:
Tiffany Boodhoo, University of Central Florida
Sarah Schreck, University of Central Florida
Laura Bouteman, University of Central Florida
Angela Lindsey, University of Florida

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