External communication

An important first step in any risk communication and engagement is to let stakeholders, communities, groups and agencies know that there is an issue, what is going to be done about it, and what opportunities there will be to learn more and to contribute to the decision.[see risk engagement stages]

The first messages about an issue or an upcoming decision set the tone for all future interactions. It is important to determine the principal components of the overall engagement strategy before sending out first messages [building an engagement strategy]


  • Present people with information they need in a form that fits their intuitive ways of thinking
  • Keep first messages as simple as possible
  • What is the key message? Consider ––are you trying to: (i) tell people about a new hazard;
  1. (i) Tell people about a new hazard;
  2. (ii) Change existing assumptions about the hazard;
  3. (iii) Change a view about a presumed risk that no longer applies;
  4. (iv) Invite people to discuss the implications of a hazard on their lives/property/future plans;
  5. (v) Alert people to a long term process of decision-making around an issue.
  • ‘Translate’ pertinent data, such as hazard maps, susceptibility maps, flood extents, GIS layers. Consider - what is the interest to people? Does this information affect how they can use their land, or what personal risk strategies they need to develop?
  • Be clear about who is being affected, or what geographic boundaries this issue covers.
  • Consider what topical issues or recent concerns might be good link your message to, to help it gain purchase
  • Pilot a first message and check if it conveys the message you expect it to
  • Prepare for a response/reaction